More money is probably “left on the table” following a solicitation visit than actually “walks out the door” in the form of a signed pledge card.
Too many development officers/solicitors hurry or rush the solicitation process, diminishing the charitable gifts for the organization or school they represent.
The following are suggestions to help maximize your efforts:
There are no short cuts in the solicitation process.
We all know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but in fund-raising, you often feel like you wander through an endless maze before you reach the point of actually asking a prospect the magic words:
“Would you consider a gift of $____, over a three-year period?”
Frequently, inexperienced development officers look for the “short cut” in the solicitation process. But to be successful, you must find out what the prospect wants to “buy,” his/her “likes and dislikes,” and his general attitude about your organization and/or school.
These things are determined through what we call “discovery” or “preliminary” meetings. Prior to scheduling one of these meetings, you should:
- Research the prospect
- Establish a tentative ask amount in your mind
- Know your projects
- Be prepared to listen
- Fund-raising is simply relationship building.
- The more you know, the greater chance for success
There is a definite correlation between the number of preliminary meetings you have with the prospect and your eventual success rate. We believe it is not uncommon to have 10-12 preliminary meetings prior to making the “ask.”
If you are a good listener — and I might say, this is one of the qualities a successful development officer must have — you will approach the big day with:
- The right solicitation team
- The right proposal
- The right project
- The right ask amount
If you rush the solicitation process and ask for the gift after only one or two meetings, you will probably “leave money on the table” and fail to maximize the prospect’s full potential.
Every preliminary meeting should include the following:
- Be sure to thank the donor for all previous gifts. (Know the amount.)
- Listen 80% and talk 20%. Do not take notes in this meeting. You have to remember what was said and write your comments immediately after the meeting.
- Go from general to specific when talking about the school and/or campaign projects. Talk in terms of “people” who will benefit from this campaign.
- Do not promise something you cannot deliver on yourself. If you have to get something from someone else, then its best to say, “I’ll talk to _______ and try to help. Always, always do what you say you are going to do!
Every preliminary meeting should result in the following:
- Determine who would be the best person or persons to make the solicitation.
- Determine an ask amount. A good way to determine this is to mention several leadership gifts the campaign has received and “read” the reaction or body language of the prospect. A comment by the prospect that “Oh, I couldn’t do that much,” probably indicates a request at a lower level that the one you mentioned. This step is by no means scientific, but through trial and error, and several meetings, you will get a pretty good feel for what the ask amounts should be.
- Determine if there are issues that would prevent the prospect from considering a proposal. If the prospect is upset about something, it is always good to use the words and phrases; “I can understand how you feel,” or “Thanks for sharing that with me.”
- Determine the prospect’s attitude toward the school or organization.