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Are you familiar with that feeling of endless cultivation with a donor? Let me tell you a story:

Over the past nine months, fundraiser Kim Washington has been diligently cultivating her #1 donor, Olive Robinson. 

Kim has zoom coffees with Olive. They have lunch. Even more, Kim makes sure Olive has regular email and phone contact and keeps her informed all the time. 

In the back of Kim’s mind, she keeps wondering. “Is Olive ready for a gift conversation? Have we warmed her up enough for an ask? It feels like I’m stuck in endless cultivation.” 

Bad News – The Donor Slips Away

One morning over coffee, Kim scrolls through her phone reading the local news. . . and mulling about her next contact with Olive. 

“Oh no!” Kim is aghast.

There, in the news, is a gift announcement from another nonprofit where Olive has just made a $2 million gift, in memory of her husband.

Alas. There goes Kim’s hoped-for major gift. Her donor slipped away. How could it be that Olive, who was so interested in Kim’s organization, would surprise everyone with a gift to that other organization?

Why Does Your #1 Prospect Suddenly Disappoint You? 

Here is why this happens fairly often in the world of philanthropy. It’s because the fundraiser gets stuck in “cultivation” and does not bring up the topic of a gift.  

In reality, most donors do not fit into a clear stage in the donor journey.  You can’t pigeonhole them.

We fundraisers limit ourselves by how we define these stages. 

Some donors may be willing and eager to make a major gift now, but fundraisers miss the signals, because they are defining the donor in a box.

Here’s how to move the donor from an endless round of feel-good conversations over into a discussion about their potential support. 

Escape Endless Cultivation – Move from Discovery to a Gift Conversation in 15 Minutes 

At Gail Perry Group, we are coaching our clients in a new approach with donors – one that helps to identify those who want to help with a gift right now. 

And let me just say that our clients are seeing remarkable results with this approach. Donors are coming forward early in the donor journey and wanting to make a gift right now. 

We have found that we can literally move a donor from a series of discovery questions – right into a gift conversation.

Here’s an example of a typical conversation flow:

Question One: “I’d love to know more about how you came to be a donor.

When you are able to get your donor to share their Donor Story, you can really open the floodgates. You’ll find your donor probably has a deeply personal reason for supporting your work – something that resonates with their personal values of what is important in life. 

This is a powerful question to ask. Your job as a fundraiser is to sit tight, and perhaps say, “Tell me more.” 

Question Two: “I know you’ve been supporting our work for a long time. May I ask, what kind of impact do you feel that you are making through your giving?” 

By asking the donor to describe their feelings, you are helping the donor literally talk themselves into the idea of giving more.

Even more, your donor will tell you what you need to know at this stage. 

Question Three: “I can see that you are deeply committed to this work. May I ask, have you ever thought about doing something even bigger?”

With this question, you politely move directly into a Gift Conversation.

Now, you are using permission to place the issue squarely on the table with the donor. And remember – they are engaged, active, excited, and sharing more and more! 

Your donor just may say, “Wow, I never thought about that. And yes, I might actually like to make a bigger impact. Let’s talk about it!” 

Bottom Line: Don’t Get Stuck in Endless Cultivation

Here is the hard truth – don’t let yourself get stuck in endless chit-chat with your donor.

Instead, ask them why they give. Ask them how much they care. Ask if they’d like to get more engaged and make an even bigger impact.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Has your team thought about getting set up for accepting cryptocurrency gifts? Have you wondered if it is really worth the bother? 

We weren’t sure, either. All this cryptocurrency talk was too speculative for us.

That is, until we chatted with Ariel Rogers, the Executive Director of Friends of Bonobos, and a former member of our Major Gift Intensive cohort. (In case you have not heard of bonobos, they are a type of ape, and are our closest genetic relatives.)  

What we found out. 

Ariel and her team raise money and awareness to help save endangered bonobos in Africa. After one of her donors suggested they take cryptocurrency gifts and offered to help and donate, she decided to do some research. 

Ariel found The Giving Block (we wrote about them three weeks ago), an organization that helps nonprofits accept cryptocurrency donations. After asking her donor for advice, and including them in the decision, Ariel’s team made the leap. They registered with The Giving Block, got set up to accept cryptocurrency gifts and immediately that same donor donated $10,000. 

$90,000 in less than two weeks.

Not only did her donor promptly come through with a $10k gift, but an NFT community also gave them $77k shortly after they registered with The Giving Block. Plus, even more money flowed in. 

A major gift from an NFT Community.

Apparently, there is a crypto group that focuses on apes. These enthusiasts hang out together on social media, mostly twitter and instagram, sharing their interest in all types of apes. As part of their activities, they decided to make some gifts to charities – and Friends of Bonobos made their list.

Using social media to connect to donors.

Ariel and her team constantly focus on building awareness on social networks. For this reason, they make twitter, instagram and facebook a priority, and have built a social reach from 10k to over 120k followers in only two years. 

So this is how this major donor crypto group found out about Friends of Bonobos. 

