Collaborating with Major Gift Officers

Posted on 03/02/2016 - by Dan Allenby

Team Work 6There are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games in the world today according to the World Sports Encyclopedia. This long list can be subdivided into many different categories and segments such as athletics sports, mind sports, physical sports, electronic sports, individual sports and team sports.

Annual Giving is a team sport.

It’s easy to see the differences between major giving and annual giving. One of the most obvious has to do with a gift’s size. Generally speaking, major gifts are larger by comparison. But this doesn’t mean that annual gifts are less important. For example, a $5,000 annual fund gift can have the same financial impact in a given year as a $100,000 endowed gifts that “pays out” at 5 percent.

Another distinguishing factor is that major gifts can require years (sometimes a lifetime) of cultivation before a solicitation occurs, while annual gifts are solicited each and every year. Likewise, the payment schedule for these types of support can be quite different. It’s not uncommon for major gifts to be committed in the form of a pledge, “booked” for the full pledge value, and then paid-out in installments over a number of years. Annual gifts come in the form of cash (or other hard assets) and are credited only in the year in which they are received.

Major gifts are also more likely to come with more restrictions. Often intended to support specific needs through an institution’s endowment or by supporting capital projects, major gifts don’t usually allow for much flexibility in how they’re spent. Annual gifts, on the other hand, are usually less restricted or sometimes even completely unrestricted. Even when annual gifts are designated to support particular areas such as a school, unit, or team, an institution can often use some discretion in deciding how the money is spent.

But don’t let these differences blind you to the many opportunities that exist for collaboration between the annual giving and major giving teams. Prospect discovery and solicitation are great examples. Annual fund officers should always be on the lookout for new major gift prospects and major gift officers should (almost) always be soliciting their prospects for annual gifts each year. Other opportunities for collaboration include annual fund staff helping to create extra personal appeals for managed prospects, engaging prospects through meaningful volunteer roles (e.g., reunion committees, annual fund advisory boards), or working together to secure gift officer appointments. The annual giving program at The University of North Texas used its phonathon callers to identify prospects who might be interested in “taking a meeting” and then passed those names onto major gift officers for follow-up.

That’s not all. Co-reviewing prospect lists, conducting joint visits, and working together to draft gift proposals are also great examples of collaboration. And don’t forget about gift opportunities within the annual fund. Blended gifts, term scholarships, and “challenges” can be meaningful – even exciting – ways for major donors to provide annual support.

All too often, however, these opportunities don’t even make their way into gift discussions. That’s because many major gift officers are inclined to steer their prospects toward more traditional gift opportunities such as endowment and capital support. Whose job is it to remind major gift officers about these (often overlooked) opportunities? It’s the annual fund officer’s. They are, after all, the experts when it comes to annual giving. Additionally, they’re the ones whose programs stand to benefit and whose goals are more likely to be met when those opportunities are realized.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Annual Fund & Major Gift Partnerships.