3 ways Major Gifts can help your Corporate Fundraising

Contribution by Awesome consultant from Blue Sky Philanthropy Emma Lewzey.

If I had to name just one thing you could do right now to raise more money for your great cause, it would be this:

Bust down those silos between departments, and get your team thinking holistically about fundraising strategy.

The perfect place to put this idea into action is making a stronger, more purposeful connection between corporate fundraising and individual major gifts – and actively seeking shared opportunities to collaborate to grow your community of engaged and excited supporters.

Even if you’re a smaller shop or a one-person fundraising team, read on – here are three practical ways organizations of any size can leverage individual major gifts to help grow your corporate fundraising.

  1. Opening doors to new networks

Dedicated major donors are always looking for additional ways to help causes they care about – often, that can include opening doors to get friends and colleagues more involved in your work.

Don’t be afraid to ask your individual donors for help identifying new corporate supporters for your organization – not only will this help you find new companies to partner with, but it can also be a fantastic opportunity to deepen your relationship with the donor.   

When I’m coaching my clients, they often find specific examples helpful – so here’s a couple of practical ways you can get a conversation like this started with your major donors:

If you already know you have a specific request, you could go with a closed-ended question like this:

Jane, I noticed on Linkedin that you’re connected to the CEO of Widgets Inc. – I see their philanthropic focus is on increasing career opportunities for youth, and I know this is an issue you’re equally passionate about! We’d love to have the chance to introduce her to our new youth mentorship program. Would you be willing to make a connection, or join us to co-host a tour of our program for her? 

Or you could start with a general open-ended question that sounds something like this:

Jane, I know how important it is to you to provide kids with the same kind of opportunities you had when you were starting out. We’re hearing back from students that there’s a huge unmet need for continued mentoring support after high school, so we’re looking for new partners to help reach more youth. Are there any businesses in the community you think we should be speaking with?

As always, the key here is to know your donor, and understand what makes them tick. Where are they in their career journey or stage of life? While this is a great way to engage an entrepreneur or mid-career professional, it might not be the right opportunity for a retired executive.

  1. Joining forces on engagement and stewardship

Wouldn’t it be great if major gifts and corporate fundraising put our heads together to share our energy, expertise and creative ideas on engaging and stewarding our supporters? 

I mean, how cool would it be to create more joint efforts to bring together some of the biggest movers and shakers from individual giving and your corporate partnership programs?

I hate to use the universally despised word synergy to describe this – but seriously, think of the synergies that could come out of bringing together all your most passionate and dedicated supporters!  

Maybe it’s an intimate networking dinner at the home of your biggest donor – or a hack-a-thon hosted by a local startup where supporters are invited to get hands on to tackle a sticky problem – the creative possibilities that open up when you join forces are endless.

Two (or more) heads are always better than one when it comes to brainstorming great ideas to involve and steward your supporters – and as an added bonus, two budgets are better than one too! Let’s pool our resources and work as a team to create meaningful engagement opportunities for our donors and partners.

  1. Sharing a powerful, heartfelt case for support

I’ve worked with a lot of major donors from the financial and tech sectors over the years – many of them see themselves as investors rather than donors, and they often seek a strong business case when aligning themselves with an organization.

However – every single one of them was initially attracted to the cause by their heart.

There was always an initial emotional connection – whether they lost someone they loved to heart disease, felt a powerful empathy for women and children fleeing abuse, or had an experience at their university that changed the course of their life, I will guarantee it was their heart that led them to engage with you in the first place.

I believe it’s the same for corporate partners – you need to appeal to both the head AND the heart. And fundraisers who are specialists in working with individual donors can be a great resource for helping you tap in to a powerful, emotional case for support.

At the end of the day, whether it’s an individual major gift or a corporate partnership, it’s good to remember this:

There’s a human who has hopes, dreams, fears and struggles at the other end of every decision.

While different factors may influence a partnership with a large national company versus a major gift from a private family foundation, we humans are emotional creatures. And if we’re going to be as effective as possible in our work, we need to remember to tap into the power of emotion in all of our communications and interactions with our supporters. 

There are so many ways major gifts and corporate fundraising can work together. Whether you’re in a big shop where you start bringing together your teams to look for shared opportunities, or a one person fundraising shop where you start thinking more creatively about how to leverage your resources, there are countless opportunities to raise more money together – and have a lot more fun doing it!

P.S. If you haven’t seen it already, I did a guest blog with Emma on 3 ways Corporate Fundraising can help your Major Gifts. You can check it out here: https://www.blueskyphilanthropy.com/single-post/2019/06/12/3-Ways-Corporate-Fundraising-Can-Help-Grow-Your-Major-Gifts


Emma Lewzey

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising over $100M across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success at www.blueskyphilanthropy.com.