Ariel’s team is out there every day on social – sharing stories of their mission, their impact and the cute, but endangered Bonobos. They are chatting with other enthusiasts and building relationships with potential donors.

Why social reach is so important.

Get this from a fundraising standpoint: At Friends of Bonobos, their team sees social initiatives as a way to identify new friends for their cause. In other words, social serves as the first step in the fundraising funnel. 

For this reason, the building of awareness is a serious business. Social media covers the functions of what traditional marketing used to do, and it works.

From social followers to becoming donors.

It’s clear that you can transition your social followers into donors. In the case of Friends of Bonobos – all social followers are invited to share their email and sign up for the newsletter. 

Once followers start receiving the newsletter, they may become more and more interested and invested in the cause. And as you might expect, interest and investment often lead to donations. 

And chances are, some of these highly active followers might be crypto investors. 

Connecting with crypto donors via social media.

When we interviewed Pat Duffy, co-founder of The Giving Block, for an Insiders webinar in June, he described a general profile of people who are most vigorously investing (and donating) in cryptocurrency: 

These investors are usually under 40 years old, 84% are male, they are highly financially literate and they are very active on social networks. 

So, it makes perfect sense that you need a strong social media presence if you want to position yourself in front of wealthy young crypto donors. They are clearly out there, and the cryptocurrency market is only growing. 

Bottom Line: Research cryptocurrency gifts – one nonprofit says it is definitely worth it.

As Ariel said – she did her research, she had a little help, and she took the leap for her organization. And it paid off – $90k and counting. 

We are always looking for ways to help nonprofits succeed in their fundraising efforts. Make sure you do your due diligence before saying “no” to accepting crypto donations. It might just be worth it.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you as we cover new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

There is really nothing more painful than a capital campaign that loses its momentum. It’s a sad situation – the institution is out there in public with an important initiative, a very public goal, and major gifts designated toward the goal.

Yet the energy of the campaign has fizzled out. How will the organization go forward, when everyone is tired, no more donors are coming forward, and there’s little progress towards the goal?

It’s a very difficult situation to turn around because the energy and momentum are gone. The lead donors have been approached, but they made disappointing smaller gifts.

What now? Don’t let this happen to you and your campaign!

Here are three key reasons we see capital campaigns start to stall in mid-stream and lose momentum:

1. Rush to begin asking.

We all know that the heavy lifting in a capital campaign starts at the very, very beginning. There’s much work to do long before we even think about asking for gifts.

The very first thing we do is evaluate our fundraising capacity – do we have the donor prospects to reach our hoped-for goal? We begin with a deep evaluation of our donor files to identify the most likely donors for the upcoming campaign.

In addition to researching our donor prospects, we prepare by enlisting important volunteers to help lead the campaign and provide credibility, stature and influence to our initiative. Another important early step is to test out our campaign case and proposed projects with potential donors to find out where they stand.

Smart organizations develop trusting relationships with a consulting firm, and initiate a feasibility study to find out how donors feel about our upcoming campaign.

All of these vitally important steps go into setting a winning campaign strategy.

When there is a rush to imply “get going,” and get some initial money in the door, then you are forced to skip over the most important strategic steps of all.

Takeaway: Lay the proper groundwork for your campaign and don’t lose momentum. Don’t let an eager board or CEO rush the campaign planning process. Rushing now will make everything take longer in the end. 

2. Board is not in full agreement.

Occasionally, board members are not all aligned with the organization’s plan to expand, build or grow. Some board members who are not familiar with big ticket fundraising may stonewall because they do not understand the strategy, or may feel intimidated by the numbers.

In other cases, we’ve seen board members argue among themselves about the specific plan for expansion. It’s really impossible to gain momentum when part of your support team is dragging their feet.

When the board is not fully aligned, the division and discord is a huge distraction for already stressed staffers who are trying to move forward. This type of background chatter can make a campaign run aground, even before it starts.

Takeaway: Take the time to help your board come to agreement about the path forward.

3. Campaign prospects turn you down because they are not ready to discuss a gift.

Oh dear. You’re approaching major campaign prospects for 6 and 7 figure gifts – but they say they’re not ready to discuss a gift. Clearly this means that you are trying to move too quickly to the ask.

This is what happens when planning and preparation are rushed. Most donors have to be engaged and warmed up prior to a big ask. It’s so important to take the time to bring them into the campaign process and make them feel like insiders.

Even worse, if you are skipping the discovery and qualification process with your key donors, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. If you skip this basic donor research, you may even approach the wrong people – donors who simply are not that interested.

Moreover, when you ask for a gift too soon, you may even damage your relationship with your donor. You certainly don’t want them to feel this is an affront, which can happen if you try to rush them.

Take away: Take the time to cultivate your important lead donors – and don’t ask until they are ready.

Bottom Line: A smart consulting firm can help you lay the proper groundwork and set up your campaign to sail smoothly toward your goal.

We can help. Let us know if you’d like a free campaign strategy call – just send an email to coaching@gailperry.com with the subject line “Strategy Call.”

