3 things to do if MacKenzie Scott dumps an enormous bucket of money on you

Their dream came true. MacKenzie Scott’s Mystery Money Machine chose them. For a seven-figure donation.

It was an order of magnitude larger than any other donation they’d ever received. Transformational for their work. And it was unrestricted money. They could use it to build their capacity and not only accomplish more mission, but also be more effective in all areas, including fundraising.

After the staff of this community social service organization in a mid-sized US city finished celebrating, they asked What now?

Their greatest fear was that donors would be less inclined to give, thinking Scott’s donation meant they weren’t needed. The donation got quite a lot of press coverage, so they figured everyone in town was highly aware of it. What should they be saying to donors who might be feeling dwarfed or crowded out by MacKenzie Scott.

Here’s the reality: while a seven figure donation from a famous philanthropist is a big deal that dominated the minds of insiders for weeks, and was in the news for a number of days, it was not top-of-mind for many donors. A large percentage of them had no idea (or heard and then forgot) about it.

Going into high gear on telling donors, “yes, we got a lot of money, but your support still matters” could cause more harm than it prevents.

Here are some things you might do should you get a large donation from MacKenzie Scott (or anyone else):

  1. Stick to your fundraising plan. One of the most damaging things that can happen after a mega-donation is that organizations neglect fundraising because it feels like “the pressure is off” on the need for a revenue stream. That’s partly true, but it’s only temporarily true. Scott is probably not going to be back next year with another donation for you. You’ll need your regular donors in the near future, but if you neglect them, you’ll lose them.
  2. Put together your talking points about the donation. Rather than give the impression that other donors are no longer needed, treat the big donation as an implied endorsement (she vetted us and found us to be a good investment), and make sure donors know the big donation actually increases the impact of their donations.
  3. Reach out to those who most need to know. While most donors won’t care that much, some will care a lot. And among that group are many of your most important supporters, including board members and major donors. Beyond that, tell people who ask about it.

(To learn who has received these donations, check out Yield Giving.)


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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