Originally published in the October 17, 2013 AHP Connect
The following article is based on the webinar, “Major gift fundraising in a small
shop,” presented January 23, 2013, by Randall Hallett, CFRE, executive director of development at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb.
What is a major gift? The AHP Standards Manual uses the term to include cash donations and pledges of $10,000 or more from individuals, support groups or auxiliaries. Does it include a grant from a family foundation? What about the money raised by sponsoring a golf tournament or gala? Perhaps, as with beauty, what is “major” lies in the eyes of the beholder. Or, in this case, the eyes of the fundraiser— especially the small shop that cannot cast its philanthropic net very far.
Randall Hallett, CFRE, encourages development offices with modest-sized staffs to eschew the siren call of special events and concentrate more of their limited time and resources in pursuit of major gifts that can make a real difference for a hospital. He makes the case for creating a well-run major gifts program through careful, step-by-step planning and implementation that engages individual donors, foundations, physicians and grateful patients. The result will deliver significant return on investment (ROI) that far outweighs revenue and ROI achieved from special events.
As executive director of development for The Nebraska Medical Center (TNMC) in Omaha, the state’s largest health care facility with more than 620 beds, 2,500 credentialed physicians and 5,400 employees, Hallett heads up a fundraising shop comprised of a half-dozen development professionals—some of whom work part time. They support the medical center’s clinical operations, while the larger University of Nebraska Foundation is in charge of fundraising for the University's education and research functions.
Too often, Hallett argues, small shops devote too much time, too much staff and too many resources to special events—where the payoff is too small. Although special events may allow fundraisers to interact with potential donors, these occasions often are narrowly focused on raising money for a single item or cause. In contrast, the major gifts partnership connection— patiently nurtured—can offer donors a wide range of giving options based on their individual interests and the hospital’s needs.
Planning and communication play central roles in the TNMC development office’s major gifts program, whose goal is “to offer as many financially feasible opportunities to engage the most attractive pool of potential donors at various ‘entry points’ that might induce a more personal