Major gift solicitations are typically done face-to-face and they almost always take six months or more to secure. Six and seven figure gifts often take a year or more to secure. Despite the long lead time, soliciting major gifts is hands down the easiest, most cost-effective way to fundraise. It is easier than trying to raise the same amount of money through a direct appeal, social media campaign, or special event.
If you are new to major gift fundraising or looking to start a major gift fundraising effort at your nonprofit, here are a few tips to get you started on the path to major gift solicitation success.
1. Don’t Rush the Process
It can take people a long time to commit to a major gift donation. Don’t stress if it is difficult to schedule an appointment with a donor or if you are waiting for an answer to an ask. Be patient and do not rush their decision-making process. Give your donor the time and space they need to make an informed decision, while continuously working to build that important connection between the donor and your nonprofit organization. It may take three or more meetings to get a monetary commitment from your donor. This is completely normal. Keep your team and supervisor up to date on the status of the gift you are working to secure.
Be willing to meet major donors whenever, wherever - regardless of whether they are ready to commit to a gift or are simply looking for more information. Securing major gift donations is all about patience, flexibility, and taking the time to build a genuine relationship with your donor. Flexibility is important because you want to remove any obstacles from your donor’s path. Remaining flexible with your schedule shows your donor that you will go out of your way to answer any questions they may have, or to show them around your organization. This is important because your major donors need to feel a real connection between themselves and the work of your organization. They also need to feel completely confident that you are going to use their generous gift properly.
If you look at the calendar and factor in spring break, winter break, the holidays, and summer vacation, there are really only between thirty and fifty days a year when your major donors are going to be able meet face-to-face. Holidays, vacations, and school schedules can easily complicate your ability to connect with your donors. Schedule an appointment early and confirm each week, starting four weeks out from your date, to ensure the meeting does not get moved. However, if a donor needs to reschedule be open and accommodating to their need.
Be Fearless. Don’t shy away from asking for money. Your donor already knows why you have asked to meet with them and is likely expecting an ask. Be just as upfront about your organization’s needs as you are about their mission and work in the community. Show your passion for the work your organization is doing. Be enthusiastic and passionate. If you are truly excited about the work your nonprofit is doing, your donor will reflect that enthusiasm.
Major gift solicitations are all about being prepared. Come with a folder filled with statistics, facts, and success stories to backup your case for giving. Consider including a copy of your organization’s budget and annual report. Show your potential donors exactly where the need is and how they can help you. Share success stories with them, illustrating past and present uses of donor funds. Make these stories personal, if possible. Introduce your potential donor to the personal stories of individuals in the community who have benefited from the work your nonprofit does.
I recently talked with the campaign chair of a national organization I’m involved with. I asked her for her major gift solicitation tips. She told me her secret to regularly closing six-figure gifts. She carries a folder with her everywhere she goes and inside that folder is a stack of 21 laminated photos. On the back of each photo is a quote from that person about how this organization changed their life. She is always prepared to tell a story and back that story up with a picture, making a personal connection to the beneficiary. She carries 21 photos because the scope of her nonprofit’s work is so large that she’s never sure of her potential donor’s interests, so she has multiple stories ready to connect with multiple passions and interests.
Abra is a member of the National Auctioneers Association and is one of 28 people in California to have their Benefit Auction Specialist designation. A gifted public speaker, she regularly conducts workshops on fundraising auctions, and is a sought-after speaker at fundraising events both locally and nationally as well as an active participant in the Association of Fundraising Professionals.