Looks like cryptocurrency is here to stay. And, yes, it’s time for all nonprofits to get set up to receive donations in the form of cryptocurrency. Because there are plenty of donors with appreciated crypto investments. 

Yes, cryptocurrency is a new technology, and many people are dubious about it. It’s volatile, and considered to be high risk. But the market is growing rapidly. 

Consider that investors in cryptocurrency tend to be younger, very digitally literate and financially sophisticated. And to be frank, because of large profits, many of these investors DO need the tax deductions and write-offs that come from making charitable contributions. 

Let’s unpack this. 

First of all, what is cryptocurrency?

It’s the generic term that describes all types of digital currencies. And that includes bitcoin – the most popular cryptocurrency and the one that gets all the press. 

Rapidly growing number of investors 

Estimates are that 100-300 million individuals are users or investors in cryptocurrency. Interest is high around the world, and only growing stronger. 

Even more, the number of cryptocurrency users literally doubled from 2017 to 2019.

And more recently, the market saw a 16% jump in users all in the month of January 2021.

As the crypto market has grown, so have donations. 

According to The Giving Block website, cryptocurrency donations equal about $300,000,000 each year. 

We are impressed with The Giving Block team and their site. The Giving Block is a technology platform for accepting cryptocurrency donations, and we highly recommend checking it out. 

We actually invited one of the Giving Block co-founders to tell our Insiders members about crypto fundraising – and it was certainly fascinating.  

Why would we be interested in crypto-investors as potential donors? 

Many crypto users are enjoying very, very high profits. They really do need the tax deductions that come from charitable contributions.

As of today, July 1, 2021, Bitcoin has appreciated 286% in only one year, since July 1, 2020. This amount of profit is hard to imagine. 

If an investor wanted to convert some of his bitcoin to regular cash, he would incur substantial capital gains taxes. Therefore, why not make some gifts to offset the substantial tax burden? 

The GivingBlock experts say that many investors are literally shopping around for charities to support. Check out the list of registered nonprofits on the Giving Block site, and you can see that there are under 300. 

Fascinating demographics of cryptocurrency investors. 

Consider this new demographic of potential donors. Cryptocurrency users – and crypto donors – are generally in the Millennial and Gen Z demographic. 

  • Approximately 74% of crypto investors are male. And remember, they are younger, as mentioned above. What an interesting new donor demographic to go after!

In addition, The Giving Block site says that 43% of millennials prefer crypto investing to stocks, with many holding highly appreciated crypto that they can donate each year for tax purposes. 

Target a fundraising campaign directly to crypto investors. 

It’s actually possible to craft a campaign targeted specifically toward crypto users. 

Our new friends at The Giving Block site are helping several national charities launch these campaigns, and are seeing pretty amazing results. 

Bottom Line: What this could mean for your organization.

We know. This is a bit mind-blowing. Not only is there a largely untapped market of very wealthy young individuals. But very few nonprofits are out there in front of these donors. It’s up to you and your institution to move now to capitalize on this new market. If you’d like to learn more about cryptocurrency and getting set up to be listed on The Giving Block’s website – click here.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you as we cover new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is prioritizing their assigned prospects, and understanding the role of a Backburner List.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people to build relationships with?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how do you make sure to focus on the right prospects at the right time?

Are you operating with maximum productivity, spending your time at its highest and best use?

And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

What Can Go Wrong?

A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

Your Top Secret Strategy.

Every day, you need to evaluate your list of prospects and set priorities. Who will you be focusing on? Which donors need to be on your Priority Prospect List?

First, your goal is to identify them, which is more work than you might think.

Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

Who Goes on the Backburner List?

  • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
  • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
  • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

Why Have a Backburner List:

1. Lowers Stress.

Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

2. Organizes Your Prospects.

The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

3. Bless and Release.

How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

4. Makes You More Productive.

Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead you’re concentrating where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgement game. We are not saying “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll lower your stress level, sleep better at night, and raise more money!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

NO ASK fundraising strategies for board members? Is this possible?

Often, we find that board members are nervous about the idea of fundraising. They want to help, but shy away from the idea of “asking.”

We recently shared our favorite list of the Top 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members. Today we want to dive deeper and discuss how each board member can find a comfortable role where they can personally support fundraising, without having to solicit.

Here are just a few of the productive jobs they can do to raise friends, thank donors and help create a sustainable fundraising program.

1. Spread the word among their networks and social circles.

Your board members need to be roaring advocates for your organization; they need to talk it up wherever they go. Every organization needs their board members to be in action, spreading the word and making friends for the cause.

It’s important for all board members to enthusiastically share news about their favorite cause with their friends. Most are willing to share posts, videos or images with their social networks. For example, many board members jump in to support Giving Days by reaching out to friends via social or digital channels.

One thing board members need to remember: they have immense credibility within their communities.

One reason is because they are unpaid volunteers.  They are only supporting the organization out of the goodness of their hearts – because they care. This gives board members more stature within the community and their circles of friends than they realize.

