How many of you have solicited a gift before? What’s the process like? How do you prepare for and approach the solicitation?
In The Fund Raising School’s course Developing Major Gifts, participants have the opportunity to quickly prepare and practice their solicitation on another course attendee. Some may be seasoned professionals at the task, while others may be new to the field of fundraising and preparing to solicit a gift (even for practice!) for the first time.
For this particular class, faculty member Marnie Maxwell placed individuals into groups of three: one development officer, one prospective donor, and one appropriate other solicitor (Bennett (2011) explains why another individual associated with the nonprofit, such as a board member, volunteer, or other staff member, might make the solicitation more effective). Maxwell asked each participant acting as a development officer to identify why the third person would be beneficial to include, and then how the solicitation exercise would proceed.
She also asked that the class participant acting as the development officer choose a real major donor that they had built a relationship with and wanted to solicit a gift from, keeping in mind that individual’s DISC profile. Framing an ask with the potential donor’s DISC profile in mind helps development officers appeal to the donor’s personality tendencies.
Then, the participants acting as potential donors left the room, while the solicitors (development officer and other solicitor) crafted a quick plan and a specific gift number to ask for. After 10 minutes of prep, the “potential donors” returned to the room and the solicitors made the ask!
After 15 minutes, the “asks” were wrapped up and participants returned to discuss their experiences. Here are some of their top takeaways, including good decisions made as well as challenges.
|Carefully choosing language during the ask.
|Using language that didn’t fit with the conversation.
|Not giving a firm gift number.
|Acknowledging previous gifts that the major donor has made.
|Making the ask too early during the meeting.
|Having an additional team member to support and assist with the ask.
|Speaking more than listening.
|Keeping the donor’s DISC profile in mind – makes the ask clearer and easier.
|Being unclear about what can be negotiated and what can’t.
Two points/ideas stood out to me the most about soliciting a major gift: building a relationship and conducting research. It’s important to know the person you’re soliciting the gift from, what their story is, what their interests are, etc. That ties into the research bit: it’s vital to conduct research before the solicitation meeting. Know the donor, and know her or his DISC profile in order to make a good ask.
Also, know what research says about particular donors. Habits or trends may not be true for each individual you work with, but it helps situate them amongst other donors like them.
That leads to two other R’s: refine and repeat! Practice the ask before you make it. As the participants noted, the words you use in a solicitation are important. Know them, know your donor, know your organization, and know the difference the donor can make by inviting them to be a part of the important work your organization does.
What are your best tips for making a major gift ask?
Want to learn the research and practice behind making this ask? Learn more about The Fund Raising School’s course Developing Major Gifts and see when you can take it.