The Academy Awards are the pinnacle of award season in Hollywood. The brightest A-List stars dress in haute couture and mingle on the red carpet, surrounded by journalists and fans, before spending an evening giving and receiving accolades—and for a fortunate few, earning the year’s highest honors. The honorees then give speeches thanking all the people who helped them along the way.

While the donors we work with are not (usually) celebrities, there are some interesting parallels we can draw as development professionals. Closing a major gift agreement is an amazing accomplishment. Untold hard work, talent, and sacrifice culminate in a contribution that makes a tremendous, meaningful impact.

What an incredible achievement!

But, before we stand up to make our acceptance speech and thank everyone who helped us, let’s pause to reflect. Whose achievement is it really?

Yes, we play a role—a crucial one. But we are the supporting actor or actress. The shining star of the closing of a major contribution is the donor. It is truly his or her achievement. Our role is to help the donor accomplish something that is meaningful to him or her—and we are truly honored to be a part of the team that made that possible.

As we approach the major-gift ask, we would do well to consider ways in which we can put the donor first. How can we help the donor give through the organization to make a difference? Which of our projects or programs would the donor find most meaningful? What can we do to demonstrate what an incredible impact the donor’s contribution will make? How can we connect the donor with people in the organization who will make the experience more meaningful?

And, as we celebrate the contribution and the donor’s outstanding achievements, remember: It’s not about me!


Contact us to learn more about meaningful philanthropy.