The Story of the Miser

I love the story of the miser who melted down his hoard of gold into one single lump which he buried secretly in a field. Every day he went to look at it and would gloat over his treasure.

One day someone noticed his regular visits to the spot and under cover of darkness went and dug up his gold and stole it. The miser visited the place the next day and finding it gone started tearing his hair out and lying on the ground groaning. His neighbour noticed him and asked what the matter was. When he replied, she suggested he put a brick into the hole and look at that every day because even when he had the gold it was of no earthly use to him.

At the heart of major gift fundraising is the joy of giving. When we secure a significant gift from an individual we are offering a sense of well being and excitement to that person. Our responsibility is to increase that joy by demonstrating the difference the donor has made, the lives they have directly changed as a result of their gift. This can be far more rewarding than hoarding their treasure.

I have seen it time and time again where a donor has expressed how significant their gifts to the organisation are to them and their family, providing a permanent memory. As major gift executives we should remember this when preparing for an ‘ask’ meeting. If the relationship has been built up over many months, we should not be afraid to ask for a high level gift.

I am not making the assumption here that all major givers are hoarding their treasure as many are sacrificial givers and already experiencing the deep joy of giving. All I am saying is do not be fearful or hesitant for asking for a gift, it is a great thing you are doing, so be encouraged!Your job is to find out what motivates your donor and to work hard at fulfilling their desire to make a difference in the world. Match this to a project that your organisation is undertaking and you should have no hesitation in asking your donor to fund the project. If it is a good match they are bound to say yes. But of course this is only after months of getting to know them and understanding their philanthropic interests, their family values and their personal interests. For more detail on discovering a donor’s motivation see Book Two – Major Gifts Unwrapped, principle 30.

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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