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Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them

Jerold Panas


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Table of Contents

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Read an Interview with Jerold Panas

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Acclaim for Mega Gifts

“Mega Gifts is far more than a treatise on fundraising. It’s a Brilliant book on the psychology of giving – an extraordinary exploration of the motives, emotions, and impulses that propel big givers”

- James Lewis Bowers, Si Seymour Award Winner, Vice Chair, Foundation Board, Scripps Institute for Medicine & Research

“One of the 25 most important books ever written on fundraising.”

- Association of Fundraising Professionals (formerly NSFRE)

“I started Mega Gifts late at night. That was a mistake. I couldn’t put it down.”

- Dr. James W. Strobel, President, Erskine College, South Carolina

“Indispensable. The Tenets for Success alone are worth the price of the book.”

- United Way of America National Office

“Inspirational and informative – I couldn’t put it down.”

- Robert Peacock, Vice President, The Toronto Community Foundation

“Jerry Panas is my nominee as the best writer in fundraising.”

- Mal Warwick, Chairman & CEO, Mal Warwick & Associates

“One of the most important books ever written in the field – challenging, informative, and inspirational. It will make you reach higher than you ever thought possible.”

- Fund-Raising Institute (FRI)


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Mega Gifts:
Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them, 2nd Edition
by Jerold Panas, 163 pp., $24.95 (Click here for quantity discount information)

How do you top what is said to be the greatest selling fundraising book of all time?

How do you improve upon Mega Gifts, a book CASE Currents magazine called 'the most important fundraising book' written?

How do you, as Emeril Lagasse would say, 'kick it up a notch?"

Jerold Panas knows how. Does he ever.

You update the content, revise it, add more chapters, introduce a rash of new donors, and look afresh at what's happened over the past two decades. What you end up with is an even better book, if that's possible, with nearly 50 percent new material.

The Second Edition of Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them is no 'how-to' book. Panas would wince at that depiction. No, Mega Gifts it is far more substantive and significant than that.


What Panas is after is nothing less than exposing the soul of those who make large gifts.

And in his own inimitable style, he goes right to the source, the big givers themselves, and speaks at length with dozens of them. Then, to corroborate what he learns, Panas surveys nearly a thousand professionals in the field and incorporates their insights as well.

The result is a tour de force book from an unrivalled storyteller, with insights dancing off every page. In fact, there's so much inside information, you'll feel you're reading someone else's mail.

What you find in Mega Gifts is the real deal, from the primary source. This isn't conjecture.

And what you gain is an understanding of donors' innermost motivations, what drives them to the causes they support, how they reach their decision, what nurtures their loyalty, what they expect from organizations and their staff, how they wish to be recognized - even how they want you to approach them and present your case.

And then there are the Tenets for Success. From his in-depth interviews, from his survey to field professionals, and from his own close association with mega givers over the past several decades, Panas has distilled down 62 tenets that guide, shape, and determine the success of securing major gifts. Each and every one should be tacked on the wall.

Mega Gifts is the 800 pound gorilla in the field … and one hugely entertaining animal it is.

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About the Author

Jerold Panas is among a small handful of the grandmasters of American fundraisers.

He is considered one of the top writers in the field. His book Asking has achieved classic status. Panas' newest book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards is also published by Emerson & Church.

Hailed by Newsweek as "the Robert Schuller of fundraising," Jerry is a popular columnist for Contributions Magazine and a favorite speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the nation.

He is executive director of one of the premier firms in America and is co-founder of the Institute for Charitable Giving. The very term "philanthropy" would mean less without Jerry's influence.

He lives with his wife, Felicity, in a 1710 farmhouse in northwest Connecticut.

Table of Contents

  1. The Incredible Odyssey
  2. Why People Give
  3. When They Don’t Believe, They Won’t Give
  4. Staff Gives Inspiration and Lights the Way
  5. Tax is Little Incentive
  6. Are You Dozing Through a Changing Market?
  7. The Buck Starts with the Board
  8. Go for the Challenge
  9. Naming Opportunities are Golden Opportunities
  10. The Right Person Should Ask
  11. The Spouse Counts
  12. Material is Immaterial
  13. Seize the Magic Moment
  14. The Response is Spontaneous
  15. Find a Way to Recognize
  16. Those Who Give, Receive
  17. Pass It On
  18. What Mega Givers Expect in a Fundraiser
  19. Your Best Approach
  20. The Joy of Giving
  21. Tenets for Success

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Excerpt This article is excerpted from Jerold Panas’ book, Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them, 2nd Edition, ©Emerson & Church, Publishers. To obtain reprint permission, please call 508-359-0019.

What Major Donors Expect in a Fundraiser

I was talking with Malin Burnham the other day. He had recently made a transformational gift to one of the most promising research centers in the nation. It's now called The Burnham Institute (La Jolla, California).

We were discussing what prompted his gift. But more specifically, I wanted to know what qualities he admired most in a fundraiser, someone calling on him for a gift.

Believe me, he's had plenty of folks calling on him. And he's been extremely generous. When I asked the question, he didn’t hesitate for a moment.

“There needs to be a near-militant belief in its mission," he tells me. "When someone calls on me, I can tell if there’s a passion for the organization. I can actually feel it. If the fundraiser isn’t deeply committed, how can they expect me to be?”

Malin also expects a high level of energy.

Just a few days before, a solicitor had called on him. "She was absolutely charged," he says. "As she spoke about her project, there was electricity in the air. I couldn’t help but feel the glow."

I could tell Malin was warming up to the subject. “I’ll tell you a quality I don’t like. Someone calling on me who's pushy. I dig in my feet. Or someone who never stops talking. How are they ever going to know what I'm interested in?"

What he considers the most important attribute of a successful fundraiser, Malin leaves until last.

“Nothing is more important than integrity," he says. "I look for it every time someone calls on me. If it’s not there, I can spot it immediately."

I agree with Malin. I consider integrity the mightiest weapon in a fundraiser’s arsenal. More important than any other single quality. It’s power is explosive. Integrity alone won't get you a ticket to the top, but without it, you can’t even begin the journey.

There are some other attributes beyond what Malin Burnham talked to me about.

For one thing, I find the great fundraisers are much like folks who pull up the roots to see if the flowers are still growing! They are itchy by nature. They don't easily suffer standing still or treading water. Status quo is anathema to them.

I’m reminded that every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the lion or it will be eaten. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you're the lion or the gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. The great fundraiser understands this.

Oh, there’s lots more. Self-confidence. Comfort in one's own skin. Genuine affection for people. Authenticity.

But let me finish with a characteristic I find in all of the great fundraisers: They love their work.

There is a willingness to pay the price – whatever the cost. Their work becomes something of an obsession. It burns like fire in their bones.

You've heard the dictum: No pain, no gain. Success is a moving target. Often, a fundraiser can feel a bit like Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey – “My life is endless trouble and chaos.”

There are the long hours, long days, some of which seem never to end. But still there is joy and exhilaration, fulfillment and an inner glow.

When you think about it, the reason is obvious. Fundraising has the power to dramatically impact society in a way no other profession can. And you're an integral part of that noble pursuit.

John R. Mott, one of the great Christian voices of the mid-1900s, was right: “Blessed are the fundraisers," he said, "in heaven they shall stand on the right hand of the martyrs.”

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