by Tony Poderis
Solicitor To Major Prospect Matches
Not just anyone should ask a major donor prospect for money. Ideally, prospective donors should be asked to give by someone likely to have a high degree of influence over them. The key here is to choose a solicitor whom the prospect respects. Qualities to look for are:
Respected and influential solicitors must do more than simply ask for donations, as hard as that may sometimes be; they must present a compelling case for support.
Major Donor & Prospect Profile:
The essence of a good solicitation is knowing as much as possible about the individual or family from whom you will be requesting a contribution. Find out everything you can about a major individual donor's interests, past philanthropic activities, and philosophy of life.
Technical details on how to print out the Donor and Prospect Profile
Those responsible for their organizations' fundraising should be able to answer the following questions about every prospective donor they plan to contact:
When seeking money from prospective donors we must be able to see our organization from the prospect's point of view. We must anticipate how a prospect is likely to react to a request that he/she support a particular cause, program, or project.
Prospective major donors will give when they have been convinced of the value and need for their gift, when they are personally asked, and when the solicitation comes from the "right" person-- someone they respect and who can make a strong, credible case for support.
Volunteer or Staff Solicitors?
And just who does the primary asking for money for your organization? Is it done by volunteers or staff?
While thinking about this particular question, I found myself reflecting on a change I have witnessed in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves. There is a tendency these days to describe our work as fundraising and to call ourselves fundraisers. I have always thought of the volunteers as being the true fundraisers and we development professionals as the people who develop the atmosphere for that fundraising. To some extent, this may seem like an exercise in semantics, but I think it is a great deal more.
Many development professionals today enter into consulting agreements or are hired as staff to "raise funds." Sometimes they even seek to be the fundraiser for the organization they serve. The result is that these development professionals and their organizations have blurred the once clear difference between the fundraising role of development officers and that of trustees and other volunteer leaders.
The Major Risks: When Staff Asks For The Money:
If a staff member does the asking instead of a volunteer who is a peer of the prospective donor, then:
Besides, how many "doors" can a single staff person open in the first place relative to time constraints and the volume of prospective major donors who must be solicited? And many of those "doors" will not open at all to admit staff for gifts of this sort. With the right solicitor, a peer of the donor, preferably of higher station, those doors will be opened with a smile.
I have distilled all of the most important solicitor characteristics into 5 key qualities. The following is an overview of how I would see the solicitation effectiveness when made by staff vs. volunteers. Oversimplified, to be sure, but wouldn't you want the best possible five out of five positive characteristics working for you when seeking major gifts?
(1) Volunteer Solicitor Can Give More Than Prospect: When the volunteer solicitor’s ability to give to a cause is the same or more than that of the prospect, then the following qualities are all shared:
(2) Volunteer Solicitor Can Give Less Than Prospect: When the volunteer solicitor's ability to give is less than that of the prospect, the following qualities are shared or not shared:
(3) Staff Member Is Solicitor: When the solicitor is a staff member, the peer relationship between the solicitor and the donor prospect is removed, resulting in the following qualities being shared or not shared:
What do you say? Wouldn't you rather have five out of five of the best chances for major gifts working for your organization?
Remember the Basics
I heard a workshop presenter once say that successful fundraising can be summed up in just three words: "Relationships, Relationships, Relationships." (You get the idea.)
That's what Major Gifts are all about -relationships. Donor solicitors are key to establishing those relationships and ultimately obtaining the major gift. Choose them wisely, prepare them well, and watch the relationships grow.
Tony Poderis is a fundraising consultant for non-profit organizations and brings over 30 years of fund development experience, including 20 years as Director of Development for The Cleveland Orchestra. He is also a fundraising Speaker-Specialist consultant to the United States Information Agency and the Mexican Government. You'll find Tony at his webpage: http://www.raise-funds.com/
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