How to Develop Your Confidence for Major Gift Fundraising


Do you want to develop your confidence for major gift fundraising?

Why does it matter?

Well, we all want to focus on major gifts – because that’s where you’ll get the largest return on your investment of time and energy.

You can’t really afford NOT to invest in major gifts. :)

Today we are talking about confidence.

Specifically the kind of confidence you need — to get out of your office and go make friends with major donors.

Yes this can be frightening.

I hear lots of people saying that they are simply nervous. I totally agree!

But you CAN gain complete confidence when dealing with high net worth donors.

You CAN feel completely comfortable, friendly and at ease with them.

First, let me share my own story:

When I first started out in fundraising, I was intimidated for sure.

I used to say to myself, “Why would these major donors ever want to spend time with me? I am a nobody, and they are such Very Important People.”

It used to feel like the donors were high up on a hill. Far, far away from me.

The distance was so great. The gap between us was so wide. I was so young. They were so old and prominent.

I felt insignificant. Unimportant. A speck, actually, in their universe. :)

And I had this huge fundraising goal hanging over my head!

So you ever feel like this?

Like the donor is so very far, far away – high up on a hill?

Does this discomfort tend to keep you in the office?

Is this really the secret reason you stick to your email rather than getting out for donor visits?

Listen, I completely understand. You are perfectly ok.  You just need some support.

That’s why I created our major gift coaching program – so that smart, capable fundraisers like you could have the help they needed to thrive.

To flourish. To actually have fun. And to be wildly successful in their fundraising.

If you think major gift coaching might be a good fit for you and your team, let us know by filling out the form at the bottom of this page. (I have only 2 spaces left, so act now!)

If you are accepted into our coaching program, I’ll personally be with you every step of the way – for 10 months.

You won’t be alone, biting your fingernails, as you wait to hear back from your donor. :)

And you’ll get a systematic, step-by-step program with monthly goals, coaching calls with our team – all designed to help you implement a long-term major gift program that will bring in the money, year after year.

How to Develop Your Confidence for Major Gift Fundraising Success

So let’s start now by developing your confidence for major gift fundraising.

Here’s what you need to master in order to be successful at major donor relationships.

1. How to ask for an appointment so that your prospect will say “yes” to a meeting.

You want to come across well in your email or phone call when you request the meeting.

Your first communication makes a huge first impression.

Your request for a meeting needs to:

  • Present you to the donor as a likeable, somewhat interesting person.
  • Show that you have lovely polite manners. (Major donors simply are not gonna spend time with boors.)
  • Be cordial and friendly – and strike the right tone between social and business.
  • Show that you respect the busy donor’s time.

2. Learn what to say when you ask for a meeting.

Don’t say, “I’d like to update you on what our nonprofit is doing.”

That will probably bring you a “No, we don’t need to meet” from your donor.

Instead you want to say, “I’d like to update you on a new project we are doing, and would like your take on it.”

Or say, “I’d like to get your input on xxx or yyyy issue.”

Above all, let your donor know that you really do want her opinion.

And let her know that she is the one who gets to do the talking in the meeting – not you. :)

3. Learn how to be properly prepared for a meeting.

Over and over, fundraisers tell me that when they are properly prepared, they are far more comfortable. Being thoroughly prepared will give you confidence.

You want to:

  • Know as much as possible about your donors before you ever meet them – their personality, their likes and dislikes (you can have a field day with this one!), family, community activities, even their vacations.
  • What does your internal research tell you?  Their giving preferences and history, past relationships with people at your organization, projects they have supported?
  • What can you find from external research?  Community activities, awards, hobbies?
  • Try to find out their philanthropic track record.

Most importantly – you want to know what they are most interested in.

4. Learn how to be properly social – but not too social.

This is a fine line, but you can quickly develop an instinct for how to walk it.

You are cordial, and you talk about the donor’s interests, right?

Some donors will want to spend 25 minutes of a 30 minute appointment talking about the latest sports event or their last vacation.

And you are sweating it out – wondering how to shift the conversation to business. (Have you been here before? I sure have!)

With practice you’ll develop your skill to gently change the subject.

If you stay too social, your donor will forget what your real job is.

You must, must. always discuss fundraising issues with your donor. Such as:

  • Your organization’s latest initiative – what does the donor think about this?

  • What’s your donor’s impression of your organization, your leadership, your overall work?

  • What is your donor most interested in at your organization?

  • Why does your donor support your organization?

  • What’s your donor’s personal philanthropic vision?

Bottom Line – How to Gain Confidence for Major Gift Fundraising:

Training in all these skills will help you build the confidence you need to be successful at major gift fundraising.

These are the skills that will help you build lasting relationships with your donors. Here’s how to have productive, and enjoyable relationships.

And, if you want to access my entire series of 8 emails about the tools and skills for major gift success, here they are:

How to get appointments with wealthy donors

Where to find new major gift prospects  

How to engage your board in major gift fundraising

How to make friends with your major donors

How to avoid the top 5 major gift mistakes

How to develop your confidence for major gift fundraising 

How to use moves management to raise major gifts  

How to get your whole organization behind major gift fundraising in 2017