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We thought you might be interested in hearing about three skills everyone needs in order to close major gifts much faster. So today, in the final article of our Major Gifts 2021 content series, we’re sharing the secret skills that the best fundraisers use to close mega gifts.

Here’s the challenge we often face: donors are people. Which means they are human – they can be ambiguous and confusing. Smart fundraisers can read their donors, decipher the implications of a donor conversation and move forward to a gift conversation.

Use the Artful Questions to Find Out Where a Donor Stands.

Often, mega donors don’t come right out and say things unless directly asked. They’ll share conflicting information about their financial position, their family and their giving intentions.

One of the great tragedies of fundraising is when we assume too much about a donor.

We may decide they are a serious donor prospect, based solely on a wealth screening report. Or we may assume they will not be supporting our cause for one reason or another. Either way, donors can – and will – surprise you.

One of the skills we teach in the Major Gifts Intensive program (join us this year!) is how to ask the Artful Questions to find out where your donor truly stands. You can politely, but directly, ask donors specific questions about their intentions.

There is a way to do this that is organic and natural, never pushy. Everyone who aspires to close major gifts needs the Artful Questioning technique that moves a donor toward a gift.

The best fundraisers master Artful Questioning – the hard but delicate questions that uncover their donor’s intentions.

Learn to Read Your Donor’s Cues.

Donors give you signals – some weak and some strong. The best fundraisers can “read” their donors, because they are constantly vigilant, scanning the donor’s communication and behavior for signs of greater enthusiasm or change.

Your major or principal gift donor is constantly giving you cues about where they stand, but alas, you and your team are missing them.

The problem is, you are not paying close enough attention.

Practice watching the things your donors actually do – such as their willingness to chat with you or their facial expressions. (Do they smile when you call?)

Donors will also say surprising things that will perk up your ears. They may ask about naming opportunities or ask to meet your CEO and learn more about your work. They may mention a recent inheritance or a financial situation. These are all classic signals that your donor is interested in deeper support.

  • Kathryn closed the largest gift of her career ($9 million!) when she picked up a side comment from a donor couple – that they didn’t have kids and were planning their estate.
  • Gail likes to tell a story of when she realized the donor was blowing her off, by just the flicker of his eyelid and posture shift. “I got the message quickly,” she says, “and I changed the subject to a more productive direction!”

Use Deeper Listening to Find Your Next Gift.

There’s an absolutely critical attribute of every smart fundraiser – including staffers, CEOs, deans and chancellors, leaders of all types who engage with donor prospects. They must learn the Deeper Listening skills.

Here’s the problem: your team members are too focused on the excitement of the meeting, including what they are planning to say next. If they tend to be talkers, they have a problem. Typically a dean, CEO or your president is going to expect to talk.

Not so. Your donor expects to do the talking.

Deeper listening will help you interpret your donor’s cues, and move in the direction they want to go. You’ll be alert to signs of readiness to give.

The best fundraisers know how to listen their way to a gift.

Bottom Line: The Secret Skills that Help You Close Major Gifts Much Faster.

Don’t wallow around just guessing. Learn to read your donor, listen and ask for clarification. You’ll save so very much time!

Major Gifts Intensive registration will close out next week!

If you and your team want to learn the secrets to locate and close mega gifts, then plan to join us in this year’s Major Gifts Intensive coaching program. This program only happens once a year and we are filling up quickly. But we would love to chat with you and make room. Find out more here and schedule a call with us next week.

We often receive questions about the return on investment of this program. Remember this: the Major Gifts Intensive course will PAY FOR ITSELF through increased gifts.

In fact, most members receive a 10 to 1 return on their investment. So not only does the program pay for itself, but it often brings a 1000% return – much better than the earnings from your endowment. Just think about the long term payoff of building up a robust major gift program for your institution!

Have questions about the Major Gifts Intensive? Email anne@gailperry.com and we’ll follow up shortly!

We all dream about transformational gifts. Those are the gifts that can change your organization’s trajectory into a new, expanded reach. These are the gifts that can blow your mind – with all they can accomplish and the impact they can make.

So how do you find the very special donor who has the capacity, interest and commitment to make a transformational gift?

What’s the Pathway to a Transformational Gift?

First of all, you have to start at the beginning. You’ll need to do deep discovery and qualification work. Your goal is to actually identify the donors who might be in a position to consider a truly transformational gift.

Usually, they have been giving to your institution for a while. They know and respect you, your team, and the CEO. They’ve seen your impact firsthand. They are treated like insiders because they already have a long-term commitment to your work.