So the job is clear: ask your board members to introduce your organization to everybody they know. Let’s start a groundswell of good news about your cause that will spread through your community.

2. Open doors by hosting Small Socials.

You can expand your community relationships and make new friends through gatherings such as Small Socials. This job is perfect for socially oriented board members who have a large network.

A Small Social can take several formats. For example, it can be a coffee, a tea, a dinner, a porch party, a cookout, or cocktails. The event can be a breakfast meeting or luncheon. It can include 3 people or 100.

Here’s our preferred format for a “door-opener” Small Social:

  1. Board members, volunteers or donors invite guests, underwrite it and serve as hosts.
  2. There is no charge, because this is a cultivation event designed to introduce new people to your organization’s work. The goal is to work the room, so to speak.
  3. There is a short presentation (max 15 minutes) in the midst of the socializing.
  4. The board volunteer host welcomes everyone, and the CEO gives a short high-impact message about the work and your results.
  5. You follow up with attendees after the event, by asking them about their impressions and if they’d like to get involved.

Small Socials are one of our favorite no ask fundraising strategies for board members. Opening doors and making connections is a most important role – one that can pay off in future major gifts. 

3. Host a tour to showcase your organization’s impact.

Board members can host tours to bring prospective friends closer to your organization. We find that a carefully scripted tour can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s good work and to illustrate unmet needs in the community.

The tour lets your work speak for itself.

Your guests will hear staff members, or even clients/students/stakeholders, express in their own words their personal first-hand experiences with your organization’s mission— and the good it does—in the community.

A well-planned tour is hosted by a board volunteer. Just like in Small Socials, the CEO will share a visionary message. Use the same follow-up plan as a Small Social.

By hosting a tour of your organization for donors or friends, board members play a powerful role showcasing your organization’s work. Even more, their presence adds credibility and stature to your organization.

4. Thank you calls to donors.

One of the most powerful actions a board member can take is to make thank you phone calls to donors. This should always happen soon after the gift is received by your organization.

When board members call to thank donors, the donors are usually quite impressed. Donors will  think:

“This organization appreciates me”

“I am a real person to this organization, not just a checkbook”

“This organization is well run”

Donors who receive phone calls from board members invariably tend to give larger gifts the next time and tend to stay on board as donors longer.

Some studies have shown that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making a gift, later made subsequent gifts that were 39% higher than donors who did not receive a call.

This means that board members can directly improve your organization’s bottom line without having to solicit.

Bottom Line: NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Every board member can support your organization’s fundraising.

There is a fundraising role for each person on your board – whether they are in an asking role or not. Opening doors, making friends and thanking donors are valuable jobs that can pay off with increased gifts to support your cause.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

People often ask us: “What do I talk about when I meet with donors?  How will I start a conversation? What questions should I ask?

We have a very simple approach to starting conversations with donors.

We like to probe, so we know immediately where the donor stands and what is on their mind. Our favorite “Golden Question” is:

“What are your impressions of . . . ?”

This open-ended question often brings forth interesting results.  Not only that, we’ve raised lots of money by asking this question.

This phrase creates an easy, gentle opening to find out what’s going on with your donor.  It’s completely donor-centered, and focused on them.

Moreover, this question helps you find out pretty immediately what your donor is thinking; about your presentation, your cause, your event, your plans, or even your  organization’s vision.

This question is a golden formula to help open your donor’s heart to your cause.

Why?

Because it generates the donor’s own thinking about your issue. For example, it encourages them to ponder your presentation and react to it.

Asking for their feedback and thinking helps them digest your material, and think more deeply about it. They are no longer passive in the conversation – instead, they are active participants.

Above all we want to know what is on THEIR mind, what they think and how they feel about it.

Your job is to ask, and then listen carefully.

Your donor is not going to get excited about your cause just by listening to you doing all the talking. Don’t forget the fundraiser’s Kiss of Death – talking too much!

Your wonderful, generous, well-meaning donor needs time to mull over what you’ve said.  They need to “stew” in the urgent need or bold vision you’ve just presented.

It’s certainly a much deeper conversation than if you had just presented, thanked them and left.

Get the donor talking to YOU – not the other way around.

Remember, it’s always all about the donor. When we are in a face-to-face meeting, we often forget this.  Too many nonprofit CEOs, fundraisers and even board members think they have to be great salespeople and make a great pitch.

That’s not true.

What you need to do is simply focus on the donor – and listen to them. Your goal is to draw out the donor and get them engaged with you about your cause.

It’s really amazing what you can find out – but you have to ask. And you won’t do that if you’re doing all the talking.

Examples – Put the Golden Question to use:

1.  At the close of a visit with a donor: “What are your impressions?”

Once, we had an Advice Visit regarding a big capital campaign with a potential donor. At the end of our visit, we asked “What are your impressions of our ideas?”

He shared some deep reservations about our project.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly address the issues that were holding him back. He then moved forward to become a substantial donor, and it was a huge win for our campaign.

