Insights
3 min Read
October 27, 2014

6-step game plan for your next major donor meeting

Imagine that you’re the Director of Development of a small nonprofit. Major gifts are on your mind, but you also have a million other things on your plate (like finalizing that annual fund letter you’ve been work on all week).

You need to be ready the next time your board member calls about a strong prospect for a major gift, but you’re not sure where to start.

Here’s a six step game plan to help you seize the moment, and get in shape for a successful major donor meeting—while keeping the rest of your fundraising machine on the move.  

1. Gather the facts. Fundraisers should always remember that giving is more about the donor than it is about the organization. With that in mind, the more you know about your prospect before the meeting, the better. So do a little research first. What other causes does this person care about? How familiar are they about the issues you tackle? How much do they know about what your work? Are they a more analytical giver, driven by evidence and numbers, or a more emotional giver, inspired by success stories that tug at the heartstrings? Try to have answers to some of these questions so you can make a stronger connection to your donor.

2. Plan your case. Once you’ve done your research, think about the story you will tell about your organization to your prospect in a way that feels specific and timely. Consider what challenges and needs your organization has right now, what projects and initiatives you’re working on to tackle these challenges, and—most importantly—how this person can play an important role in advancing your work forward. At Big Duck, we help our clients improve their messagingwe work on finding the most effective and accessible ways to talk about an organization’s work to their key audiences. For communications with major donors, it’s key that you have language ready to go that makes a strong and timely case for support.

3. Know how much you’re asking for (and if you’re even asking.) Deciding how much you’re asking for takes a good deal of strategy. Should you low-ball it—ask for a smaller gift first to get your foot in the door? Or be more ambitious— ask for a higher gift with the expectation that the donor might first say no. There’s some classic sociological research that debates the merits of both strategies. Google “Door-in-the-face technique” if you’re interested in learning more. And remember—major donor fundraising is all about asking for the right gift, to the right person, at the right time. You might find that it’s best to cultivate your donors a while before making the ask.

4. Assemble your team. Who’s doing the talking? While members of your Development team or your Executive Director may be your organization’s most experienced fundraisers, it’s worthwhile to think about what other points of view this donor may be interested in hearing. Perhaps a staff member who is leading an interesting new program who can help them to understand the impact your work is having by telling a compelling success story.

5. Gather the right stuff. At the end of any major donor meeting, your prospect should walk away with some materials to flip through to learn more about you, and help to fill in any blanks from the meeting. We like to call it a “leave-behind”—ideally a printed piece that leaves a strong impression about your work, and makes a case for support. Check out this impact report Big Duck worked on with Sharsheret, a supportive resource for Jewish women and families facing cancer, in honor of their 13th anniversary.

6. Keep your prospect in the loop. Incorporate your prospect as a regular and carefully handled segment of your ongoing communications. If you have an newsletter or regular email series, be sure to add them to the list so that your prospect has even more chances to learn about you, and see all the exciting work you’re doing.

What else would you add to the game plan? Share in the comments.

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