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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.

how to start & creating a capital campaign plan | Gail Perry Group

pen marking check box

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 winning campaigns, we begin by evaluating their readiness based on these seven strategic areas.

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

Laying the groundwork for a successful capital campaign 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

In laying the groundwork, you want to prepare your board carefully for the campaign. You’ll want everyone to be in full agreement on the proposed plan and strategy to move ahead.

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

Influential campaign volunteers can help your campaign gain credibility and momentum. If the right people are standing behind your initiative, then you can move forward quickly.

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

For a campaign to be successful, you’ll need donor prospects with leadership giving capacity. Run the numbers and evaluate your campaign prospect pool Your first step will be to renew and refresh your relationships with key funders and leadership donors.

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

Often the factor that can make or break a campaign is the staff itself. You’ll want a strong, bold and experienced fundraising team that is highly motivated and raring to go.

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

Make sure you lay out the need and justification for your campaign in plain, simple, and emotional language. Follow it up with supportive data.

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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It’s important that your organization is well-respected in the community. For donors to make significant gifts, they need to have confidence in your leadership.

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

Clearly, you would like a positive economic environment to bolster your campaign. But don’t forget, you can still be successful even in uncertain times.

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 preparation and 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 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 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 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.

Happy Weekend! We thought you’d be interested in this topic today. And if you are interested in closing more major and principal gifts, then we have a great guide today for you to save time. 

It’s about all the time we waste cultivating donors. To us, it’s so frustrating to nurture a donor who never comes through with a gift. 

We have all been there. This particular donor loves all the attention, attends all our events, and enjoys our nice dinners. But they never make the gift that we surely think they will. 

You’ve probably been here as well. Have you ever spent months and months, even years, before you manage to get the donor into an ask conversation? 

How about all that time you are spent cultivating your donor? Is it wasted? Could you have moved more quickly?  Would your donor have been willing to give sooner??

How can you know? 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to move to an ask conversation more quickly? How nice would it feel to be able to find out early in the game if your donor wants to help NOW rather than later? 

It really is possible to find out where your donor stands.

 You just have to ask. But you have to ask skillfully. 

We’ve developed a cultivation process that we call the Skillful Conversation. It’s like a roadmap that guides you to find out what you need to know– and get the ask on the table as soon as possible so you can save time.

What’s more, it’s extremely polite and donor-centered.  This conversation process is never, ever pushy. (We’re southern, remember?) 

With the Skillful Conversation process, you’re never directly asking for a gift. You are oblique, inquiring, playing sleuth.

In our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive program, we’ll be training and coaching our members on how to implement the Skillful Conversation process. What’s more, we’ll be teaching them five different ways to get to an Ask Conversation. If you’d like to join us, check out the program here.  Applications close Feb 24th so schedule your call with us quickly!  

What you are really doing is simply finding out what’s on your donor’s mind. 

You can easily ask your donor:  

“How interested are you in our cause and our organization’s work?”

What resonates most with you about our work?”

“Would you like to  know how you can help?”

These are such important questions! But so few fundraisers get around to asking about the important stuff. We are all too busy wining, dining and cultivating our donors. 

The end result – we postpone important conversations to the back burner. We beat around the bush, because we just don’t know what to say.  

Sometimes we probably feel awkward, a little nervous, and don’t want to appear pushy. We don’t want to sacrifice our relationship by asking too soon or too quickly – because we know that strategy can certainly backfire! 

Never assume. 

This is one of the great rules of fundraising – don’t assume you know what your donor wants to do, or when they want to do it. 

You can easily find out if your donor is ready to give now vs later. Don’t assume. Just ask. 

Ask them if they’d like to talk about supporting your organization. Or ask them if this is a good time to chat about support. 

It’s all based in permission. Step-by-step, you are asking your donor if they are interested in finding out this or that, or if they want to explore this or that. 

You can relax – just keep asking questions, and your donor feels like she’s in charge. 

