A Dozen Tried and True Donor Cultivation Tips

By Major Gifts

The best cultivation technique I’ve ever found is this: If you want to do something nice for someone, don’t do it for them.  Do it for someone they love. Send their spouse a birthday card or bring over cranberry nut muffins.  Sweatshirts for their kids.  A gift to their newborn grandchild. The best ever?  I wrote a letter to an alumnus and told him his dad was a treasure to our institution.  The guy never forgot it. Flowers, as a thank you, a get well, or a congratulations never, ever, fail. If your donor has an assistant, your donor spends more waking hours during the

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13 Keys for a Good Visit

By Major Gifts

No doubt you and your colleagues are making lots of visits at this time of year.  Here are 13 tips for a good visit I’ve learned along the way: Never be late. If you have to wait for the person you are meeting, do not sit down.  Stay standing.  If you sit, when the person you are meeting enters the room, he or she will be looking down at you.  This is not the way you want to begin. Your demeanor should project quiet confidence.  Not cockiness.  Quiet confidence. Remember to do these four things, all at the same time, when greeting your

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Donor Contact: Email, Phone, or What?

By Major Gifts

“A donor has invited me to contact her, but I don’t know her preferred means of communication!  Help!” There are only four, thank goodness!  Email, text, phone, or handwritten note.  Very rarely these days will you send a letter, especially if you are looking for a timely reply. If your connect with the donor was in person, hopefully you asked, “I’d be glad to!  Shall I give you a call?” and they may have said, “Email me!”  In other words, try to get a clue when you are with them. Otherwise, here’s what I do.  I don’t like to catch

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What’s In a Call Report?

By Major Gifts

I’m often asked, “What is best practice to include in a summary of a fundraising donor visit?” Here’s what I do: To me, they’re “call reports.”  Never include anything in a call report you would not want your donor to read.  The odds are, they never will, but donors do have the legal right to read information gathered about them.  I’ve heard of that happening and of the fallout when less-than-flattering comments are read. Type your call report directly into the donor’s record on your database.  Donor Perfect and Raiser’s Edge have places for this and I assume other donor

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How to Negotiate the Gift

By Major Gifts

There!  You did it!  You asked for the gift.  Good for you! You asked in a genuine, sincere way, with quiet confidence.  You asked for a dollar amount, to be sure, but you didn’t ask for money. You asked the donor to help make something important happen at your organization. That’s the key. Now what? Watch, and listen. Watch carefully the expression on your donor’s face because it will tell you a lot.  Did the person expect this?  Is he or she comfortable with it?  Or uneasy?  Their initial expression will tell you what they are about to say. If

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Exactly How to Ask for a Gift

By Major Gifts

Major gift work is like painting.  Professional painters will tell you that 90% of the job is in the preparation.  The time and care you take in prepping the wall (that is, preparing the donor for your ask) will determine how things turn out. I want to be sure of three things before I ask.  One, I know enough about the donor to have at least a ballpark sense of her or his capacity to make a gift.  Two, I have a pretty good sense of the project the donor will respond to with interest.  And three, there is some

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The Three Relationships with Every Major Gift Prospect

By Major Gifts

Remember the Manager, the Prime, and the Asker. Those three roles exist in every major gifts relationship.  Go ahead, think about one of your donors.  Who is the Prime?  Who is the person your donor best relates to, is most comfortable with?  Who does your donor think of most often when he or she thinks of your organization?  Who do they like to hear from?  Who do they like to see? Who is the relationship with? It may be you.  Or your boss.  Or the CEO, board member or faculty member.  Figure it out.  And make sure that person understands. 

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Swing for Singles

By Major Gifts

Swing for singles.  Don’t swing for home runs. There is so much pressure on major gift officers in our profession today.  “We need a big gift and we need it NOW!” You are nodding your head as you read this because it pretty much sums up the feeling you get.  You don’t have the time you need to develop the relationship to the point where that big gift is realistic.  It’s a major issue. Or, you want the recognition, the “high,” that comes from reeling in that big gift.  We all do. Can I gently offer this thought?  Be out

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My Number One Donor Mistake

By Major Gifts

The number one mistake I make when working with donors and prospects? I work too fast. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true.  I have to catch myself, time and again, and work very hard to not do that. Please don’t make this same mistake. Whether you’re on a visit, sending an email, making a phone call or writing a handwritten note, every contact with your donor has to appear to your donor as though he, she, or they are the most important priority in your world at that moment. If we’re thinking about our next visit, looking at

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