You Need a Transformational Project.

Never forget! Small ideas trigger small gifts; transformational ideas bring transformational gifts.

Where’s your transformational project? Can it change the world? Do you have Big Ideas about who you can be and what your institution can do in the world?

Transformational gifts usually require a transformational project in order to inspire your donor. It has to be something that will trigger the donor to think bigger than they have ever thought before. Something inspiring and exciting.

You Need a Transformational Conversation.

Stand in the place of vision and possibility – that’s where the power is. This is the place that holds such energy – the power of potential, of goodness, of expansion and abundance.

Your donor may have a personal, visceral reaction to this vision and possibility. It’s exciting. It’s energizing. And it can mobilize their energy!

Speak to your donor’s heart – and their imagination. Transform the donor’s ideas about the impact they can truly have.

You Need a Transformational Mindset.

It’s time for you to shift your mindset and relationship with your donor. You are no longer across the table from them, pitching ideas. Instead, you shift from “soliciting” to standing right beside them.

In a way, you are transforming your position. It’s like you are standing with your donor in that place of possibility, walking along with them, helping them explore the future. That’s when you truly become a philanthropic advisor, facilitating a gift.

Join the Major Gifts Intensive coaching program for 2021

If you really want to learn how to set up and close transformational gifts, join our Major Gifts Intensive course. You’ll get deep training on the permission-based, conversational approach to a gift. We’ll teach you five different ways to set up and close a major, principal or capital campaign gift.

The Major Gifts Intensive is live training with Gail and Kathryn. We’ll help your organization instill major gifts as part of a true culture of philanthropy, so that you have the systems, skills and infrastructure to expand major gifts to your institution.

What’s more, if you do the work with us, you can typically receive a minimum ten to one return on your organization’s investment in the course. Most organizations have seen a much higher ROI. The program more than pays for itself, even the first year.

Applications close next week on Feb 24th. Orientation is on March 2. Let us know if you are interested by going to this page, and submitting your interest so we can schedule a call. We can help you and your team ramp up your skill sets and close more gifts.

Are you and your team ready for a prosperous and productive 2022? Are you laying the groundwork for more generous major, principal and capital campaign gifts to flow into your organization?

We think 2022 will be a good, solid year for major gifts. With the soaring stock market, many major donors are doing fine and feeling wealthy.

This year, there will be plenty of opportunity for smart major gift fundraisers. Don’t miss this rare moment – because your institution should be ready to capitalize on the good economic times too.

But let’s back up a minute.

Are there roadblocks keeping you and your team away from closing more major and principal gifts?

If so, I hope you’ll consider joining our Major Gifts Intensive for 2022. You and your team will gain the structure and the skills to dramatically expand a robust major gifts program for your organization.

Here are the top three most critical elements for any successful major gift program. 

You need these elements working together in order to be successful raising major gifts in 2022:

1. Closing major gifts takes know-how and training.

Many fundraisers tell us they are unsure exactly how to approach donors. They share that they feel awkward having conversations with prospects. Some feel lost when they try to identify the right prospects to focus on. Many feel alone and overwhelmed.

Many nonprofit leaders have no idea how to correctly discover and qualify a door. Most importantly, they don’t know how approach a donor for a gift.

The Zoom environment is even more bewildering for many fundraisers. Mastering the zoom conversation and presentation is yet another challenge that people are reporting.

Finally, people are drowning in data. They don’t know how to use data to work smarter, not harder. They lack the know-how to put the data to work to save time and focus on the right prospects.

All these skills can be learned! There’s no need to guess what to do and say.

It is possible to get training to master all these skills. Our Major Gifts Intensive members will become proficient in all these areas –

They will learn:

  • Advanced Discovery Skills to find the right donors who are most interested in helping with a gift.
  • How to listen for a donor’s passions and personal values.  
  • How to take the next steps to move a donor closer to a gift.
  • And how to move a donor into an Ask Conversation.

We believe strongly that working smarter, not harder, is what helps busy fundraisers achieve raising more money. It really is possible to learn how to qualify donors quickly so that you are not spinning your wheels with people who will never make a gift. 

2. Successful major gift fundraising takes a team.

It really takes a team to be successful. If you are in a larger institution with many fundraisers, you are probably finding that the camaraderie and support from team members gives you an intangible boost.

If you are in a smaller organization, you do need to pull colleagues together to work with you. Sometimes there’s a board member who understands major gift strategy, who can be helpful.

Here’s the thing: you can be more creative when you can brainstorm about strategies with someone else. It’s easier to come up with the correct next step with a prospect, when you can bounce ideas off colleagues.

