Rule #9: Have Patience With Major Gifts

Rule 6 presented criteria that fundraisers can use to judge the right time to ask, but getting the gift will take as long as it takes. This rule is about patience.


Oftentimes, board members, executives, and fundraisers can become impatient about closing a major gift.
Each donor is different, and, on occasions, it can take a long time to reach the right conditions to get a decision or ask for a gift.

The judgement made by fundraisers to wait and work on improving the conditions is one of the most valuable strategic and tactical skills that the best practitioners bring to the role.

Great fundraisers will also have a way of explaining this important judgement process to executive leaders and board members, so that — when those impatient and unhelpful demands are made — they are politely and informatively refused, with professional reasoning.


While organisations and leaders have preferred timeframes that they use, it can also be sobering to appreciate that donors often have their own timeframe for making decisions.

If it is a big gift, then it will be a big (and potentially time-consuming) decision.


Impatience can raise money, but it usually burns relationships and achieves poor results.

I once attended a conference presentation that outlined a process that had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short time frame in a final push to close a campaign. Over 150 prospects were identified, contacted, and solicited (asked) in one meeting. For nearly all of the prospects involved, the presenter explained that this was their first contact with the organisation in a long time. The options that were abruptly presented to prospects who agreed to meet were a gift that could be $5,000 (lowest level), $10,000, $20,000, or higher. A group of volunteers were specifically trained for these meetings. The group ended up securing over 50 gifts of $5,000, a few larger gifts, and plenty of refusals.

Many applauded this approach for raising a large amount of money in a short timeframe. Early in my career, I might have applauded too, but this time I didn’t, and I told two other colleagues I would have fired the fundraiser in charge. One knew why, but the other didn’t see it — choosing instead to see the outcome as an impressive sum of money.

I suspect that the impatient pursuit of fast dollars ended up burning many relationships for a long time.


I wonder if anyone thought to go back and survey those donors who did not give, and ask them why.

Those who chose not to make a donation — as well as those who did (donors) — will be more willing to share their thoughts and opinions with third-party professionals over internal members of your nonprofit organisation. Not only will the responses be more open and genuine, but your non-profit organisation will be free to move on to the next fundraising campaign while the third-party collects the data.