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10 Tips for major gift solicitors


1. Do your homework

Make sure you are familiar with the services and programs that are offered by the organization. Review your organization's Points of Pride (major accomplishments) and, if possible, be prepared to share a personal experience that impressed you about the special work that the organization provides.

Gather important information about your prospect. Together with other leadership and staff develop a profile of the prospect.

  • What are her/his interests?
  • What have they contributed to previously?
  • What is the largest gift they have ever given?
  • Do they give individually or through their company or family foundation?
  • Do they have a philanthropic fund with a local Foundation? If so, how large is their fund?
  • Are they candidates for estate planning and/or deferred gift
  • Who are their key financial advisors?
  • Have they recently sold a business or inherited significant resources?
  • How is their business doing?
  • Do they have a loved one who may be appropriate for memorializing or honoring with a gift?
  • Are there other people who can be supportive with the solicitation who have special relationships with the prospect?
  • What are the likely concerns the prospects might raise in the solicitation?
  • Determine in advance what would be the best setting to conduct the initial meeting.
  • Would it be helpful to have staff, or others participate in the solicitation?
  • What materials, hand-outs or visuals would be helpful to have for the solicitation?
  • Finally, establish a "rating" for the individual. How much should you ask them to consider as a gift?

2. Leaders Lead

As a leader of the campaign, it is important that you make your own gift prior to soliciting others. It will be easier to obtain a quality gift from your prospects if you are comfortable that your gift is also credible and a quality one, based on your own personal circumstances. The ability to share the fact that you made your gift, when you are soliciting, will give the prospect more confidence in your support and leadership. Prospects will take into consideration what leadership has given, in determining their own gifts. Initial gifts will be "yardsticks" for giving by those who follow.

3. Personalize the Solicitation

Major gift solicitations should not be conducted over the phone. Large gifts are often not closed with one visit. Family members, financial advisors and/or business partners may need to be involved prior to a decision. Obviously, if you know who the key decision-makers are (if they are not your prospect), they should be included in the solicitation meeting. A major part of the success of a solicitation is the chemistry of the relationship between the solicitor(s) and prospect, as well as how one is asked.

If at all possible, at least two solicitors should participate in the solicitation. It demonstrates to the prospect the importance you have put on their gift, it shows that there are others equally committed to the success of the campaign and it provides for different perspectives to be heard. The old saying that two heads are better than one also applies to solicitations. While one person is answering questions or explaining the need, the other person can better observe responses, body language, etc. Evaluating the solicitation and together determining best approaches for follow-up are enhanced with multiple solicitors.

4. The Appointment

The most critical aspect of major gift solicitations is getting the appointment. Be enthusiastic and let the prospect know that you want to share with them some exciting information about the organization, which is a project near and dear to you and that you would like to solicit their advice and support. Make sure that you make the appointment at a time and place that is convenient for both the prospect and solicitors. Also, try to schedule at least 30-45 minutes for the initial meeting.

Try to avoid an environment where others may overhear conversation or where there will be distractions. If the prospect asks if you are looking for money from them .... be candid and enthusiastic. ''Absolutely, .... I would like to tell you about the organization, and have you join me as a supporter this year, .... but just as important, we would like to get your input on additional ways we can succeed in our efforts on behalf of this great program which is doing such amazing things.'' Make it clear that you will be asking for their support.

5. Engage the Prospect

Do not try to close too quickly. Share the vision, services, benefits, points of pride and needs of organization. While informing the prospect of the needs, you are also demonstrating the commitment of leadership. Donors want to be confident that they are giving to organizations with knowledgeable and committed leadership. Enthusiasm is contagious and so is negativity. It's your choice.

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