Nine Tips for Major-Gift Solicitors
8. Questions, objections and dialogue
Answer the questions as best you can, but don't get into a debate. If you're unsure as to how to properly answer a specific question, tell the prospect you will find out the answer and get back to him or have one of the staff provide them with the details. (Make sure you or staff follow up promptly.) If the donor offers a gift significantly lower than what was requested, you can supportively ask if they might be inclined to give a more substantial donation if they could pay off the gift over time or structure it as a deferred gift, with certain tax benefits. Do not press if they indicate that what they had offered is the limit to what they want to do.
Thank them as enthusiastically as possible and ask them to complete the pledge card. If they indicate that they want some time to think about it and discuss it with others, thank them for their consideration and request a specific time when you can get back to them for a response. Think of yourself as an enthusiastic salesperson … you are not "begging." Make sure that you are a good listener as well as a good presenter.
Let your prospects know how important their support is to the campaign, and ask them if they can introduce you to others who also might be interested in your important work.
Once the gift is closed, stress the importance of your organization's need for cash by the end of the year. Thank them, and have them complete the pledge card.
9. Follow up
Make sure 1) that appropriate staff and/or leadership are briefed on your solicitation and any new leads, and 2) that there are follow-up communications thanking the prospect -- even if a gift was not made. A handwritten thank-you, from the individual who initially set up the appointment and/or was the solicitor, in addition to whatever is sent officially by the organization, is always appreciated. Solicitations should be a positive experience for the prospect. A successful solicitation can set the stage for future involvement. An unsuccessful solicitation can turn off a donor to the campaign as well as to future potential for support.