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Design Your Program - The Major Gift Opportunity

In its comprehensive study of public television's financial posture, McKinsey and Company found that the system has a tremendous, unmet potential in major giving with the opportunity to increase net revenue by $20-$35 million. In response to a system-wide planning process, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) launched the Public Television Major Giving Initiative (MGI) to allow any station the opportunity to design and implement a major giving program.

Topics of Interest
Topics of Interest

Major Giving Defined

Successful major giving programs are based on personal relationships.

Donors make gifts after careful thought, and they often see their gifts less as a contribution than as an investment in the ability of the organization to serve their communities, as Kay Sprinkel Grace shows in explaining the key Differences Between Major Giving and Membership Programs (PDF, 30KB).

She draws an interesting distinction between the kind of fundraising public television and radio stations typically do and what is required of major giving:

  • Fundraising allows people to act on their own values.
  • Development uncovers shared values.
  • Philanthropy is based in values.

Major gifts are larger not just because these donors have more to give, but because organizations take the time to communicate their values and to share a vision of how they can serve their communities. Major gift fundraising is deliberate, thorough, and patient, ruled less by the budgetary needs of the fiscal year than by the thought and commitment that motivates the gift.

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Daring to Dream

Achieving a vision for the community means daring to dream. It requires the management team and key volunteers to move beyond a narrow focus on what the station is now doing to consider what it might do if given the resources. This necessitates a dramatic shift in mindset. Rather than being a prisoner to the limitations of scarcity, the team is freed to consider the possibilities of as-yet-unrealized abundance.

Many of the success stories we found in our research for this site resulted from stations considering ideas that they lacked the resources to accomplish. They shared their dreams with donors, excited their interest, and got the investments to turn these ideas into reality.

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Create a Long-term Vision for Your Program

In a similar manner, it is important to form a vision of where major giving will take you. Many stations have not moved beyond $1,000 gifts, making major giving a destination rather than a journey. Others use their giving club as prospect pools for larger annual gifts, one-time special gifts, critical investments in the station's program and infrastructure, and planned gifts.

Do you have a capital or endowment campaign in the future? Do you hope that your station might someday fund an outreach project or an important local production through a gift from an individual? Do you hope to develop a new generation of volunteer leaders who can help carry your message to the community? Consider the full potential of your major giving program and develop the personal cultivation and stewardship techniques that lead to gifts of substance.

This section will give you the tools you need to begin — or to rethink — your major giving program.

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Kent Dove,
noted fundraising author and Vice President for Development at Indiana University

Meeche White,
Executive Director of the National Ability Center

Chris Brentlinger,
Director of Major Gifts at Reed College