For most orgainizations, the vast majority of contibutions they receive will be small, but the majority of their income will come from a few big donations. That’s why it’s essential to have a clear understanding of how to get those big donations. Grassroots fundraising expert Kim Klein lays out the basic principles of securing major gifts and provides a step-by-step approach to the fine art of asking. She also answers some common questions about the care and feeding of major donors.
What should you do if you go with someone from your board and that
person makes a fool of you and your organization?
This depends on what the board member does to make your organization appear foolish. If it is a matter of the board member talking too much, interrupt from time to time and turn the conversation back to the prospect with a phrase such as, “Yes, that’s a good point, Talking Board Member. What do you think of that, Ms. Bucks?” If the board member gets into an argument with the prospect or swears or gives out information about the organization that is inappropriate, try to change the subject quickly. If all else fails, say to the prospect, “Well, thanks for seeing us. I’ll be back in touch. Let’s go, Foolish Board Member.” Afterwards, get that board member off of the Major Gifts Committee, and apologize to the prospect. Keep in mind that the prospect is rarely as aware of how foolish someone seems as you are.
What if the donor promises a certain amount and then sends less?
Send a gracious note for the amount received and don’t mention that you thought it would be more. Next year you can return for a higher gift.
What about sending a person to solicit a gift who is not a donor to
the organization but is personable and charming?
This is a mistake. The chances of getting a gift are significantly reduced when the person asking has not given. It doesn’t matter whether or not the prospect is told. At some level, the prospect will intuit that he or she is being asked to do something that the solicitor has not done. The gift the solicitor makes does not need to be the same size as the prospect’s, but it must be significant relative to the solicitor’s resources. Sincerity is much more important than charm.
How important is it to name a specific amount?
In a study of New York City panhandlers the panhandlers that asked for a specific amount, or for a specific purpose (“So that I can get on the subway”) were more likely to get something than those who asked for the vague “spare change.” The same is true for larger gifts. “We need some money for our important work and we would like you to help” is too vague. The prospect
doesn’t know how much money is needed, or what an appropriate gift would be. Is $50 too cheap? Is $1,000 ostentatious? Is there a plan for the use of the money? Say something like, “We need $10,000 for our community organizing project, and we hope to raise $5,000 of that in gifts of $50-$500. Can you help?” Or, “We want to raise $15,000 in gifts of $200-$1,000. We have already received $5,000 from ten individuals, and hope that you can give $500.” It is
much more convincing and specific.
What if I can’t answer a question that I am asked?
Whatever you do, don’t make up an answer. Say you don’t know the answer but you can find it out and let him or her know. If you do say you will get an answer to a question for a donor, do so as promptly as possible.
When during a meeting should I ask for the gift?
Toward the end. Use the beginning of your meeting to connect with the donor and to make a “case” for support of your organization. Bring the donor up to date on the organization’s activities, talk in some detail about one or two particularly exciting projects, and give the donor the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns he or she might have. Ideally, all of the donor’s questions or concerns should have been answered before he or she is asked for the gift.
If my organization is in a serious financial crisis, should I tell the
donor that or not?
If donors are going to invest in your organization, they should have the benefit of knowing about your financial health. Don’t dwell on the crisis, but let them know that it exists and provide them with all of the excellent reasons you know that the crisis will pass. Then move on to the positive developments and efforts you are making to ensure the organization’s financial stability.
Should all donors be treated the same?
One thing that fundraisers do wrong is to treat everyone alike by making
assumptions about what people want. And often these assumptions are very wrong. What they need to do is ask each individual what most interests him or her about the organization, and how he or she would like to be treated.Then they need to treat donors differently, based upon what they learn from asking.
When individuals indicate that they are interested in certain aspects of your program, you should be providing them with information about those aspects of your program, not other aspects that don’t interest them. And you should be asking them for support for those aspects of your program.
For instance, experts believe that older people give for different reasons than younger people, and that women give for different reasons than men. As an example of this, if you are an environmental organization talking to a 75-year-old about cleaning up an environmental problem over the next 20 to 30 years, you should not be talking about how this solution is going to impact on his or her future. Instead, you should be talking about how it’s going to impact his or her grandchildren’s future. On the other hand, if you are speaking with someone who is 25 or 30 years old, cleaning up an environmental problem would affect his or her future directly and the wise fudraiser will discuss the issue accordingly.
For most orgainizations, the vast majority of contibutions they receive will be small, but the majority of their income will come from a few big donations.
Grassroots Fundraising has many excellent books about fundraising and publishes The Grassroots Fundraising Journal.
The Grantsmanship Centerin Los Angleles is an excellent resource for information and training on Management, Proposal Writing/Grantseeking, Foundation/Corporate Funding, Government Funding, Fundraising, Nonprofit Business Ventures, Internet Issues, Consulting, Nonprofit Law, and International Funding. They offer a free magazine subscription to staff members of nonprofit organizations and you may access articles from recent issues. www.tgci.com