How to Ask for a Major Gift


A Beginner’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising Success: Step #3, How to Ask for a Major Gift

When it’s time to ask for a major gift from a donor, it helps to have a simple game plan.

First, set up a time to meet in person. This can be the hardest part! Donors are busy.

Start by giving them a call on the phone. Tell them why you’d like to meet (don’t leave them guessing!) and suggest a time and a place that’s convenient for them.

It may take a few phone calls, texts, emails, (carrier pigeons). That’s normal. Keep at it! If you can secure a meeting, you’re halfway there.

Once you have your meeting set, here’s your meeting game plan:

  1. Social time (5 minutes). Order coffee, ask about their family, be warm, friendly, and LISTEN.

  2. Deliver the fundraising offer (3 – 5 minutes). Share the problem, the solution, and how you’d like them to help. Ask if they’d be willing to give a specific amount. Aim for a higher amount than you think you can get.

  3. Sit quietly and wait for their response (as long as it takes!). Don’t talk. Wait for THEM to talk. Let the donor sit with the request and consider it. If it feels awkward, that’s okay. Take a sip of coffee.

  4. Listen to what they say and respond appropriately (5-ish minutes). Answer any questions they have. Address concerns. Listen for what’s important to them.

    If the answer is yes, thank them warmly and share any details needed for them to make their gift.

    If the answer is maybe, let them know when and how you will follow up with them.

    If the answer is “not right now,” see if you can find out more. Is it a timing thing? Have their interests shifted? You could try asking for their opinion on something related to your campaign or mission. This is a good way to keep the communication open and let the donor know you value them, even if they can’t give financially this time.

  5. End the meeting on time. Thank them, shake hands, then go to your car or back to your office and jot down any helpful notes from your meeting.

  6. Follow up as agreed. Be sure to thank and report back if they gave.

Once you get a few of these meetings under your belt it will start to feel natural — then you won’t have to think about the structure much. But as you get started… having a game plan can help you feel more comfortable and confident asking for a major gift.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Read the series:

  1. A Beginner’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising Success: Step #1, Build Your Portfolio
  2. A Beginner’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising Success: Step #2, The Plan to Build Meaningful Relationships
  3. A Beginner’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising Success: BONUS Simple Strategy to Build Relationships Immediately
  4. A Beginner’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising Success: Step #3, How to Ask for a Major Gift (This post)
Jim Shapiro

Jim Shapiro is the fundraising coach you’ve always wanted, the proven Sherpa who can help you get to the top of the mountain. Jim has 30 years’ experience raising money, including serving as the VP of Development for a global $100m nonprofit. He co-founded The Better Fundraising Co. to help small-to-medium nonprofits raise more money.

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