I listened over the last few days as speakers at a conference talked about “closing gifts.” I’ve never been fond of that phrase – “closing the gift” – but I’ve never went out of my way to find particular fault with it either. And then one speaker made the following statement in reference to the almost insatiable need for most institutions to garner major gifts:
“You close one major gift and you move on to the next.”
In that instant, the reason for my repressed dissatisfaction became clear. It was like the speaker was talking about making widgets at the factory.
We should never talk about “closing” anything in philanthropy. Instead, we should always be working toward “openings.” Opening relationships with new donors and friends. Opening new gift opportunities with donors. Opening new ways for our most ardent and consistent donors to get re-energized about our mission. Or opening opportunities for our institutions to show our donors just how authentically grateful we are for their generosity.
“Closing” the gift is the wrong way to think and talk. Closing suggests transactional, not relational development work. It says something is done, finished, completed. Development work is never done. Our relationships with donors should never be finished (hence the “legacy endowment gift”). And gifts should never be completed in any real sense – they should only lead to greater levels of donor engagement and future gifts.
So, don’t go “close” your next gift. Instead, go open it.