There’s a lot of hype about big gift fundraising right now; and as many theories as to how to go about it as there are fundraising consultants. As a service to readers, therefore, FRStrategy has surveyed the best books and websites on the subject and offers this succinct guide to the key points:
Big gifts can only be landed by asking person-to-person. Writing letters or making phone calls are not effective.
Big gifts can only effectively be landed by peer-to-peer asking by people who are a good business/financial/social match with the prospective donor. Employed fundraisers do not generally have the leverage to land big gifts, though staff can attend the solicitation meeting to provide more detailed information about the work of the charity than a business volunteer might possess.
The best people to involve in big gift fundraising are usually successful business people. Trustees should consider it part of their role to assist in big gift fundraising, but if they are unwilling or uncomfortable, let them opt out as they will not be effective.
The best scenario for landing that big gift is an appointment specifically arranged for the purpose of seeking the donor’s support. Hoping to ‘bump into someone’ at a function is no good.
If someone agrees to such a meeting then it can be assumed that their answer isn’t likely to be an outright ‘no’ and that they are interested in hearing what you have to say.
The meeting has only one purpose: to gain the donor’s commitment to give support. The conversation can wander from this from time to time, but the asker needs to be fairly firm in bringing the subject back on track.
The asker will be more effective if he or she finds it easy to talk with people regardless of their background or status. An easy, assured manner is a big help in gaining the donor prospect’s support.
Usually the donor prospect will reach a point when he or she says something along the lines of ‘I like what you’ve said – how can I help? ’, which leads you straight into the ‘ask’. If not, it is important to be specific about what you seek.
It is effective to ask for a gift that is in a range between one figure and another rather than be totally specific. If this level is beyond the donor’s capacity or willingness, then it is in order to ask the donor what level they would feel comfortable at.
Once the commitment has been secured, agree the exact details of how and when the payment is going to be made.
Once the details are agreed, wrap the meeting up fairly quickly, offering full thanks for the donor’s generosity.
Follow the meeting up with a thank you letter that repeats what has been agreed and send another letter of thanks when payment arrives.
Stay in touch with the donor with updates that show how their support has made a difference.