The Significance of Significant Gifts

By Elaine Weber NelsonCapital campaign counsel, interim development and executive director, board development, strategic marketing planning and execution, annual and major fundraising expert, writer and editor

How do you define a significant gift at your organization? Do you think of a number – one that has at least four digits? Or do you think of the relationship between the donor and your organization? The truth is every gift is significant. Every contribution says someone thinks your organization is doing good work and is worth supporting. Yes, the larger gifts make the operation easier, but a gift of $10,000 may be of no (or little) consequence to one donor, whereas a gift of $100 may be a real sacrifice to another.

And yet . . . major donor officers (if an organization is lucky enough to have one) aren’t going to go out of their way to engage a $100 donor – understandably so. But thankfully, due to the prevalence of free ways to stay in touch, (email, website, Twitter, Facebook) we can reach out to those smaller donors and keep them in the loop regarding the activities and accomplishments of the organization. Perhaps it is en masse instead of in person, but that isn’t the point. Smaller donors know where they fit in the grand scheme of the budget and don’t expect as much recognition as a larger gift would evoke. Smaller donors can become bigger donors as time and life events evolve, so in some cases staying in touch can result in larger gifts down the road. But more importantly than that, nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to be egalitarian if they can – realizing that, as part of the whole, every donor counts and is part of a group effort to make a difference.

Nonprofit organizations are privileged to operate in a world where we are funded on our merits – are we solving a problem, meeting a need, making the world a little better? And the fact that anyone offers the means – regardless of the size of that gift – to continue that work is, indeed, significant.