Major Gift Solicitation Basics

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When beginning a major gift solicitation campaign, preparation is the name of the game. To acquire donations large enough to impact the longevity of your organization, you must formulate a strategy and know exactly what step to take next. It is vital to understand the process and make this a comfortable experience for your donor.

Once you have determined your fundraising goals, established a budget for major gift solicitation, and identified potential donors, it is time to get started taking the actionable steps that will help you seal the deal with major donors.

Establish A Relationship

It is a well-known fact in the fundraising business that major donors do not often appear out of thin air. Usually, there has been several years’ worth of relationship-building done to lay the foundation for major gift solicitation.

Identifying prime potential donors using wealth markers and other donor data is the first step toward warming your donors up to putting monetary support behind your mission. Frequent communication, strategic major donor events, and a commitment to stewardship for smaller gifts are necessary stepping stones to major gift solicitation.

Use easy and free sources of contact as touch points. Every e-mail, letter, advertisement, or website click will bring you one step closer to major gift solicitation with this person.

Breaking the ice over time will make the asking process much smoother and it will feel like the natural next step with the right donor.

Prepare To Ask

Once you have established a solid relationship with your prospective donor, it is time to think about how you will approach this major gift solicitation. You should already know your fundraising goals, and most people respond well to requests for specific donation amounts, so be sure of what you are asking for before you begin.

The donor may have questions, so you must be prepared for this interaction. Knowing exactly what your organization stands for and how this specific donation will help is fundamental in helping the donor make the best decision. Make sure you understand their previous involvement in the organization. What amounts have they donated before? Are they on the board of directors? Nail down every detail so you come across as professional and informed. You should have collected endless data on this person by now and should have a good look into their thought process.

Try to stay two steps ahead in your preparation. If you feel nervous, giving it a practice run can help make the process less daunting. Major gift solicitation is a big deal and the cause of anxiety for some major gift officers.

Making the Ask

The time has come to ask for a major gift. Thanks to your earlier research and preparation, this interaction should be relatively painless. You know what to ask for, how to relate it to their previous involvement with the organization, and how to explain the benefits of their donation.

While it can be helpful to review a script during the preparation phase, it is important to make sure you approach the donor in a friendly, authentic manner. If you come across as too stiff, or as if you’re reading off a prompt, it can make you appear inexperienced.

Often, there are several people involved during major gift solicitation. It is essential that everyone involved knows their roles and knows exactly who is making the ask directly. The people involved should be someone in an authority position and someone that has an excellent relationship with the donor.

Sometimes during major gift solicitation, the donor can make unexpected requests. For example, maybe they are willing to donate $20,000 but they want to do it over several years instead of one lump sum. Knowing your options in advance will allow you to spring into action, and help you respond to any objection.

Major Gift Solicitation – The Bottom Line

After you have closed the deal and received a donation commitment, be mindful that your job is not over. Your focus should shift immediately to stewardship. Keeping the donor in the loop and allowing them to see the results of their monetary contribution should be at the forefront. Although you should already have a stewardship strategy in place, reviewing it with anyone on your fundraising team should be a priority. Having a consistent response and message from anyone who is in contact with this donor is key. Remember to update your donor data with any other data points that may help future solicitations.

The experience your donor has with this major gift solicitation experience will shape how they feel about future donations to the organization. The whole process should be authentic and leave the donor feeling comfortable. Preparing for the event and crafting genuine connections with this donor can help pave the way for a seamless future ask.

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