Bottom Line: She who asks the questions, controls the conversation.

These tips today can take you right down the pathway to a major, principal and/or transformational gift. Don’t forget to use the Skillful Conversation process. Be polite, donor-centered, and gracious. Ask your donor directly how they feel and what they want to do.

Your fundraising totals will certainly go up! And you’ll save time. Remember the climate is excellent for major gifts right now. Donors are giving. Don’t shy away! 

P.S. Major Gifts Intensive 2021 is open for applications!

Would you like: 

  • A systematic, proven major gifts training and coaching program to expand your team’s success? 
  • To learn permission-based asking techniques that can close transformational gifts? 

The Major Gifts Intensive will help you lay down the systems, mindset, vision, structure and processes for a long-term productive major gift program that will deliver measurable results for years.

We’ll share the core highly successful strategies that we’ve taught thousands of people since 2000, from community organizations to the largest universities.

Find out more here. 

Does it ever feel like some fundraisers have superpowers? You know, those ones who raise six, seven and even eight-figure gifts.

And you look at them and wonder, “what special qualities DO these talented major gift fundraisers have?”

“How are they so successful?”

“What is their secret?”

Well, today we will tell you a few of these “secret” traits. And, luckily, they are traits that you, too, can possess. If you want to learn how to build these traits, join us in our 2023 Major Gifts Intensive coaching program. You’ll come out of it a superhero – raising mega gifts in no time.

The Top Superpowers of Successful Major Gift Fundraisers:

Superpower #1: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers are Focused and Disciplined.

We have many distractions in our work. It’s very, very easy to to get sidetracked.

Master fundraisers need to always focus, focus, focus on their intention: which is to move toward a gift conversation.

It’s easy to get lost in all the socializing that comes with major gift fundraising – but that doesn’t bring in the gifts.

Social skills help you get your foot in the door, but as a successful fundraiser you always keep your eye on your goal. 

Donor conversations can wander all over the place. It’s important to bring the conversation back to your fundraising in indirect ways. Talk about your organization and its initiatives and goals.

Smart major gift fundraisers facilitate their donors down the path to a gift. They are always gently leading in a certain direction.

This way you won’t get lost forever in social talk. You’ll be able to move the donor toward a gift conversation.

In the Major Gifts Coaching Intensive we provide you with strategies to master this discipline and make sure we use role plays to practice so you don’t walk away unprepared. Join us!

Superpower #2: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers Actively Listen to Find Out Their  Donor’s Interests.

Too many fundraisers worry about what to say.

They worry that the donor will ask a question they can’t answer. They fret that they’ll run out of conversation topics.

Our advice is: turn around and head the other way. Stop talking!

Your job when visiting with donors is to do reconnaissance. You want to find out what your donor is most interested in. Most of all, how passionate are they about your cause? How motivated are they to give?

If you’re doing all the talking, then you’ll never find this out. It’s actually up to you to find out what makes your donor tick.

And once you know your donor’s interests, passions and hot buttons, you’re on your way to making your donor really happy – AND closing a major gift.

Conversation techniques are a critical skill for any major gift fundraiser. If you’d like to master these techniques – join our 2023 Major Gifts Coaching Intensive. We’ve just opened applications for our class. 

Superpower #3: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers are Confident.

Sometimes it may be easy to feel a bit like a supplicant when you are with a VIP donor. They may even intimidate you.

But confidence is a major superpower.

You have an important job to do, and the donor knows it. That’s why she’s talking to you.

So be open and direct. We never want to assume that we know what a donor is thinking. So you be bold and ask, “May I clarify what you just said?”

When you convey confidence in yourself and your work, then you show up as genuine and authentic.

Confident people have good manners, and they are gracious to everyone. They know their stuff. What’s more, they are calm and unruffled.

All of these qualities put your donor at ease. Then you build trust. Most importantly, you are creating an authentic human relationship with your donor.

Bottom Line: Having Superpowers Isn’t Out of Reach.

