How to Be Confident in Fundraising Discussions with Major Donors | Gail Perry Group

Do you want to develop more confidence when approaching major donors? 

Many Major Gift Officers tell us that they are nervous when they pick up the phone or email one of their assigned prospects. 

The challenge is this: We all need to be focusing on major donors and their gifts, but many of us lack confidence in what to do and what to say. 

Many participants in our Major Gifts Intensive tell us that they really want and need to develop more confidence. And we make sure that they emerge ready and equipped to successfully close gifts! 

Today we are talking about confidence.

Specifically, the kind of confidence your team needs to get out of their office and go make friends with major donors.

We hear lots of people – from the C-Suite to board members to entry level fundraising staffers – saying that they are simply nervous. 

We understand. This whole process of raising funds for a good cause can be intimidating.

But take heart – you CAN gain complete confidence when dealing with high-net-worth donors.

Even more, 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, like most newcomers, I felt a bit intimidated.

I would say to myself: “Why would these major donors ever want to spend time with me? I am just a staffer, and they are such Very Important People.”

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

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

Yet, as a Major Gift Officer, I had this huge fundraising goal hanging over my head!

Do you ever feel like this?

And, here’s another important challenge: this discomfort tends to keep many fundraisers in the office when they really should be out visiting with donors. 

That’s why we created the Major Gifts Intensive – so that smart, capable fundraisers could have the help they needed to thrive, to flourish and to actually have fun. 

And, what’s more – to be wildly successful in their fundraising.

How to Develop Your Confidence for Major Gift Fundraising Success

Here are our tips for developing more confidence so that you can be successful with your 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, so think carefully about how you will present yourself.

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 someone they perceive as boorish.)
  • 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, use permission: “Would you like an update? Would you like to know more about such and such program that we are developing? 

Or you can approach this as an Advice Visit: “I’d like to know what you think about xxx or yyyy issue.”

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

And let them know that they are the ones who will do the talking, so to speak– not you. 

We also recommend that Major Gift Officers introduce themselves as their donor’s assigned contact at the organization. 

In this role, you can be prepared to help answer their questions, learn their donor story, and discover their interest area at your nonprofit.

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

Over and over, fundraisers tell me that when they are properly prepared, they feel 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, 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. That way, you can have a powerful conversation about their interest in your nonprofit’s mission.

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 potential 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. (We’ve all been there!)

With practice, you’ll develop your skill to pivot and 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:

  •       What does the donor think about your organization’s latest initiative?
  •       What’s your donor’s impression of your organization, your leadership, and your 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 be More Confident in Major Gift Fundraising:

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

These skills will help you build lasting relationships with your new donors. 

You’ll be able to have relationships that create joyful generous donors that you can actually enjoy. 


5 Ways to Get the Appointment with Your Major Gift Prospect

How to Have a Successful Visit with a Major Donor

How to Develop Friendly and Authentic Relationships with Major Gift Donors

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.