2. Cultivating a major prospect: “What are your impressions?”

Gail was once walking out of a facility tour with a major donor, who was a candidate for the leadership gift for our capital campaign.  She asked him: What were your impressions of the tour?”

Well, after 5 minutes of conversation – he became so enthusiastic and engaged that he literally invited her to bring forward a $5ook proposal.

Now, that’s cultivation.

3. After a pitch: “What are your impressions?”

We often make presentations to potential clients in order to help them stage successful capital campaigns or build profitable major gift programs.

We always ask, as we wrap up, about their impressions of our presentation. And we get terrific feedback regarding what they are thinking.

4. When we are training or presenting: “What are your impressions?”

In our Fired-Up Fundraising workshops with board members, we want to help them ponder and digest the material we are discussing.

So we model the Golden Question, frequently asking them “what are your impressions of these ideas?” It gets them to mull over and reflect on the discussion, and ultimately walk away with much more than if we had simply presented and left.

5.  After a formal presentation: “What are your impressions?”

One of our clients, a Vice Chancellor at a major university, recently made a big presentation to the Board of Visitors. When she was finished she asked her boss, the Chancellor, about his reaction to her ideas.

She asked him, “What were your impressions of my presentation?” As a result, she received positive feedback from her boss.

Bottom Line: Ask “What Are Your Impressions?”

The Golden Question can give you wonderful information about your donors, colleagues, board members, even family. It really works in all settings to set you up for success in your relationships.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

What is the outlook for post-COVID fundraising? There’s good news to share!

Giving is up – right now – across the board.

What’s more, the outlook for charitable giving in the next year or two is also looking very good. We predicted a number of positive trends for 2021, and are happy to see some come to fruition so soon.

Recent reports and studies are showing positive signs on the giving horizon.

First of all, here’s a look at recent trends from 2020.

Giving in 2020 was up significantly.

A report issued by the well-respected Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) managed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, showed that last year, overall charitable giving grew a whopping 10.6% in 2020 over 2019.  

This is really cause for celebration.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s Growth in Giving database charts giving trends from 2,496 organizations that raise $100k – $10 million annually. Clearly this increase in giving was driven by donors reaching out to help those in economic hardship during the pandemic. But many charities of all types saw giving increases.

Small donors are back!

Some of the best news is that small donors, who provide much of the sustainable annual giving for many nonprofits, are returning. We’ve been very worried that small donor gifts had been declining over the past few years. Moreover, these smaller donors are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations’ financing.

Here’s the FEP data as reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Gifts of less than $250 grew by a total of 15.3% last year over 2019.

$250-$999 gifts increased by 8%.

Gifts of $1,000 or more grew by 10.4%.

But there’s worrisome news too: Donor retention plunged again to a low of 43.6%. (the lowest donor renewal rate since the FEP began tracking in 2004-05.) This means that less than half of the donors who gave in 2019 repeated their support by giving again in 2020.  

Donor loyalty continues to be one of the greatest challenges of many fundraising programs. Retention rates of new donors continue to decline.

Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

Looking ahead, there’s great news on the horizon. So, what can we expect from post-COVID fundraising?

Projections show an excellent outlook for fundraising in 2021 and 2022. The well-respected Lilly Family School of Philanthropy recently shared a report projecting total giving to rise 4.1% in 2021, and 5.7% in 2022.

When you look at individual giving, which supplies the majority of many organizations’ contributed revenue, the Lilly report forecasts a year-over-year rise of 6% in 2021.

This is great news for many nonprofits. 

Why the rosy forecasts for 2021 and 2022?

For decades we have seen giving levels follow the U.S. stock market. When the stock market rises, charitable giving also goes up. We find that when donors’ portfolios are growing robustly, then donors feel more wealthy. When your major donors are feeling wealthy, then their charitable gifts often increase. 

To quote the Lilly report:

“Individual and household giving is influenced by growth in the S&P 500, especially giving by those with median and higher levels of income. A large body of work demonstrates, with few exceptions, that as income and wealth increase, so do the amounts that households give to charity.”

Estate gifts are also projected to rise over the next couple of years.

This is, again, because of the robust stock market. It’s because the amount of an estate gift ultimately depends on the value of the estate’s assets. Many estates include substantial stock investments, which have appreciated nicely in the past few years. So any bequests your nonprofit is targeted to receive will be more highly valued than before.

The Lilly report bases its rosy outlook on several assumptions – namely that the economy will continue to stabilize and grow as people receive vaccinations and life begins to return to “normal.”

Ultra-high-net-worth gifts are also seeing an uptick right now, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Billionaire William Ackman recently donated shares worth one billion, and other mega donors like Elon Musk recently made 9-figure gifts.

Bottom Line: Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

What does this robust forecast mean? It means take heart. Things are looking up. Keep a sense of optimism and possibility about your fundraising. You’ll likely see that your own donors are also primed to give. 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Many organizations are either planning a capital campaign, or thinking about one in the future.

It’s what happens early on in the capital campaign planning process that really lays the groundwork for success. This Checklist Tool will help you and your team evaluate how prepared you are for a capital campaign in the future.