These superpowers are easier said than done, we know. We have been there. But we developed these traits and it has paid off in spades.

And we have helped hundreds of other major gift officers develop and hone these superpowers as well, through our Major Gifts Intensive Coaching program..

If you’d like to be a superhero fundraiser, be sure to consider joining! You can learn more about it here. Applications are open now and close February 24.

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 advanced 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 Major Gifts Intensive program.

Step 1. The first step in our portfolio management approach: 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.’

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, join us for our annual Major Gifts Intensive Coaching program. Learn more here.


You might be planning a campaign for 2021, or you may be in a major campaign right now. What can go wrong?

Capital campaigns, as we all know, are huge undertakings. They are full of risks, rewards and mega gifts, too.

And sometimes capital campaigns can offer breathtaking challenges. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and you have a recipe for stress, heartburn and anxiety.

Capital Campaigns in Pandemic Times

This year has been such a challenge! You and your team perhaps had a solid campaign plan. Your leadership was recruited and in place. Your lead gifts were identified. And everything was moving along smoothly.

But out of the blue came a global pandemic. Everything shut down. You could no longer visit your donors or see your key volunteer leaders. You might be concerned about your donors’ ability to give during this time. And you had to reinvent everything. You and your entire team shifted to juggle many balls in the air.

There really is a path to a successful capital campaign, though. You can still close major campaign asks, even virtually. Our clients are closing big gifts every day, and we want to show you how you can too.

If you’re interested, our new course, Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis: 5 Keys to a Successful Campaign Even in Today’s Uncertain World will help guide you and your team to success – even in this virtual environment.

What Can Go Wrong with a Capital Campaign Today?

Where do we start? There are so many challenges! (By the way – You’ll find solutions to these challenges in our course – that will help you accelerate your success.)

Decision Making During Uncertain Times

Making major organizational decisions during uncertain times is scary. It can seem overwhelming at best, and may bring your organization to a standstill.

But not making decisions is just as dangerous as making the wrong decision.

First, you need to craft or re-craft a workable Campaign Plan in the midst of uncertainty. What can you control, what can’t you control?

How would it feel to be able to move forward vigorously with a revamped, realistic campaign plan? You’d see success on the other side.

Planning a Virtual Campaign and Feasibility Study in a Virtual World

Are you in campaign planning mode? If your campaign is on the horizon for 2021, we will show you how to take the right steps, now – so you can successfully move forward with lead gifts next year.

Managing a successful feasibility study – even in this environment – is very doable. We are actively working on some virtual feasibility studies, and they are moving along nicely. Donors are more available, and are willing to chat at length.

What is the Right Case for Support in This Environment?

How are you positioning your case in this competitive fundraising environment? You are probably struggling with the right story to tell for today’s donors. Yes, you do need a different story for today and tomorrow!

In our new course, we’ll share secrets on how to develop or refine your case for this environment. It seems more daunting than it is!

Nurturing Donor Relationships

We’re in a distant world now. it’s against everything we’ve gotten used to.

And are you exhausted by zoom?

Don’t be. We now know that donors are more available than ever. They are not traveling as much; they are focused on their community, they want to help.

Zoom means that the rules have changed. The future of your capital campaign depends on mastering a new set of discovery and qualification skills for the virtual environment. Let us show you how.

Staging and Closing Major Campaign Asks – Virtually

The biggest struggle of all? It’s how to manage a major campaign ask on zoom.

Yes, it can be done. Our clients are closing 6-figure gifts often, even in this environment.

There are a few strategic shifts you can make to ensure that your major campaign asks are successful, especially in a virtual world. In our course, we’re sharing five proven approaches you can use to set up and close major campaign asks. This is crucial for your successful capital campaign.

Bottom Line

The world is changing, there is no doubt. We are excited to share that your campaigns can still move forward, and be even more successful in this new world.

We have been helping our capital campaign clients reinvent, adapt and successfully move forward, despite the current climate. And it’s been going well.

