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How to Avoid a “Go Away” Gift

Optimists are hopeful and confident about the future. I’m an optimist and I’m also a realist. I know that everyone is not going to share my passion, or my client’s passion, about a particular cause, but I want to give them the opportunity.

Donors also believe in a better future and that’s why they put their greater resources towards causes close to their hearts. Donors are philanthropic and nice people. They will often give a token gift to a cause or an organization because they have a connection to the founder or a friend on the board, but that is not a long-term commitment.

Once, I met with a donor who clearly was not interested in my organization’s building campaign. She told me, “I’ll give something, but it won’t be a large gift because this isn’t my passion.” She gave a nice, but relatively small gift, compared to her family’s capacity. I termed this was a nice but definitely a “go-away” gift. Her gift said, “I’ll give you this donation with the understanding that you know this cause is not my passion and you will not ask me again.”

Before you meet with a prospective donor, do your research and answer these questions. Do they support our mission? Why do we consider them a potential donor? If the prospective donor has a connection to the founder and/or board, that’s usually a good sign, but as we learned in my example, it is not always enough. Donors know when they are ready to give, and the amount can be higher than expected if they feel the connection to the mission, program, and anticipated results.

This is why it is so important to listen to your prospective and active donors. What is their passion? Are they indicating an interest in this program or organization? If a prospect’s passion doesn’t align with my organization’s mission, I have referred them to other organizations that match their interests. This might sound counterintuitive, and I’m sure my former bosses wouldn’t be thrilled, I remained committed to being donor-centric in my fundraising efforts. This approach might surprise the potential donor, but they will appreciate the fact that you listened, and you were not just trying to sell them on your cause. They might even return the favor and refer you to someone who actually does support your mission.

This is an example of good stewardship, which starts with cultivation and continues through solicitation. Fundraisers are often taught that getting the gift is the only success, but the example above is in line with fundraising best practices and with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Donor Bill of Rights. The donor’s wishes are paramount, even if that means your organization only receives a token gift, the fundraiser must always honor those wishes.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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