How to Brand Your Nonprofit to Receive Major Gifts

Build Personal Trust

With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US and growing, one can say that without a strong, well-executed relationship strategy, the opportunity for your nonprofit to receive major gifts is limited, if not improbable. It is our desire for our readers to have successful major gift programs and not fall into the improbable category. Thus, we provide you with three steps to help you start branding yourself to receive major gifts.

Step 1  Build Personal Trust

Many high net worth donors are inundated with a myriad of charitable solicitations, some of which align perfectly with the donor’s philosophical and philanthropic interests.  When this happens, the donor intuitively will seek to reduce information overflow by taking mental shortcuts.  Trust is the dominate and most effective mental shortcut a donor will use to intuitively block out most charitable solicitations and reduce information overflow.

A strong brand builds trust, and strategically fosters donor loyalty and allegiance to your organization. Trust is vital to the receipt of major gifts.  Before a prospective donor will commit to a major gift, they must feel resolved that the nonprofit will deliver on its promises. Major gift donors also want transparency, strong management practices and stewardship of funds contributed.  Hence, everything you do must instill trust within your relationship, along with a strong sense that you will provide transparency, strong management and great stewardship.  Instilling these core elements is the first step to branding your nonprofit for major gifts.

Step 2   Tell Great Stories

Your story has the power to unlock a deep passion reserved within us, drawing us closer to your organization like a magnetic force.  Only you have the key to open our hearts to the countless success stories your organization brings forth year after year.  Thus, the second step to brand yourself for a major gift is to repeatedly tell compelling success stories. Your success stories engender trust, a seal affirming that you remain true to your cause and your mission.  Donors and volunteers alike want to know the impact you are making.  Tell them constantly using different channels of communication: a video, newsletter, blog, press release or interview. Just remember everyone in your organization needs to tell your story with genuine passion and power.  Over time, your stories will become part of your brand, and donors who share your core objectives will remember and embrace the success stories you share.  One last important thing to remember is to also be visual. Use visual stories to capture every moment, no matter how simplistic the event. Even a photo shot taken on your cell phone of a routine occurrence has the potential to spark an incredibly memorable message. A picture says a thousand words.

Step 3   Send the Right Message

We cannot stress the importance of perception enough. How a person perceives your organization can make the difference between a major gift or a goodwill gesture. When people acknowledge your brand you want them to perceive positive thoughts and feelings about your cause and mission. You control these perceived thoughts through coordinated messaging originating from your events, newsletters, website and other public communications.  As such, you need to make certain that your public communications coordinate with your overall branding strategy.  In addition, your branding strategy should coordinate with your strategic plan, and your strategic plan should embrace your mission.  Hence, everything works uniformly and is harmonized to achieve the controlled perception and end result you want – major gifts. Remember, you generally control perception.  Therefore, step three is to determine the type of perception you want donors to receive and begin to work toward that end through development of a coordinated messaging strategy.   For more information or further assistance branding yourself for major gifts, please contact our Nonprofit Brand Specialist, Ashley Thomas, at

The Grantee Selection Process


In one of our previous posts, we discussed the issue of fraud and the fact that many large nonprofit organizations are victimized each year by fraudulent acts.  We wish to continue this discussion but from a slightly different perspective.  During research, I came across a statement from Michael Ballin, President of Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.  He stated that their foundation spends “100-200 hours on site with each potential grantee organization, examining the organization’s financial health, leadership and management, and measurement of outcomes.”  He went on to state that investing in the best nonprofits helps strengthen the entire nonprofit filed.  The selection process of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation suggests that due diligence and accountability can have a positive impact on nonprofit management.  Careful scrutiny during grantee selection has the potential of raising organizational standards and the control environment within nonprofit organizations. This can lead to improved policies, procedures and internal controls that protect against fraud and asset losses.  Likewise, nonprofit organizations who wish to shine during a grant selection process should be positioned to demonstrate control activities used to promote the financial health of the organization.  For example, a nonprofit organization can demonstrate systems to protect patient privacy, prevent cybercrime, or protect system data.  Nonprofit organizations should contact a nonprofit specialist if it desires to improve management practices in this area.  Likewise, private foundations who wish to revamp their grant selection process should contact a nonprofit consultant.