Pop Quiz: How to Approach the Richest People in Town for a Gift
Do the wealthiest people in your community seem beyond your reach?
Perhaps there’s a business person in your city who seems to have her fingers in most everything. She is the developer of the town’s most prestigious residential community. Her family owns or has a stake in several other area businesses. She has at least two homes in other places.
You see her name and the names of her other family members on the top giving levels of the symphony playbill and on the wall of the art museum. But your organization has never received a gift from her or her family. Your board members don’t hobnob in her social circles.
Now, your organization is planning a capital campaign and as you assemble a list of prospective donors, her name pops up. No one on your board knows her personally, but everyone knows who she is.
8 Ways to Approach a Wealthy Person When Fundraising
Take a look at the following list of eight possible approaches. Which of them would you try? Which of these answers are just plain wrong?
Quiz: What would you do?
There isn’t one right answer. But there a couple of answers that are just plain wrong. See if you can pick them out.
- Forget about her. She hasn’t given to you before and she’s not likely to start now.
- Start asking around your community to find out if someone you know knows her. If so, ask if they’d introduce you.
- Do as much research as you can on her and her family. Look for things that give you a clue about how her interests might connect to your organization and your project.
- Send her a well-written proposal asking for a big gift, then wait for a response.
- Call to schedule an appointment to ask her for advice.
- Have your executive director invite her to get acquainted and visit your program.
- Let her know that you are contacting the leaders in your community to let them know your plans and get their advice. And she, of course, is one of the people whose opinion matters.
- Honor her and her family at your next gala.
The Incorrect Answers
In our next post, I’ll discuss each of the best possible approaches in detail. But for now, here are the answers that are just plain wrong!
1. Forget about her.
Wrong! Never forget about the largest donors in town. Always be looking for ways to engage them. It might take weeks or months or even years, but they have the power to transform your organization. Don’t forget about them. Treat them well, find out who they are and what they are interested in. It will pay off.
4. Ask her for a big gift.
Wrong! There’s no chance that she’ll say yes. To ask for a big gift before you have build a relationship puts put her in an awkward position and is likely to lower your organization in her eyes.
8. Honor her at your next gala.
This may not be a wrong answer, but don’t honor someone until and unless you really have something to honor them for, other than their money.
Be sure to check out part two on this topic, where we take a look at the correct answers and go into full detail about the best ways to approach the wealthiest individuals in your town.
Andrea Kihlstedt is a co-founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. She is the author of "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work," now in its fourth edition, as well as "How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Sized Steps," in addition to other books. Andrea has been leading successful capital campaigns for more than 30 years.