In our work with clients to set up a winning capital campaign, we begin by evaluating their readiness based on these key seven areas of capital campaign planning.

It’s what you do ahead of time that makes all the difference in capital campaign planning.

Smart capital campaign planning is like stacking the dominoes.  You take the time to carefully and strategically get organized, and line everything up.

Then, once the campaign begins, everything comes together quickly. Like the dominos, they all drop one after the other in perfect sequence.

Please know that very few organizations can say 100% YES to all these questions below. It’s the questions that you answer “maybe” that will point out your focus for the next few months.

This is a handy tool for the board and CEO to understand just how much additional preparation they need to do before moving forward with a capital campaign.

YOUR BOARD

Can your board set the financial pace for a campaign?

Are your board members considered to be leaders in the community?

Is your board in full agreement on the proposed plan for a campaign?

Does your board have good fundraising connections?

Do your board members operate with business minded board practices?

Does your board have a good relationship with staff?

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP

Do you have a history of influential people involved with your cause?

Can you enlist top leaders in your community who are well-known to help lead the capital campaign?

Do you have volunteer campaign leaders or campaign chairs already enlisted?

Can your volunteer leaders make major gifts to the campaign?

PROSPECTS

Do you currently have a vigorous major gift program in place?

Do you think you have the donor prospects to reach your campaign goal? 

Are your donors well cultivated and involved?

Can you identify your leadership gifts up front?

Can you identify 15-20 potential sources of major campaign gifts right now?

DEVELOPMENT OFFICE and INFRASTRUCTURE

Do you have experienced, capable staff?

Is the development office fully staffed now?

Is your administrative back office functioning smoothly?

Do you have a system for tracking pledges and policies for accepting gifts of stock and real estate?

Have you allocated funds to staff up and pay for campaign expenses? (the campaign will cost 8-10% of your overall dollar goal.)

Have you determined if you need outside expert guidance as Campaign Counsel?

YOUR PLAN/CASE

Is the need well established, urgent and understood?

Do you have an updated strategic plan?

Do you have an updated master facilities plan with completed capital projections and budgets?

Can you convey the impact of your project in vivid emotional terms?

Do you have data to back up the need you are addressing in your case for support? 

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Is your organization well respected in the community, with a track record of success? 

Is there confidence in your organization and its leadership?

Are you communicating your results and your good work to the rest of your community?

Are you visible in the community?

TIMING

Is the fundraising environment good right now?

Are the economic conditions in your community good right now?

Bottom Line on Capital Campaign Planning.

If you have these conditions all set, then you are ready to embark on a capital campaign. 

If not, it’s time to get to work enlisting volunteers, identifying prospects, cultivating your prospective donors and sharpening up your case for support.

Let us know if we can help. We’re happy to provide a free strategy call to guide your capital campaign planning, anytime. 

We all know that major gift fundraising comes down to the moment of truth – when you actually talk with a donor about a gift.

So how can you make asking much easier and more successful?

Often, it can be an exciting, scary moment. But an asking conversation does not have to be always nerve wracking.

Remember these insights and you’ll be far more calm and successful when you are discussing a gift with a donor. 

We’ll be teaching these approaches to successful major gift asks in our 2021 Major Gifts Intensive, which starts next week. Find out more and join us here.

1. Asking is a process, not a one-time transaction.

You’ve got to remember that this is NOT a “make or break” moment.

Asking is not a single point in time. Instead, it’s a process that happens over several conversations. That’s why we call it an Asking Conversation.

At Gail Perry Group, we teach a donor-centered approach to asking that is completely permission-based. Following this approach, you would simply ask your donor:

  • If they’d like to learn more?
  • What about your work most interests them?
  • Would they like to know how they could help?

And ultimately:

  • Would they be interested in discussing a possible gift?

When you take your time, these preliminary conversations help you develop a trusting relationship with your donor. And it builds up to a generous gift.

2. Giving is an emotional act by the donor.

Don’t forget: The act of making a gift is an emotional act.

When a donor gives, they are often feeling warm and fuzzy about the difference they can make. 

It’s an emotional energy. And it connects them deeply to some memory, belief, or deep commitment – one of their closely-held personal values.

In all our planning, analyzing and scripting, we forget that our donor is a living, breathing human with needs, desires, interests and passionately held beliefs.

While we are focusing on dollars that will help us toward a goal, your donor is focusing on what’s going on in their heart – how do they “feel” about your cause. How do they “feel” about the difference they might be able to make?

We miss the mark when we focus too much on the logic and the numbers. (You do need the numbers to provide credibility but don’t lead with them.)

3. It’s not about money.

Yes, fundraising is about much, much more than money.

If you think what you are asking for is “money,” then you won’t be very successful.

If you think it’s all about money, then you won’t be connecting with the higher, altruistic purpose that lives in your donor’s heart.

You’ll instead be engaging in a sales transaction, and one at a much, much smaller level.

One of my great fundraising mottos is:

“Fundraising is not about money, it’s about changing the world.”