This can be your success story too.

If you’d like to be prepared for the world as it is going to be, not as it was, please join us in our new course. We hope you’ll join Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis so you can take your campaign to the next level of success next year.

If you are not in capital campaign mode, we wish you many major gifts flowing in from your generous donors.

 

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

If you are planning a capital campaign, take a look at our NEW course which launched this week, Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis:5 Keys to a Successful Campaign Even in Today’s Uncertain World

Hope you have a wonderful and safe weekend.

How a Capital Campaign Planning Committee Develops Lead Donor Relationships

If you’re planning a capital campaign, you are very likely evaluating your fundraising potential. 

How much can you raise? Who will be your major funding sources? Would a Capital Campaign Planning Committee help you raise more? 

 A few other important questions you’re probably pondering are: 

Who do you need to have involved? 

Who should be your volunteer leaders? 

Who can help open doors to gifts? 

What about your donor relationships?

  • How warm or cool are your relationships with key funders and donors? 
  • Do you have close relationships with the major donors you need in order to fund your campaign? 
  • How can you bring these major donors closer and start to re-engage them?   

What’s your situation? 

You might be with an educational institution that needs to develop closer relationships with potential lead donors with deep pockets. 

Or maybe you’re with a community organization with a big vision, but has lost touch with your major donors. 

Whatever type of organization, this plan is crucial to your success.

You’ll need to reconnect with major donors, community leaders and leading philanthropists to cultivate their interest in your upcoming initiative and run a successful capital campaign. 

Why a Capital Campaign Planning Committee is such a smart move

You need strong leadership volunteers if you want to be successful

We know from experience that many capital campaigns are won or lost based on their volunteer leadership. We find that if you have the right powerful people heading up your campaign, you are well on your way to success. 

So choose wisely.

 These key individuals help open doors and make connections. They can influence gifts, and command attention. Even more, when key donors “bless” your project, they add credibility to your campaign. 

Create the right Capital Campaign Planning Committee 

Try pulling together a group of the most powerful, wealthiest, wisest, and most influential volunteers and donors you can find. Ask them to review your plan, offer advice and help formulate your campaign. There’s no better way to draw someone in than to involve them in key strategic decisions along the way.

A planning committee gives you a wonderful chance to inform your key donors about your campaign. You gain the benefit of their advice and wisdom, and often their input is invaluable.

Inviting them to serve on this high-powered committee is a terrific way to cultivate them for their future campaign gifts. What’s more, these individuals always yield amazing new connections, relationships and assistance — from the people who matter.

If you’re you still looking for your campaign chair or co-chairs, ask a key donor to serve on the Capital Campaign Planning Committee. This provides an excellent opportunity to prepare someone for the job of campaign chair.

Why would these donors join your Capital Campaign Planning Committee? 

 Your ideal key leaders are busy people, with many commitments and interests. They may be somewhat interested in your campaign, but usually are not willing to make a long-term commitment as a campaign volunteer.

Asking them to be a part of your Capital Campaign Planning Committee is a unique opportunity to re-engage them with an invitation to help shape the campaign. When you ask them to serve on a short-term planning committee, they are more likely to say yes since it’s a shorter time commitment. 

We find that once these individuals are involved on the planning committee, they become much more interested and personally invested in your campaign’s success. 

After building their interest, they are more likely to say “yes” to the Campaign Steering Committee itself when the time comes. 

Involvement breeds investment

Throughout our time leading capital campaigns, we have found the planning committee to be a golden key to securing the involvement of heavy hitters and lead donors. 

We’re always surprised at how effective this simple strategy is. 

But it works.

There’s no better way to draw someone in than to involve them in key strategic decisions along the way.

Bottom Line: Build a Capital Campaign Planning Committee

Your Capital Campaign Planning Committee is an excellent strategic tool for engaging major philanthropists and donors early in your campaign. 

It’s not a question of if you need this committee. It’s a question of who you need on this committee.

Go forth and succeed! We are always in your corner.

