Cheryl Self & Les Kline: Major Gift Fundraising Part 1

“I will be very honest. I knew very quickly that Cheryl had what it took, to raise resources, to build quality relationships.” -Les Kline

People who aren’t in fundraising are always asking me, “How does somebody become a fundraiser?” Most people don’t go to college to become one, and I don’t know many people who had that as a career aspiration during their teen years.

Our topic for discussion today is major gift fundraising. 

The amount of the gift that defines a major gift varies from organization to organization. I’m currently working with a client who defines a major gift as any gift that exceeds $12,000 in a calendar year. And just yesterday, I was speaking with a Major Gift Officer at a prominent east coast teaching hospital. Their definition of a major gift is a single gift in excess of $100,000 in one year.

However the major gift is defined, a strong major gifts program is critical to the success and sustainability of any nonprofit organization.

Our guests today are Cheryl Self and Les Kline. Cheryl and Les have spent their careers in the field of major gifts and both rose through the ranks from Major Gift Officer to Chief Development Officer.

Thanks again for listening to the Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership With Tommy Thomas podcast. If you’re listening to an app that lets you leave a review, please do so. Many of our listeners come to us on the recommendation of a friend or a colleague. If you’ve heard something today worth passing on, please share the show with others. 


“If what I saw in the candidate was what I felt a donor would be attracted to and trust, then I was very interested.” -Les Kline

Show Notes

[2:09] – We’re introduced to Les Kline and Cheryl Self, and we learn how they ended up in the fundraising profession.

[3:52] – Les reveals his first encounter with fundraising. 

[5:17] – This is what Les and Cheryl each remember about Les hiring Cheryl back at World Vision. 

[7:14] – Cheryl shares a story about her first meeting with Les in Orlando.

[9:59] – What does Cheryl look for when hiring a development rep? 

[12:34] – We hear why many fundraisers fail, according to Les. 

[14:18] – Cheryl’s take on failures in fundraising.

[15:22] – What does good training look like between the CDO and the new hire? 

[18:45] – These are the critical aspects of relationship building. 

[21:31] – An appropriate sense of humor every now and again is important.

[24:38] – Les adds one more thing in regards to the role of a CEO on donor calls. 

[25:37] – Tommy concludes the conversation. 

“Don’t be overbearing. It’s always a very respectful relationship where you make sure you’re understanding [a donor’s] felt needs and their…sense of timing.” -Cheryl Self

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters – Website

JobfitMatters – Podcast


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