Secrets of Major Gift Success

Raising money from major donors is the most cost-effective strategy in your fundraising plan. And raising money from rich people is a great way to meet some of the movers and shakers in your community and gain visibility that can lead you to additional dollars from private foundations, corporations, faith- based groups, and government agencies.

The costs associated with raising major gift dollars are not great, because you’re not doing a direct mailing piece to thousands of people, or paying for major marketing materials. But raising this money does take time and involves a “high touch” strategy that some people just don’t have the patience for. Unfortunately, as a non-profit organization you don’t have a choice. I cannot emphasize the importance of the “high touch” enough. To succeed, you simply must find people within your organization (staffers, board members, volunteers) willing to help you take on this task.

Here are 10 tips that will help you put together a smooth-running major gift program that works.

  1. Go in teams whenever possible. As a team, you can support each other and play to each other’s strengths. Have one person on the team do the “asking” and let the other team members set the stage for the ask.
  2. When setting up an appointment to meet with the potential major donor remember you are not asking for dollars, but simply requesting a convenient time to meet.
  3. Understand your donor. Do some research prior to the meeting so you know the donor’s history of giving to your organization; what aspects of your programs they like; where they went to school and where their kids go to school; and whether or not they’re a member of a synagogue or church.
  4. Prepare your case for support. Make sure you understand what your organization needs. Know the marketing and key selling points of your organization and be able to articulate these quickly.
  5. Know what you will ask the major donor for. From your research and knowledge of the donor, be prepared to ask for a specific dollar amount, but be flexible to ask for more if the donor shows a lot of enthusiasm about your visit. Watch their body language, the questions they ask, and their level of passion — then maneuver your request accordingly.
  6. Calm down when you first begin the conversation. Try to relax. Get the donor to talk about him/herself before you launch into your pitch – this will allow you some time to take a few breaths and get comfortable with the person.
  7. Tell them about the campaign or programs that need funding and make sure you talk about the impact the organization is making and the changes it is creating in the community. Ask a few questions that will stimulate the donor to respond about what she/he likes about the organization.
  8. When the donor expresses something very positive try to seal the deal! As soon as the donor starts talking about why they love or support your organization, that is your opening to ask for the gift and close the conversation.
  9. Reiterate the commitment. Before parting ways, make sure you state clearly what their financial commitment is and how you will follow-up with them.
  10. Call them or write them a personal note of thanks and appreciation for their time and their pledge of support.