Talking Points for Your Next Major Gift SolicitationSince writing about the exact words to say on your next major gift ask, many have asked me for what to talk about during the meeting, both before and after the ask.

What to say to a donor prospect

Here are 5½ things you can say on your next major gift visit:

  1. Hi

    Having a genuine relationship with a donor significantly reduces any jitters you may experience during the meeting. And having a relationship often starts with something as simple as saying "hi." Asking for money may be new to you, but it's likely not new to them. If you're asking them for a major gift, they've probably been approached by other organizations too. And they may have even been asked by your organization. (Remember, this isn't necessarily their first date.) So start by being human and saying, "hello."

  2. Thank you

    Every major gift visit should be conducted from a posture of gratitude. A posture of gratitude fills you with confidence. The alternatives are postures of entitlement or desperation. Entitlement is the awful "do your part" twaddle spouted by many well meaning but ineffective membership drives. And even if you are desperately in need of their money, don't let it show. People don't give to need, they give to success. Leading with gratitude can be a way to signal to them that your nonprofit is successful at its mission. Find something you are sincerely grateful for: their past support, their leadership in some area of the community or nation, or simply the fact that they agreed to meet with you. And use that gratitude as the "home base" for your interactions.

  3. I agree

    An important part of most conversations is helping make the other person feel comfortable. In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini states: "...as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like." Finding sincere areas of agreement is a very simple way to start helping even someone you just met know and like you. And it can often start with something as simple as, "I agree."

  4. A specific dollar amount

    A major gift solicitation isn't a solicitation without an ask! So in making the ask, specifically let the donor know what you'd like him to consider giving. Being specific shows them respect and allows them to answer more clearly. For more on this, including specific phrasing to use, read the post on talking to your steering wheel

    4.5: If I don't hear from you, may I give you a call in a week?

    No matter how well you prepare, sometimes the donor will say they'll need to think about it or talk it over with someone. That can be fine, but don't just leave it there! Walking away without a follow up plan leaves the donor in charge of following up. And no matter how much they love your nonprofit, they won't be as eager to follow up with you as you will be to hear from them. They'll leave the meeting and life will happen. Their silence will get you into in a weird head game of wondering when to follow up, wondering if you're bugging them, and wondering what their silence really means. Stop the weird head game before it starts! Ask them permission to follow up.

    The best part? When you do follow up, you can say something like, "As I promised, I'm just checking in..." or "When we met last week, you asked me to follow up..." You'll feel much more confident in making the call--you're only doing what they asked--and it sends the right message about your organization--we are the kind of people who keep our commitments.

  5. Who else should we be talking to?

    A goal of every donor solicitation should be to build your prospect list. Whether the donor says "yes," "no," or "maybe," you should always be asking them who else you should be talking to. Phrases like "Who do you think needs to know about this?" or "Who else should have a seat at the table?" are great questions. Sometimes it helps to narrow down the group for the donor. For some reason, a general question can overwhelm the brain of the donor. Rather than "Who else should we talk to?" it can be easier for them if we ask "Who else at your CEO club should we be talking to?" Narrowing the group down actually helps free them up to think of people, even people outside of the group you mention. "Well, I'm not sure about the CEO club, but you know...you really need to talk to Joe about this."

What would you add?

Those are 5½ things I think you can talk about at every major gift solicitation. What would you add? Tell us below in the comments!

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