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

If you are planning a capital campaign, look out for our NEW course launching next week. We will focus on Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis and will be sharing 5 keys to success in today’s uncertain world. 

Hope you have a wonderful and safe weekend.

Here’s a call to action for all board chairs!

You have a big job. Especially these days.  Many organizations are facing major decisions – about funding, staffing, service delivery – and everything else.

As we said two weeks ago, a small vision and a small goal won’t cut it in this environment.  If your board needs a wakeup call, here’s a format that will work!

Board Chairs: It’s Time to Rally the Troops.

If you need to motivate your board members and challenge them to take action, try following these guidelines. Here’s how to marshal your forces, encourage everyone to pull together, and inspire action.

1. Take the First Step Yourself

Be the first to step up to the plate. Board chairs need to personally take the first action that you are asking of your board members. Ask them to follow you.

Remind your board members that it’s really up to them. They also have a responsibility to lead by example.

2. Professional and Business-Like Tone

If you are writing to your board members, watch your tone when you ask them to take action. It’s easy to sound like you are lecturing or complaining.

Make a request that is professional and business-like –  no pleading or manipulating. Just make a request plainly and succinctly. Above all, treat your board members as the capable professionals they all are.

3. Call Them to a Higher Purpose

Rally your board members with inspirational thoughts. What’s the ultimate vision that everyone is trying to achieve?

Always remind them of their higher purpose and what they want to accomplish – in the biggest sense possible.

4. Clear Set of Actions to Take

Lay the problem out clearly. Then, point out possible solutions or steps the board can take to move forward.

By all means, give everyone clear actions they can take – and a choice of actions.

5. Ask Board Members to Personally Respond Back to You

When you write your board members, here’s a way to get their attention. Ask them to respond back to you directly – not to respond to someone else.

When you do that, you let them know that this is a direct and personal request from you, the board chair. And you can keep tabs on who is doing what.

6. A Deadline!

Absolutely, everyone performs better with a deadline. Why? Because it provides a clear time frame, and accountability to take action.

Board Chairs Can Make It Happen:

Once, our local AFP chapter needed an intervention. We were facing a major event – our National Philanthropy Day celebration, and everyone needed to jump into action.

Fortunately our chair was a skilled leader. She wrote us a Call to Action email, asking us all to step it up. With only a part-time staff person, we had to rely on our board volunteers to make it happen.  So, if we didn’t pull through, we wouldn’t even have an event.

Take a look at this professional and very specific note to her board members:

Good morning,

Our event committees have been working diligently to make this occasion a great success. I’m proud of their efforts and the incredible creativity they have brought to the event planning.

However, the ultimate success of our event will depend on the community’s response and we, as board members, must lead by example.

This week, I am asking each of you to consider how you personally (and your organization) can participate. Please consider these 3 opportunities to help your donors, volunteers, your cause, and AFP shine:

* Commit to a table of 10 at the non-profit, special rate of $400 to honor an outstanding volunteer.

*Nominate one, two or more donors and volunteers for an award.  It’s so easy and you can do it online.  My organization is nominating in two categories this year.

* Help secure a sponsor at the $500 or $1000 levels.  We have turn-key packets for you to personalize for your prospect.

I would like to ask each person to either reply to all or send me an e-mail indicating to what extent you are able to commit to one, two or all three of the above.  It will boost our “ask” to others to step up. It will also help us get an early snap shot of what our board participation will be.

I appreciate all that you do to make our chapter excellent and look forward to hearing back from you by the end of the week.

Warm regards, 

Bottom Line: Board Chairs – Try this Approach When You Need to Rally Everyone.

These difficult times need us all to pull together and make it happen.  If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

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

If you are planning a capital campaign and would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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.

Here’s #7 in my series of major gift fundraising posts to help you build up and expand your major gift revenue.

I’m sharing some of my best advice to help YOU and your team bring in the major gifts that are out there for your nonprofit.

