Major Gifts in Ten Minutes a Day

We were having coffee and my friend looked panicky.

“What’s the matter?”

“Rob, it’s nearly November and I’m not getting out. I haven’t made a visit in a month. My plate is so full right now, I can’t imagine even finding the time to try to get a visit. I need a day, a week, but it’s not going to happen.”

“Do you have ten minutes?”

“What do you mean.”

“Do you have ten minutes for major gifts?”

“Seriously? You can’t do major gifts fundraising in ten minutes!”

As gently as I could, I looked my friend in the eye and said, “Of course you can.”

When our moms and dads taught us how to save by telling us “Pay yourself first” they didn’t tell us how much we had to sock away each month. Their point was, just do something. It’s the effort that matters.

For fundraisers that means making the time or, if need be, fighting for the time to get out on a visit.

Without making visits, consistent major gifts do not happen.

If you can give yourself the gift of ten minutes every day, it will happen.

Think about major gift work as a series of moments. The last ask you made? The elapsed time between when you asked and when the donor responded was less than 20 seconds. Meeting a potential donor at an event? Five minutes. A phone conversation just to say hello, but for sure we need to connect soon? Ten minutes.

Is putting yourself in position to get a visit and make an ask worth ten minutes a day to you? Yes? Good.

First thing, do what happens when you don’t want to be distracted.


Mail a handwritten note to someone.

Email three different people. Say something like: “Mary, I was thinking about you this morning and wondering how you are doing. I haven’t seen you for the longest time. May I stop by just to say hello?”

Who did you meet recently? At a board meeting or an event. Reach out! If no one, you need to put yourself in the position next time to do so.

Make a phone call to thank someone for their gift.

Schedule your next trip, even if it’s to the other side of town, so you can tell the next person you call, “I’ll be in your neck of the woods soon, would you have time for coffee?”

Who’s sick or homebound? Send a card. Whose birthday is coming up? Ditto.

Look at last fiscal year’s list of $1,000-plus donors. Who needs some TLC? Commit to the next three people you’re going to try to visit.

Go find some news about your organization you can send to a donor.

Have a conversation with a “service provider” at your organization; a teacher, a social worker, a doctor. You’d be amazed who they know.

The point is, do something. Anything. One little thing. Today.

If you commit to ten minutes a day, you’ll see results, your confidence will grow and you’ll think, “well, maybe I should give this 20 minutes…”

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.