Always Ask Yourself, How Would I Feel as a Major Donor?
That is a good fundraising rule.
I love asking for a gift. I love the conversation about big dreams and changing lives. I enjoy helping people realize what a difference they can make. A little nudging is fine–that is what it takes for me to move sometimes. It’s a little challenging–we all need that.
I do not like putting people on the spot. I hate making them feel that they are under high pressure.
So another great fundraising rule is: Do not ask for a major gift on a first visit. That’s the first date. You are just learning about your donor(s). Granted, there are exceptions to every rule–your potential major donor may have self-identified at that level.
And that follow-up visit, I’ve seen some happen as soon as the next day.
I was reminded of this rule yesterday when visiting with a friend who is a major donor to a university. He is a graduate of one of the university’s colleges, and he is involved in two others. Let me make this clear–he is not involved in the college from which he received his degree.
The reason? The dean of the college invited my friend to lunch in his office. It was a first visit. They were in a building campaign—a great vision, indeed. However, the dean, for some reason, felt compelled to ask for a gift. Well, it was a $1 million request.
With just a few months more, the outcome likely would have been very different. I’d love to learn what transpired before “the ask.” I was shocked because the college has nationally prominent counsel that focuses on higher education fundraising.
But, in any event, they lost the gift. Two other colleges had the opportunity to bring this major donor closer into their fold. And he is a wealth of wisdom and passion.
Always put yourselves in your donor’s shoes.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.