Today, we’re talking about how to develop authentic relationships with major donors.

You must have friendly relationships with major donors if you want to discuss a significant gift, don’t you?

This is a real toughie for many people – how to connect and be friendly without feeling transactional.

You CAN gain their trust – and huge investments from them. I can show you how.

But first, let me tell you a story about me:

I remember when I started out as a major gift fundraiser at Duke University.  I was dealing with some pretty sophisticated and wealthy people.

But sometimes I simply didn’t know what to do or say when I was with my donors. I felt like I was floundering.

It was driving me crazy, because I was missing fundraising opportunities. And my fundraising goal was hanging over my head. Yikes!

But luckily, I had a friend who literally served as my coach and mentor.

He gave me confidence, and taught me how to “be” when I was with these VIP donors.

Having a coach meant the world to me. It meant the difference between fear and success.

It felt so wonderful to have someone I could go to for advice, right when I needed it. It actually helped me sleep at night. :)

And I ended up closing some large gifts from these very people. Yay!

In our Major Gifts Coaching program, I’m sharing the same “relationship development” skills my coach taught me years ago.

I can help you and your team achieve your fundraising potential, too.

This year’s group is filling up rapidly, and we are closing it out this Friday, so let me know now if you are interested!

FOR YOU:

Today, here are 5 tips to help you develop close, friendly, easy connections with your major gift prospects.

We are talking about the social side of fundraising. It’s an art. It’s the delicate dance of establishing a trusting bond with a major donor.

1. Above all, understand your donor’s style.

People all have different personalities, motivations and ways of operating. Some people are Type A and others are Type B, for example.

If your donor is a fast-paced business person, she may not want a social relationship. She’s too busy.

Or if your donor is a retiree without family, he may enjoy lots of social time and attention.

Can you guess your donor’s DISC type? (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness)

Be ready to adapt your approach to your donor.

2. Be all about the donor.

That means you don’t talk about yourself. You don’t disclose lot of personal details about yourself, even if your donor is sharing personal information.

You always focus on what is on donor’s mind, and not your own agenda. (This is the hard part!)

That means you practice beautiful manners. Courtesy and decorum are always welcome social skills, right? Don’t forget, too, that poise and your appearance really matter.

You are a sympathetic listener, responding to what your donor days.

You practice the art of small talk and polite conversation. These skills put everyone at ease – both you AND your donor.

3. Make it social. Lighten up.

I find that a lot of fundraising happens in quasi-social situations.

You may be at a gathering or even a coffee shop, and you’ll be able to “touch” your donor lightly to grow their interest.

You want to be cordial, interesting, and generous of spirit. Never, ever heavy-handed or pushy!

You need to know when to be business-like. Your donor will clearly indicate that they are ready for a business discussion.

Avoid social calamities with your donors by following their lead on conversation topics, and considering their own likes and dislikes when you are with them.

4. Build trust by doing what you say you will do.

Nothing will squelch a productive relationship with major donors faster than losing trust.

Your donor will learn quickly whether you are ethical, whether you keep confidences, and whether they can expect you to do what you say.

Be careful not to misinterpret your donor’s words. And never pressure them.

It can take a long time to build a productive relationship – so start now!

5. Be an interesting person.

Wow, you may say that is a tall order!

I’ll never forget reading an interview with Naomi Levine, the famous NYC fundraiser. She says you need to be interesting enough for your donor to want to have lunch with you. :)

Ms. Levine recommends that you read widely so that you can carry on interesting conversations.

I remember when I first interviewed at Duke for my very first fundraising job. I casually mentioned to my future boss two items that I had just read in the Sunday New York Times.

I got the job. She told me later that my reading had impressed her.

She somehow felt that I was educated enough to handle myself with big donors.

Bottom Line – How to Build Relationships with Major Donors:

These “soft skills” help build relationships with major donors. They can make or break your donor relationships.

Learning how to build authentic relations with donors is a true art.