If you focus your conversation and your energy about what’s at stake, and how this gift could make such a huge difference, then you’ll be able to raise mega gifts.

4.  It’s not about you.

Many people are self conscious and focusing on themselves when they are chatting with a donor about a gift. Maybe it’s nervousness or awkwardness, but they are self-focused rather than donor-focused.

BUT it’s really all about the donor.  You should be thinking of him or her all the time, not about yourself.

You need to take your cues from the donor, and not be thinking about what you will say or do next.

We fundraisers have learned (the hard way sometimes) that the only way to be a successful solicitor is to let the donor lead the way.

Your donor is not particularly interested in what’s going on with you. What they are interested in is how they can help.

5. People give to an exciting opportunity with the HIGHEST impact.

When you are preparing for an ask, you must always, always remember that people want to give to a project with high impact and exciting potential.

Too many fundraisers focus on the money. Or they will focus on the project. We recommend that you focus on IMPACT.

So when you are presenting your “Big Idea” for your donor, you’ll need to talk in the largest possible terms.

Here are a few examples to keep in mind:

  • For a kids’ soccer team: “Help these young people develop skills and experience of teamwork in sports to help them prepare for life.”
  • For a literacy program: “Help people gain self-respect, tools for better employment and become productive citizens. And you are also helping an entire family get on their feet.”
  • For an independent school: “Help young people get the best possible education so they will be prepared for life – they are our future.”
  • For a health clinic: “Our health infrastructure is a basic foundation for economic development in our community.”

And on and on. You can take any project and blow it up to its highest potential.

Bottom Line: These ideas about asking will help you be calmer, more confident and much more successful. 

Our Major Gifts Intensive 2021 is starting next week with orientation. We’ve got such a terrific group of smart organizations who are joining us to launch or expand a major gift initiative. We have spaces for two more organizations if you want to join at the last minute! Email anne@gailperry.com if you are interested. 

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 2021? Are you making plans for more generous major and principal gifts to flow into your organization?

We think 2021 will be a good, solid year for major gifts. With the soaring stock market, many donors are doing fine, even feeling wealthy.

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 you feeling that there are roadblocks keeping you and your team away from major gifts?

If so, I hope you’ll consider joining our Major Gifts Intensive for 2021. The organizations joining us will get training and coaching to help create mega success for this year – and for the long term future. 

Here are the top three critical elements we teach.

You need these elements working together in order to be successful raising major gifts in 2021:

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

Many fundraisers tell us they are unsure exactly how to approach donors. 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.

Our Major Gift Intensive members learn all the soft skills they need to be successful major gift fundraisers. We teach them advanced Discovery Skills to help them find the right donors who are most interested in helping with a gift.

They will be learning how to listen for a donor’s passions and interests. And how to take the next steps to move a donor closer to a gift. And we gently push everyone out the door to go visit (or zoom with) their prospects. :)

Our members will also learn data analysis skills – how to keep up with all the information they learn about their donors and how to use it to predict major gift outcomes.

We believe strongly that working smarter, not harder, is what helps busy fundraisers achieve raising more money. Knowing how to put your data to work for you leads to success.

2. Successful major gift fundraising takes a team.

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.

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

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. We help everyone organize the prospect management system that works for their donors and their organization.

In addition, our coaching members all have monthly goals to reach, during the 5-month program.

Our goals are doable, and there’s plenty of support to help them work through any questions they face along the way. They are not alone, because we are just an email away.

Our goal is to help you lay down the infrastructure, systems and thinking inside YOUR organization that will take hold permanently. We want your organization to 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. Check out the 2021 Major Gifts Intensive here, and let us know if you are interested.

Registration closes next week, Feb. 24th. Make sure you register soon as space is limited and we are filling up fast.

We’ll hop on the phone with you and decide if Major Gifts Intensive is right for you and your team. It may not be for you. But then, it may be just the thing that will help you and your team catapult your organization to financial security!

Let’s make 2021 awesome, and close many major gifts for you and your cause!

It’s the moment of truth. There you are, in conversation with a major donor who’s really interested in an aspect of your work. She’s on the edge of her seat, asking detailed questions about the impact you are making. 

You sit there thinking: “I think she might be ready to make a gift.” 

So you wonder: “How do I bring up the subject of a gift without throwing cold water on this conversation?” 

This is the moment when many nonprofit leaders and fundraisers freeze. They don’t know what to do or say in the moment of opportunity. 

They might blurt out an ask with no preparation or warm up of any kind. The problem with this approach is that your donor may feel like it’s too abrupt. It may feel like an affront – coming in out of nowhere. Then you may have lost serious ground with your donor, and possibly damaged the relationship. 

But prepared, experienced fundraisers know exactly how to handle this special opportunity.

It’s NOT an ask; it IS a conversation.

Most major and principal gifts happen over time. Rarely does the ask happen in one formal meeting. 

Instead, it’s a series of conversations in which you explore with the donor how she wants to help. In reality, it’s a back and forth conversation over a period of days, weeks or months. (Hopefully not years!)

