5 Things Not to Do at Your Next Major Gift Solicitation

title="STOP by Forrest August, on FlickrEven if you're working through the steps of the Ask Without Fear! system, asking for a major gift can be challenging.

Here are 5 things you definitely want to avoid on your next major gift solicitation visit!

5 Things Not to Do When Asking for a Major Gift

  1. Be late

    Seriously, you've already scheduled your major gift appointment. There's no excuse for being late. If you're flying, fly in the night before.

  2. Say "no thanks"

    If the prospect offers you something to eat or drink, try to do all you can to say "yes." They're just being hospitable. If nothing else, take a glass of water. For a coffee nerd like me, this means I need to drink awful coffee fairly regularly so I don't grimace in front of the prospect.

    More importantly, books like Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive share studies that show you if you get people saying "yes" to things during the meeting, they're more likely to agree with you when you ask for the gift. So why start your meeting with a "no"?

  3. Be a Ned

    Remember Ned, the stereotypical insurance salesman from the movie "Groundhog Day"? Don't be a Ned. A major gift appointment isn't about a schpeal. It's a discussion you're continuing. It's as important to listen in your visit as to talk. More importantly, actually.

  4. Meet over a meal

    This isn't a hard-and-fast rule. But in my experience, waiters and waitresses have an annoying habit of checking the table at exactly the wrong time. And there's the embarrassing dance around paying the check. (Here's a freebie: if you set the appointment, you pay the check!)

  5. Forget to ask!

    Seriously, we have an amazing way of talking ourselves out of asking! We tell ourselves lies like "The timing isn't right." Fortunately, if you set up the solicitation appointment correctly, the prospect will actually bring the ask up for you by saying something like, "Well, now what was it you wanted to talk about?" This can be a lifesaver, getting your visit back on track!

What would you add

Those are five things I recommend you avoid. What would you add?

Tell us in the comments below!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to https://fundraisingcoach.com/21-ways/


  1. Hillel Korin says:

    Always say thank you

  2. Rob Tonus says:

    Avoid eye contact

    Even if you're nervous about the ask, or feel a bit shy because of the person's position or influence, they need to feel that you value them as a person. Friends look at each other each other when talking, especially about serious matters. If you need to, practice with somebody else.

  3. Rob Tonus says:

    Appear disorganized

    This is your meeting, for something that matters to you. If you're fumbling for your presentation material because it's in your folder tucked in with other items, the donor might think your organization or project is poorly run. Have every last detail organized well ahead of time.

    • True.

      To a point.

      I've seen a number of board members tied up in knots because they weren't absolutely sure every single detail was prepared for.

      You need to have stuff ready. But there comes a point where action is more important than preparation...

  4. Eric Hawley says:

    Do not forget to check the background notes of your donor

    There is plenty of information in the database files on your donors. Quickly glance through past conversations and remember key details. When talking to your donor bring up the details they mentioned over the phone to you. It helps them remember the conversation, it shows you care about them, and you might hear a great story from their life.

  5. Abraham says:

    Dress for the occasion.

    If everything goes well send a thank you note and a gift with the company or nonprofit logo; and even if it dosent go well just send thank you for your time.:)

  6. I love meetings over meals, but agree that it's not good for solicitations. The server interruptions are generally predictably timed and the prospect doesn't have the luxury of assistants and office stuff to distract him or her or, horribly, terminate. But again, I don't like restaurants for solicitations.

    Cool post!


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What would you add?