If you want help building your major gift fundraising skill set, do join my Major Gift Coaching program, and I’ll help YOU learn how.

major gift fundraising challenges-infographic

Nonprofits clearly see the potential that major gift fundraising success might offer.

Now, we have over 550 nonprofit leaders sharing their personal challenges in major gift fundraising.

The floodgates have opened here, folks.

Read on for hopes, dreams, frustrations, struggles – that you are probably quite familiar with.

What are the challenges holding us back from major gift fundraising success?

Development directors and staff fundraisers know what is possible but the organizational support is not there.

They are given too much to do. Too much to juggle.

Major gift fundraising has to go on the back burner.

Board members think major gift fundraising is distasteful. They refuse to open doors.

Executive directors set unrealistic goals.

Budgets shortchange investments in major gift fundraising.

Volunteers want to stay focused on events instead of major gifts.

Here are the survey results:

Question 1: What’s your biggest challenge raising major gifts?

not enough major gift prospectsNot Enough Major Gift Prospects 25%

The lack of major gift prospects was the winner by a slim 1% over “not enough time to do it right.”

Many respondents said they were simply were unsure HOW to identify major gift prospects.

How do we find the people with money?

We have no idea how to research to determine who might be a prospect.

How do I recognize a major gift prospect among our current donors and also how do I find someone with money who has never given?

We are uncertain as to who to ask for donations.

This barrier showed up especially in responses from smaller organizations.

It seemed that it wasn’t that there weren’t enough prospects. Instead the issue was we don’t know how to identify them.

not enough timeNot Enough Time To Do It Right 24%

Many fundraisers have too many conflicting demands on their time.

They’re wearing too many hats, often in under-staffed shops.

They’re asked to handle a wide variety of time-consuming tasks.

Here’s where much of the frustration lives, because staffers clearly see that they are spending time on less profitable, less productive tasks, simply because there’s no one else to do them.

I spend too much time setting up processes, entering donations, getting thank you letters out, with little time to move forward to bring us to the next level.

No admin support so I spend all my time on admin tasks instead of major gifts.

I am one person doing major gifts, grants, 2-3 events, material production and editing, marketing and now have been told I need to manage the database too. Hard to get the kind of results expected with that type of workload.

Some staffers clearly saw that it was really a combination of not enough time to invest in prospecting and developing relationships.

Lack of depth in prospects is still a major issue, but it stems from not valuing the time it takes to build that prospect pool.

I wish it was a single issue, but really includes finding prospects and building those relationships, having the time to do that.

unsure or unclearUnsure, unclear of how to approach major donors 20%

There’s much confusion about how to start developing relationships with major donors.

Respondents share that they just don’t know what do to and say, and how to get donors to respond to them.

We don’t know how to approach people with money. What do we do when our donors don’t seem to want to talk to us?

Our donors are not open to meetings. Reaching the donors and securing the ask is troubling.

We need coaching on how to identify and cultivate more major donors – we don’t know where to start.

Again, Executive Directors don’t understand how it works.

Our ED thinks we can just call, get the appointment and ask. Oh! And it is my responsibility.

need structure and supportNeed Structure and Support 18%

Many nonprofits are simply not structured for major gift fundraising.

There’s no one in charge, and no clear responsibility for results.

When major gifts are just something to get to when we have time – the last thing on the list, we can’t expect great results.

Need the staffing structure to make it happen properly. We have the prospects, not enough people to reach out to them all.

Really need help in identifying donors and making a plan.

There is no internal structure and support – I have to do everything myself.

organization doesn't understand or supportOrganization doesn’t understand or support major gift fundraising 13%

Many fundraisers are operating in an organizational culture that does not support major gifts.

There’s literally no structure or support for this type of fundraising.

Or the organization is not willing to invest time and money in developing major projects.

Leadership doesn’t understand exactly what it takes – especially the time commitment required to nurture long term major donor relationships.

Board members find it distasteful to ask potential major donors to consider a gift.

