How to Raise More Major Gifts in 2018
A few major gift fundraisers asked why it is important to meet with prospective major donors. Do meetings with high-value, prospective supporters help secure the gift or raise more money? Why can we not just rely on communicating with them via phone, email or letter?
Below was my response, and I wanted to share it with the wider fundraising community in hope that it might be helpful for many other fundraisers who might have similar questions.
Why Meetings Work
When your prospective donors agree to meet with you, this usually means that you are drawing closer to securing a major gift. Why? Because major donors are busy people, and many other charities might also be approaching them to meet, thus when they agree to meet you, that means there is something they like about your organization.
Think about this: If people are not even willing to give you 20 minutes of their time, why do you think they will be giving you $20,000? Once they agree to meet you, it is your job to figure out how you plan to inspire and motivate them to support your cause in the future.
I would advise not to ask for money in your first meeting. After every meeting, you should ask yourself this question: "How much have I helped this prospect identify with our vision and mission?" Even if it is 10 percent, it means you are making progress.
Meet With More Prospects
Only speaking with prospective supporters over the phone or communicating via email and direct mail is not enough to really motivate them to a level where they can decide to give you large gifts. One of the secret ingredients in raising more major gifts is one-on-one meetings with your prospects—putting yourself in front of them, getting to know them, asking them what inspires them about your organization, developing the rapport and trust, helping them to understand your vision and mission and showcasing your impact.
One of the crucial KPIs for any major gift fundraiser is how many prospects he or she has met every month. More meetings indicate the interest in knowing more about your organization and, thus, the likelihood of them converting from a prospect to a major donor in the future is very high. Fewer meetings with your prospective supporters in a year can only lead to poor major gift results.
How You Get More Meetings
I recently met with Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s, one of the largest children’s charity in the U.K. He said something very inspiring regarding meeting potential supporters, which I would love to share here:
"I do not only meet people to ask them to give us money. I meet people, so we can talk about changing the world around us and to make a difference ‘together.’ Therefore, if we are ‘together’ in bringing about change, we will find a solution to make the change happen."
As a major gifts fundraiser, we should always ask ourselves a question: "Why do I think a prospect should meet me? So, we can ask them for money?"
Well, this is not a good enough reason, like Khan said, if people agree to join your hands in changing something, resources to make that change happen will come. Your job as a major gift fundrasier is to really find out what your prospect is looking for, what motivates them to say "yes" to your ask. If you give them what they are looking for, they will give you what you are looking for—very simple. Thus, continue to ask yourself what it is that you think your prospect is looking for.
You could ask people around you—your existing donors or your trustees. Find the common connection with your prospects who can introduce you and help you to book the meeting. As a high-value fundraiser, booking more meetings with potential donors is always on the top of my New Year's resolution list.
Ikhlaq Hussain is a philanthropy and high-end events specialist, currently head of major gifts at Orphans In Need, trustee at Mind in Harrow, board member at Institute of Fundraising (South East and London), founder of Ment-Hour and regular blogger on the topic of fundraising.