Help your major donors lead

A recent issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy carried an article entitled, “Fund Raisers Rethink Scope of ‘Big’ Contributions.”  The most interesting idea in the article was a report about Purdue University and what they did as the economy slid into uncertain waters in September, 2008.  The university announced a $5-million fund to match gifts of $25,000 or more to endow a scholarship. Within five months, 50 such gifts had been received.  Many were multi-year cash pledges.  The University of California at Berkeley received a similar matching gift to endow professorships.  Qualifying gifts had to be $1 million to $1.5 million.  The pace of donations eligible for the match slowed only slightly in the 2009 fiscal year, according to David Linder, an associate vice chancellor at Berkeley.  That’s saying something, considering the faltering economy.    We’ve seen the same principle work in the world of Christian ministries.  Last year we offered our clients a program to encourage major donors to contribute collectively to a matching grant fund for year-end giving.  Donors responded well.  They felt a closer tie by providing a leadership gift that would result in increased income for the ministry.  And it was seen as a good investment because, in essence, their gift was being matched by the increased general donor giving.  It was a “win-win-win,” benefitting major donors, general donors and, of course, the ministry most of all.