No clear duties are allocated to major gift fundraising. Budgets don’t provide resources for major gift fundraising. Bosses think fundraisers should stay at their desks instead of being out of the office meeting with donors.

Everyone thinks it is someone else’s job.

Our leaders are totally unaware of how fundraising works, especially for major gifts.

We need to change our culture to support major gift fundraising.

We all know what needs to be done, but don’t have the structure and support of the director.

We need the structure and support in the organization to do it.

It is not the organization that doesn’t understand, it is the board.

It’s hard for people to understand that it takes time. I can’t just blurt out an ask on the first visit.

My ED has no idea: Just a “get out there and go to meetings” command.

What Would Help You the Most to Raise Major Gifts?

training in what to do or sayTraining In What To Do and Say 39%

Fundraisers shared a long list of areas where they wanted training or coaching.

It appears that they are quite willing to tackle major gift fundraising but simply don’t know how to do it.

With training in what to do and say, it seems that many fundraisers could be quite successful bringing in major gifts.

I’m unsure of “how to get in the door” when we are just beginning major gift fundraising.

I need help specifically on getting the meeting.

I want training in prospecting.

I need my prospects to agree to meet with me.

How do you tactfully move to the next step with a donor?

How to best convey the “heartstring” need to donors?

I need help getting the courage to make the ask

I have a fear of flubbing up!

organizational supportOrganizational Support 24%

Many fundraisers shared that their board was an impediment.

When board members refuse to support the fundraising process, staff fundraisers are never as successful as they could be.

Board claims not to know anyone who can make major gift as there are no industries in our area. They don’t want to ask individuals who probably could make a major gift.

Board is not engaged in fundraising in the most effective way. They are very hesitant to engage.

I’m having a hard time trying to convince board members that they can help by simply setting up a coffee or lunch where I can meet the donor.

Our board has no interest in helping to open those doors.

The board does not support or understand major gift program.

accountability and coachingAccountability and Coaching 19%

Many respondents shared that they needed a clear plan and structure.

Who is responsive for major gift fundraising? Who does what? Who reports when?

Several said that they thought they could be successful if they had an effective accountability system in place to track and manage the entire process.

First, I need a system/infrastructure to organize the process and keep track of it.

I need help staying organized to make sure I am prioritizing correctly and not missing any good prospects.

I feel like I need a mentor or guide, more so than another class or training.

I need help organizing a pipeline and a tracking system.

Accountability would help with everything – we make time when we have to be accountable.

more time in the dayMore Time in the Day 18%

With overly heavy workloads, it’s no wonder that fundraisers are not successful bringing in major gifts.

I don’t have enough time to do it right because we are always rushing on to the next project that our ED wants us to do.

How do I keep up with the pace as more gets added?

I think I could be successful, but I don’t have the time to do it right.

BOTTOM LINE

Nonprofit staffers clearly understand the potential that major gift fundraising offers. But it’s the organization that holds them back.

With training, coaching, teamwork, systems, accountability, and a clear structure, every organization can be successful at major gift fundraising.

Would you like to overcome the challenges keeping you from raising major gifts?  My Major Gifts Coaching can help you raise the big money that is out there for your nonprofit.

  • You’ll start to bring transformational major gifts into your organization, so that you’ll finally have the funding to do your important work.
  • You’ll get an accountability system and infrastructure that will keep major gifts flowing into your nonprofit for years, so you won’t have to start over all the time.
  • You’ll get your major prospects identified, get a priority system, set up cultivation plans and make those asks, so that you’ll actually close generous gifts.
  • You’ll get your entire board and team trained by me in major gift fundraising so that you’ll all share the same language and have the same tools and skills. You won’t be alone any longer.
  • You’ll have me as your major gift coach and mentor for 10 months next year, so that you’ll have my help when you need it.

I’d love to chat with you about whether coaching is right for you! Let’s bring in those major gifts to YOUR organization!

Click here to Find Out More About Major Gift Coaching and Mentoring With Gail