No organization will ever be successful in major gift fundraising with siloed major gift officers. They should never be alone in this effort.

Don’t try to go it alone. Silos in major gifts never work well. You need a few trusted insiders helping in the major gift effort.

They don’t have to be out there soliciting, but they DO have to help identify prospects and help you think through strategies.

We like for teams to register for the Major Gifts Intensive together. That way, everyone in the team speaks a common language, learns the same concepts and strategies.

We also offer an optional training for board members. They can help too. Key volunteers don’t have to be out there soliciting, but they can help open doors to prospects and help you think through strategies.

3. Successful major gift fundraising takes a solid system.

Raising money from major donors is not really rocket science, but it does take a very careful organized structure. Without a structure, you will never be successful. You must have a prospect management system, based in data, that helps you evaluate your donors and plan your next moves on the right people.

A great prospect management program helps you literally quantify your pipeline. You also literally manage your work flow, so that your people are focusing on the right prospects, not the wrong ones.

When you have the the infrastructure, systems and thinking inside YOUR organization for major gift success, it often will take hold permanently. This is how your organization can enjoy major gift success not just this year, but many years to come.

Every single organization can raise much more IF you tackle major gift fundraising seriously.

We are here to help and support you. If you would like to learn our Fundraising by the Numbers system, check out the 2022 Major Gifts Intensive here, and let us know if you are interested.

Three critical elements for major gift success.

Teach your team the advanced, 21st century skills for interacting with today’s donors. Be sure you build a solid team for support, and build a structured system to manage it all.

Let’s make 2022 awesome, and close many major gifts for you and your cause!

Portfolio management may seem like a technical term. But it’s an excellent format to help you focus your attention on your best, and most likely donor prospects.

Of course, one of the secrets to successful mega fundraising is identifying where to spend your time and attention.

Most major gift portfolios are packed with so many prospects, that you can’t possibly spend quality attention on all of them. So you simply have to focus.

Today, we’re sharing an easy portfolio management system that can help you – and everyone on your team, be more productive, and raise money much faster.

(If you want to learn more about portfolio management skills and how these can transform your fundraising fortunes, consider joining our new and advanced 2022 Major Gifts Intensive Course.)

Our 10-20-30 Portfolio Management Approach.

Back when I was a frontline fundraiser, I had the exciting job of chief development officer for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

Needless to say, we had plenty of donor prospects who looked quite promising. However, we had a problem: too many of those promising prospects!

We were in the process of qualifying them. But we still needed a way to organize our time. Where should we start? Who should we try to see first, or second?

Here’s the portfolio management system we worked out – step-by-step. We highly recommend a system like this for you and your team and we’re sharing detailed insights into this system in our new 2022 Major Gifts Intensive Course.

Step 1. We rated the prospects.

Clearly this needed to be the first step. We spent considerable time analyzing them, and assigning ratings for their level of interest and giving capacity.

This is a step that major gift officers do every day.

In actuality, it took quite a bit of time to refine each individual’s rating – to get a pretty solid handle on where they stood and what their financial capacity might be.

Step 2. We separated all the prospects into 4 groups.

Top 10 Prospects – These were individuals who were very close to making a gift. Our team was “readying them for a solicitation,” so to speak. They were our top priorities. And they were getting tons of attention.

We were chatting with them often – about their interests, seeking their advice and input, and asking for their help with other donors.

Next 20 Prospects – Prospects who were very active and interested. They were enjoying their connection with us and were almost ready for an ask, but not quite.

Next 30 Prospects – People who were showing a lot of interest, had solid potential – but still needed more time to bring them closer to the cause.

Back-burner Prospects – These were donors whom I wanted to get to know. On the surface, they seemed to have great promise. But we would need to gently bring them along. They were not yet fully qualified.

Step 3. We set priorities and made a plan for how we’d spend our time.

We planned to “touch” these donors in priority order:

The Top 10 Prospects once a month. Since these donors were almost ready to be asked, they received a lot of attention and were our top priority.

The Next 20 Prospects every other month. These donors were almost ready for a campaign ask, so we were also very focused on them.

The Next 30 Prospects once a quarter. These donors were in the nurturing stage – or they could be in the post-gift stewardship stage. We never, ever wanted to let go of people who had already made a major gift.

For our lovely Back-burner Prospects, we tried to see them when we could. They were “fillers” when we were planning a trip or an event. Since we were in the discovery phase with these individuals, we tried to create “get to know you” opportunities with them.’

