Getting in the Door

The most effective way to inspire a donor to increase their giving and make a major gift to your organization is by making a solicitation in person.  When you are able to look a donor in the eyes, share the impact of what their giving has accomplished and ask them to increase that impact with a bigger investment you not only increase the likelihood of a successful solicitation you are also able to read the donor’s receptivity to the ask through their responses and body language.  When a donor nods their head in affirmation of the vision you are sharing you can feel optimistic about their willingness to help.  When they respond by telling you to contact their wealthier friends you might be barking up the wrong tree.  

Whatever their response, making the solicitation in person is a better and higher use of your time when working to build your major and planned gifts program.  The trick, however, is not making the solicitation but rather successfully convincing a donor to meet with you in the first place.  The following are some ways you can increase the likelihood that donors will meet with you and help your organization increase its impact:

  1. Send a Pre-Visit Letter:  For many major donors and major donor prospects they feel a strong connection with the leadership of the organizations they support.  Because of this, it can be a powerful and convincing message when the President or most visible leader of an organization signs a letter on behalf of a solicitor asking a donor to take a meeting.  These letters tell the donor that a solicitor will be in a donor’s area in the coming weeks and it would mean a great deal to the President if the donor would take a meeting with the solicitor so he/she can thank the donor and give an update on the impact of their giving.
  2. Host a VIP Reception:  Donors like to feel special and important to the organizations that they support.  Hosting a special reception with a guest speaker or as a way to highlight your programs is a great way to encourage donors to come out of the shadows.  These receptions should be exclusive and low or no cost to the donors.  As you watch the RSVPs come in be sure to assign members of your development staff to engage with your best donors and prospects during the event and try to set up follow up meetings where updates and future solicitations can take place.
  3. Thank You Calls: Donors love to be thanked.  There is nothing more refreshing to a donor than when they answer a call from an organization and the person on the other line thanks them for their generosity rather than making another solicitation.  However, the most strategic organizations use these calls to receive helpful feedback about their organization as well as determining if major gift donors and prospects would be open to a visit in the future.  Make sure that you provide volunteers and staff who make these thank you calls good talking points that include a request for a visit.

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