Fall is in the air … time for football, warm sweaters, and the approach of the holidays.
For those involved in fundraising it is also time to focus on the year-end campaign. There are direct mail letters to write, holiday events to host, and online giving campaigns to launch and manage. There is also the process of personally asking select individuals to make a larger gift. “Soliciting major gifts” – as this is referred to – is not for the faint of heart. It is one of the most feared aspects of fundraising. It is also one of the most important. It is vital to nonprofits and provides donors with a way to make a meaningful difference.
Consider this. Most major donors want to be asked. They rarely approach an organization and say, “How can I make a difference?” They want to be approached, typically in person. It is part of the “dance” of fundraising.
What constitutes a major gift can vary greatly from one organization to another. For some $500 is a major gift. For universities and hospitals the threshold for a major gift could be $10,000 or $25,000. It’s not the absolute size of the gift, it’s the relative size. Start where you are, and treat those who give at the highest level with a personal touch. Here are some tips to help your nonprofit “dance with your donors.”
Tips for the executive director and/or development director
Take time to look at your list of current and prospective major donors. Determine who would be the right person to meet with each and ask for a gift. It might be you, it could be a board member, volunteer or another donor. Remember, you don’t have to be the person to meet with all the major donors. In some cases it might be best for another person with a closer connection to make the ask. Don’t “assign” people to ask donors for a gift. Be as intentional with your solicitors as you are with donors. Ask them if they are willing and comfortable to solicit specific people. Share why it is important to the organization and the people you serve. Provide opportunities for volunteer solicitors to practice asking. Some may be veteran fundraisers who are comfortable asking – others may believe in your cause but feel intimidated or fearful.
Tips for board members and fundraising volunteers
Reflect on your own experiences of asking and being asked. Think about the people you have agreed to solicit. What would be the ideal time to meet? What do you know of each person’s interests and how they connect to the organization? Ask the executive director or development director for help in determining the right amount for which to ask. Most importantly, remember to make your own gift first, be prepared, don’t hide behind email and prepare for objections. Ask for a specific amount.
For more specific guidelines, download our free tool at bit.ly/MakeTheAsk. Even more information is available in our book “The Fundraisers’ Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”
Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of the new book “FUNdraising Good Times Classics Vol. 1” now available on Amazon.com.