Gifts ... building the relationship
Click here for Part 1
thinking about the “ask” for a major gift makes many of us break out in
a cold sweat … and we haven’t even decided who to ask, for what purpose, how much
to ask for, and
when. While raising money is not easy these days, people are still
giving. We just need to ask.
There are some steps you can use to plan the approach for a major gift
that will let you sleep (better) at night and greatly increase your
success rate. As mentioned in the last week’s Thursday Thought there are
easy ways to determine your best prospects for major gifts. And as many
experts have already noted, the Executive Director and board members of
your nonprofit organization already know the people you need to know to
Remember the Five I’s of Fundraising: Identification, Information,
Interest, Involvement and Investment.
Sometimes there is a close relationship that already exists and a phone
call to set up a visit with a board member and the CEO is sufficient.
This donor is already comfortable with your organization; they just need
to know the reason for this gift and how it relates to their interests.
Other times there is a longer relationship building curve.
The connection to this donor from your organization may be more limited,
or may be out-of-date, and so you need to nurture the relationship
before you can make the ask. You may need to provide information about
your mission; determine what their level interest; and/or get them
involved in your organization’s mission.
This process may entail invitations to activities or meetings sponsored
by your nonprofit, sending Annual Reports or other public information,
and arranging visits to talk about your organization and some
of your goals and challenges without asking for a contribution.
But each contact MUST be purposeful, so it is important to know your
objective for the meeting. You do not want to waste your time or that of
your probable donor. In many cases the objective may be to learn what
the donor’s interest are … “seek first to understand, then to be
understood.” Ask them why they care about your cause.
This nurturing process may take from six to twelve months before you
sense that the prospective donor is comfortable enough to approach for a
When you are really ready to make the ask, the contact should be made by
the person who has the best relationship with the donor. Decide
(based on your knowledge of the prospect) what is the best way to set up
Sometimes an introductory letter to the prospective donor will be
advisable. The purpose of the letter is to introduce the reason for a
visit. Inform the recipient that you, or the volunteer, will follow up
with a phone call. Remember that the purpose of the phone call is to
schedule the visit NOT to ask for the gift. That needs to be done in
You already know the probable donor. When you meet with some
prospective donors, they want to touch on the things you do have in
common – jobs, kids, colleges, local sports. It’s not idle chatter, it’s
learning more about them. Other people will want to get down to business
right away. Adjust YOUR style of communication to meet THEIR
Briefly tell them your story – your organization’s goals,
accomplishments, programs and
Finally, ASK for the gift. If two people are on the call, make sure the
plan is in place BEFORE the visit who will actually say the words: “As I
mentioned in the letter we sent you, we were hoping you’d consider a
gift of $10,000 to support our work. Are you able to help us now?”
Then wait for an answer. Consider, in advance, what some
of the objections might be, and be prepared with answers. If the
response is “That is more than I can afford now” you might reply “Could
you do it over a couple of years?” It's OK to negotiate so that your
donor's and the organization's needs are met. When you’ve come to an agreement,
reiterate it so both parties are clear, and remember to thank your new
What else do we know from people who make major gifts? They like to give
– it makes them feel good; they believe it is the right thing to do; and
they like to be thanked. Not necessarily with big awards and public
displays – many large donors are often reluctant to be in the limelight
– but they want to know that their support has been used wisely and
carefully. Communicate regularly. Remember to thank them personally whenever
possible, and keep your connection over time.
Contact Larry at 330-696-6709 or