Major Gifts: The Art, the Heart, the Ask and the Attitude
When you complete your ask, critique the session, regardless of the outcome. According to Robert Hartsook, chairman and CEO of fundraising consultancy Hartsook Co., some solicitation mistakes include talking too much, answering unasked questions, failing to follow up, acting like a beggar, not knowing what it takes to make a gift happen and approaching prospective donors without a strategy.
The goal of any fundraising professional is to generate gifts of time, talent and especially treasure. The only way to generate a financial result is to request it. Whether the solicitation is oriented toward individuals, corporations, foundations, associations or organizations, one must be prepared, practice a lot, have a strategy and view personal solicitation as an exciting challenge. Remember that information involving research regarding the prospect is vital. Be sure to have ready answers to prospective donor questions.
Practice solicitations with different individuals, and get others within and outside your organization engaged in the process. Evaluate each ask made, and take many notes. Always remember, key elements include relationship building, trust, and ethical and honest representations. Try to relax and enjoy the experience. Above all, show excitement and smile!
Finally, never take the process of asking for a gift too personally or for granted. You have the honor of representing your institution to many prospective donors, and this relationship is completely institutionally driven. Your ultimate goal over time is to seek an annual, major and planned gift from the same donor. View the prospective donor as one who could do a variety of wonderful things for your organization.
Always note that you are an educator, first and foremost, but you also must communicate the message. For many fundraising professionals, the ability to make and secure a successful ask is the most important determinate of success in one’s fundraising career. FS
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.