(Setting priorities and managing your time is critical for a Major Gift Officer. Let us show you the secrets of our success in our new 5-month Intensive Course.)

Step 4. Each month, we created cultivation moves.

For each of the Top 60 Prospects, we defined a cultivation move that was unique to each individual.

Step 5. We reviewed and reorganized the list monthly. 

What really made Prospect Management work for us was this last step: we evaluated and reorganized the list every month.

It was a big job to run through a detailed review of each prospect and where they stood each month. Sometimes it look as much as a half day/month. But it was worth it, because we created touches that were deliberate and customized for our key donors.

Our results?

We were organized with priorities and an easy-to-implement plan.

And we were successful! Our team raised $50 million from those terrific donors for a new business school building, the beautiful McColl Center at UNC-CH.

BOTTOM LINE on Portfolio Management.

You can raise this kind of money just like I did as a young fundraiser. And you can also feel your own work life transformed, just like this.

Just get organized with a prospect management or moves management system that works for you. We can help.

This system will save your life, keep you organized and most of all, help you allocate your time to the right people.

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs in 2022, join us for the  2022 Major Gifts Intensive Coaching Course. Learn more here.

This week on Facebook LIVE we discussed common mistakes that a new major gift officer often makes. 

Now we’re following up with ideas to help you get started quickly and see some quick fundraising wins. 

Being new can be daunting, especially when you’re dealing with donors who can make very large gifts. 

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and nervous, we want you to feel excited! Get this: You’re new. And that is your ticket to getting into the hearts and minds of your donors.

Our Advice? 

1. Understand your relationship, as the new major gift officer, with the donor.

Many new major gift officers start with a misunderstanding of this relationship. Remember, the relationship is not between you and the donor, it is between the organization and the donor. 

And this is a good thing!

This means that you start your first day with an already robust relationship. You are just the new face in charge of their “customer service” account. 

Don’t be shy about inserting yourself into the relationship immediately.

2. Introduce yourself as their new contact person.

Need a reason or pretext to reach out for a visit? Introduce yourself!

“Hello Name, I’d like to introduce myself as your new donor relations contact at our organization. You have been a loyal donor over the years and we are so very appreciative of your generosity! 

If you have any questions or concerns – please let me know and I’d be happy to help answer them. Here’s my number xxxxxx.

Also, I’d love to know more about how you came to be a donor to our organization.  Would you be willing to visit a few minutes with me on the phone or zoom, and share your story with me? It would be my deep pleasure to know more about you and your interest in our work.” 

This is just one simple example of how you can use your “newness” to reach out to donors. Make sure you use language your donor is familiar with, for example you could say “I am your new assigned gift officer” instead of “donor relations contact.” 

If you can’t make headway with this type of introduction, then ask someone in your organization to make an introduction for you. Gentle hand-offs can work wonders.

3. Do your research.

Being prepared is always a must. Don’t assume, because you are new, your first donor conversation will just be informal with no chance of a gift. 

Before getting on the phone with your donor, always, always do your research. Be sure to review past giving history and timing, personality, and interests. 

Any information on file (or not on file) is useful for you to brush up on.  Your donor will be pleased that you took the time to understand their history. 

And you never know when a donor will be ready to give. So you must be ready at any time with knowledge of their capacity and interests.

4. Ask skillful questions that lead to an Ask Conversation.

      Remember: “She who asks the questions controls the conversation” 

As a new major gift officer your job is to find out as much as you can about your donor – their philanthropy, their family, their personal values and interests. Since you are new, you can ask all of these questions.

Most of all, you want to know why they are giving to your organization. That’s the path that will allow you to bring up a gift conversation.

“I’d love to know how you came to be a donor to our organization. How has your experience as a donor to our organization been so far?”

Then find out and explore your donor’s interest area:

“What is your favorite aspect of our work? What makes you so interested in this area? Would you like to learn more about it?” 

Then you can gently probe about their interest in helping more with a gift:

“Would you like to know more about the needs we have in this area? You could make a huge impact here if you might consider another gift. Is that something you might like to discuss?”

Remember that deep listening will take you all the way to a gift. Just be alert and ready to move the conversation forward! 

Bottom Line: Being a new major gift officer gives you many advantages. Leverage your newness to gain access to all of your donors – and new gifts too!

You have a wonderful opportunity here. You are qualified, you are passionate, you are smart. Be confident and authentic and your donors will love you! 

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you.  We hope you will continue to capitalize on our years of experience by joining us Wednesdays at noon ET on Facebook Live and following us on social media. 

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. You can also join our INSIDERS community for more fundraising training and content. We would love to have you! 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.