Please note: it’s what the donor wants to do, not what you want her to do. She is in charge, because she’s the donor. 

In our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive course, we will be teaching the Skillful Conversation process that leads gently to an ask conversation. This approach is never pushy. It’s always gracious and polite. Join us for our course (registrations close Feb 24th), and you’ll learn how to organically put a successful ask on the table, seamlessly and effortlessly. 

Help your donor walk through the door of a gift.

With a few well-placed questions, you are helping your donor imagine what they could do, and how they could make a personal impact. 

You lead your donor to the mountain and help them stand in the place of vision and possibility.  You open the door to a gift conversation and your donor simply walks through the door. 

Here are a few simple ways to start a Gift Conversation with your donor:  

1. Would you like to know how you can help this project?

This is such an easy question to ask. There your donor is, carrying on and on about her interest in your mission. You can seamlessly, simply say, “Would you like to know how you could help?

Do note that you are asking your donor for permission to discuss this topic. Does the donor want to go in this direction or not? 

This is how you help the donor feel that they are in charge of the gift process. 

In the upcoming Major Gifts Intensive course, we’ll be teaching our permission-based, conversational asking approach. For many of our clients, this strategy has enabled them to receive five, six and even seven-figure gifts from happy donors – without even asking for the gift. No kidding. You and your team can learn these skills too, to easily close major, principal and campaign gifts this year. 

2. Could you see yourself supporting our work? 

This is one of our favorite qualification questions. Your donor might be sharing her excitement about your work, and you sense that the door is opening for a gift discussion. 

It’s so easy to simply ask “Could you see yourself supporting this project?” You’ll find out immediately whether this prospect wants to make a gift, and probably even when she would decide. 

In addition, this is a great question for board members to ask their contacts. A board member may invite a friend to an event. As a follow-up, they can ask: Could you see yourself supporting our work? Again, it’s not pushy, and it’s very easy for a board member to come out and say this. 

3. Have you ever thought about helping? 

Your donor may have never thought about the idea of a gift. So it’s your job to bring it up. You are simply inquiring about the donor’s interest in getting more involved. 

We love this question, too, because it helps you qualify whether your prospect might become a donor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Don’t make it an “ask.” Instead have an asking conversation! 

Asking conversations are low-pressure and oriented toward the donor. Use these questions to lead your donor right down the path to a gift. 

Our new Major Gifts Intensive 2021 can teach you and your team how to manage the delicate relationship with a major or principal donor, so that they will want to give generously. The Intensive is an extensive, LIVE teaching and coaching program from March – July 2021. 

You’ll learn the structure, skills and systems to secure major and principal gifts for your cause. What’s more, you and your team will be able to close more transformational gifts with the powerful combination of permission and conversational asking.

If you’re interested, don’t wait, because registrations close Feb 24th. Let us know here and we’ll hop on the phone to see if this is a good fit for you and your team. 

It’s so easy to be distracted when you are working on major gifts. Pursuing the wrong donor prospects can eat up a lot of time.

How do you know you’re spending time on the right people, and not the wrong ones? How do you know that you’re not wasting time and energy?

There are too many prospects who look so promising, but they never, ever respond.

It’s a tough call, but the data in your prospect management system can keep you from wasting time on the wrong donors. Your data can forecast which donors are most likely to give now – your immediate major gift prospects.

Who are your most passionate donors who also have high wealth?

This is every fundraiser’s burning question. You can start by tracking their actual giving behavior. Your database can easily tell you:

  • Is this donor current or lapsed?
  • How many years have they been giving?
  • How much have they given?
  • At what frequency do they give?

All these tell us just how passionate any particular donor is about your organization and its mission and this is part of using a smart prospect management system.

Recency, Frequency and Monetary (RFM) scores point you to the right donors.

Tracking the RFM scores (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) of your donors tells you how much your donor likes your organization. It can tell you how devoted and responsive they are.

Combine the RFM with wealth screening data and presto: you have a solid major gift prospect list. And those donors who are in the top quartile are your special people – you’ll want to look at them closely.

We recommend that you start looking at this list name by name. You can reshuffle the priority ranking based on the status of your current relationship with them, and how much you do or don’t know about their capacity to give major gifts.

Successful major gift fundraising takes a solid prospect management system.

Raising money from major donors is not really rocket science, but it does take a very careful organized structure. Without this structure, you can’t effectively manage a portfolio of highly engaged donors.

Your prospect management system will help you identify who needs attention and when, and who is most likely to give at any point in time.

In our five-month Major Gifts Intensive coaching and training program, we’ll be helping our members set up and refine their prospect management systems.

We’ll help you set up your infrastructure, your systems and a major gifts methodology designed for YOUR organization that will lead you to sustainable success. You’ll be able to enjoy many major and transformational gifts not just this year, but many years to come – if you are well organized.

We are here to support you. Check out the 2021 Major Gifts Intensive here. If you’re interested, we’ll hop on the phone and see if this program is a good fit for you and your team. Applications close February 24, so let us know now if you are interested.