Lisa Kelly Zuba, Major Gifts asker & total wild woman!

We have another fabulous guest post by Lisa Kelly Zuba. Thank you so much for contributing today!

Lisa Kelly Zuba is a Major Gifts fundraiser with a Masters in Philanthropy, and owner of BiZZantik, a nonprofit consulting firm.

Have you ever thought that it’s better to do something to acknowledge your major gift donors, rather than nothing at all?

It’s not true.

Sometimes it’s better to do nothing at all, than to do something wrong.

This is the time of year when nonprofits connect with their donors, especially major gift donors, or those with the capacity to make major gifts. Thank you cards, letters of appreciation and holiday cards – all are a common method of communication and connection with donors.

But, if you don’t make that connection in a way that honors the donor or the prospective donor, you may ruin the relationship – and maybe forever.

It’s such a simple thing – a holiday card or thank you note – but it’s something that many nonprofits screw up and get dead wrong. And in that case, it’s better that they had done nothing at all.

If you give special attention to your major gift donors and to those with the capacity to make major gifts, you can cement the bond in your relationship. You can even grow your major gifts! What you do at this time of year can set the tone for the relationship.

Or, you can kill it.

Recently, I worked with a Development Director who proudly shared that her small shop sent special holiday cards to their major gift donors. She said they were “personalized.” What do you think of this personalization?


lisa-kelly-zuba She got one thing right: handwriting the donor name.


But, she got everything else wrong. A typewritten message on a label is a pitiful attempt at personalization. This is an extreme example, I know, but this kind of thinking is all too common:

“As long as I do something, my donors will appreciate us, and then I can approach them for a major gift.”


If someone makes a major gift to your organization or is thinking about making a major gift, that person is paying attention to what you do and how you do it. And, if the donor gets the feeling of being an afterthought, you have probably killed the relationship.

If you want to deepen your relationship with your donors, especially major gift donors, then be impeccable. Impeccable with your words and your actions. If you cannot be impeccable, then do nothing at all.

Try connecting with your major gift donors and prospects at the beginning of the year. Send out a special New Year’s message. Tell them what they and their investment means to your organization. Tell them how they helped and what happened. Tell them you couldn’t do it without them. Tell them how excited you are about the New Year and what your nonprofit is going to accomplish. Tell them again how much you appreciate their help and generosity.

It reminds me of the adage, “If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all.” Be nice, but be real.

Be impeccable. Your major gifts will grow.