Major Gifts Series #3: How To Develop Your Own Courage for Major Gift Fundraising

I hope you are enjoying this email series I’m sending to help you succeed in major gift fundraising. It’s a lot of food for thought, so take some time to digest it.

Focus on major gifts, and you’ll get the largest return on your investment of time and energy.

That’s where the really big funding is! You can’t afford NOT to invest in major gifts. :)

Today we are talking about courage.

Specifically, the type of courage 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.

First, let me share my own story:

When I first started out in fundraising, I was intimidated. 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 older and so prominent.

To make matters worse, I had this huge fundraising goal hanging over my head!

Have you ever felt like this?

Does this discomfort tend to keep you and your colleagues stuck in the office? Is this the secret reason you hide behind your email rather than getting out for donor visits?

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

Handshake | Gail Perry

Partner with us.

Find out how we can help you achieve your fundraising goals with world-class consulting and custom training.

This is why we created Major Gift Coaching. To help smart and capable fundraising teams develop their confidence, and learn the skills for successful major gifts.

Coaching will guide your team to build a systematic, major gifts program complete with monthly goals.

To help you, here are my favorite tips to develop confidence when approaching major donors.

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 likable, somewhat interesting person.
  • Show that you have lovely, polite manners. (Major donors simply are not going to spend time with boorish, rude people.)
  • 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 yyy issue.”

Above all, let your donor know that you really do value 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: Training in all these skills will help you build the confidence you need to be successful at major gift fundraising.

This is how you begin to build lasting, productive and enjoyable relationships with your donors.

And remember our Major Gift Coaching closes out on February 15th.

Let me know if you are interested!