What You Need to Make the Ask
Major gift officers (MGOs) often ask Richard and me what they need to bring with them when they solicit a donor. Many of these MGOs have crazy ideas that they have to bring elaborate and expensive pieces with them to “make the sell.” Videos, highly designed 20-page proposals, expensive gifts. We’ve seen it all.
Let me tell you—you don’t need all that. I will give you a list of what you really need that will reiterate the points you made in your meeting and remind donors why your organization and specific project is worthy of their support.
The first thing to remember is any collateral material you bring with you cannot make the sell to the donor. I don’t care if it’s a 45-slide PowerPoint with emotional music playing in the background. If you are in a face-to-face meeting with a donor to discuss a gift, you should already be 90 percent of the way to a "yes" answer.
Meaning, all the work you have done prior to that meeting (stewarding donors' last gifts, sending them “You made a difference” updates, cultivating them by letting them understand you know them) has all been done.
Secondly, the work you have done preparing the next ask for this donor (discussing his or her passion, presenting new options of projects and programs to invest in, getting a good idea on how much he or she would like to invest to match that to a specific project) has been done.
OK, I’m getting to that list, but you see my point, right? Collateral materials are not going to get you a gift. They should only be used as a guide during your discussion, but mainly as a “leave behind” that reinforces what you already have covered in your meeting. If you rely on materials to sell your program or project, it’s a weak presentation. It’s about the quality of the project, the work you have done to prepare for the meeting and your presentation that shows donors you have listened to them.
Then, before you leave the meeting, you can hand the donor these items:
- 9-by-12-inch Folder. It should have a matte finish—not fancy—and reinforce your organization's brand with the name of the organization and logo.
- Cover Letter. A personally signed one-page letter from the president, thanking him or her for considering the project, specifically naming the MGO.
- Case Statement. A two- to four-page document—either 11-by-17-inch page, folded front and back, or two, 8.5-by-11-inch pages joined with a paper clip—that reiterates the case for the project. The case statement includes background, need, solution/impact, a specific paragraph directed personally to the donor with what you are asking, financials, and photos, if appropriate.
- Real Photos. If you have actual photos, put a few in the folder. It’s very powerful for the donor to have them actually in his or her hands. And make them big. Not tiny little things you can’t see.
- MGO's Business Card. Make it easy for the donor to get a hold of you if he or she has questions. But, most likely you will follow up with the donor.
The overall look should be clean, not fancy and overproduced, yet professional looking and easy to read.
That’s it. This is all you need. Remember, all this should do is reinforce what you already have said face to face. Many times donors will not give you a decision right away. They need time to think and talk it over with spouses or partners.
The great thing about this leave-behind package is that it’s versatile for different types of donor visits. Not every one-on-one donor visit is to make an ask. If it’s a first meeting with a prospect, you can include a piece about the organization, its mission, vision and history. You could add a piece that highlights several projects that a donor may be interested in, or even a video or photos that tell powerful stories.
So, there it is. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money. In fact you should not do that. You don’t want to give that impression. But, if you leave behind the appropriate materials that specifically address the donor and his or her passion, it will leave a strong impression on the donor and reinforce why he or she has decided to support your cause.
Remember, donors give because they have been inspired by the work your organization does and the work you have done to match their passions with the mission. Everything else is the cherry.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.