You have two choices really: either receive gifts from donors or create gift opportunities with donors.
Far too many development offices are content to receive the gifts that donors give. These programs are reactive, unplanned, and regularly receive less than they need for their most important priorities. The gift receiving mentality is regularly accompanied by an attitude that asking for gifts will be experienced as too bold, too greedy, or too uncomfortable. Consequently, the gift receiving office is much better at extending thanks for a gift than soliciting the gift in the first place.
On the other hand, the most effective development programs create gift giving opportunities with their donors. The gift creating program is proactive, strategic, and engages donors in serious ways. Development officers ask questions about values, interests, and seek donor feedback. Gift creating programs have standard meetings in which donor strategies are discussed. And gift creating programs have a habit of asking donors for specific gift amounts for specific priorities.
Being a development professional in a gift receiving office is easy and comfortable. Saying “thank you” is almost effortless and is accessible to just about everyone. But if you want to do meaningful work for your institution – if you want to make a significant difference by increasing charitable gifts – you will work to create far more gifts than you receive. Or, to put it another way in paraphrased form: Ask first and, then, you should receive.