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FUNdraising Good Times

POSTED: May 23, 2016, 9:00 am

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Personal solicitation is the backbone of nonprofit fundraising. It is also an area that many organizations and institutions shy away from. Learn how to improve revenue from personal solicitation.

Because it is impossible to personally solicit every current or prospective donor, personal solicitation is reserved for individuals who can make a major gift. While the definition of a major gift will vary by organization, what’s most important is the care and planning that goes into soliciting these gifts. Here are some suggestions followed by things to avoid.

The fundraising chair or development staff person should meet individually with each fundraising volunteer to learn who they are comfortable soliciting, and the size of the gift they want to ask for. During this confidential meeting you can share names of current major donors and/or prospective major donors. The purpose is to learn who the volunteer may have a relationship with, and who they want to solicit. You can also ask if they know who would be the ideal solicitor for other prospective donors.

Allow at least a one-year window for the solicitation cycle. This gives each solicitor the time she needs to determine the right occasion and place for each solicitation. Several cultivation activities may be required for some prospective donors. For others, a one-time meeting is ideal. It all depends on the relationship between the solicitor and the prospective donor, and the relationship between the nonprofit and the donor.

Before matching major gift prospects with board members, staff or fundraising volunteers first carefully consider the relationship between the solicitor and the donor. Don’t make blanket “assignments:” that’s unfair to your volunteers and your donors. Volunteers should be matched with donors based on the relationship between the two, and the willingness of the solicitor. The matches between a solicitor and donor are not always obvious. Invest time in making the right match.

When contemplating an ask amount, don’t assume that a donor who gave at a certain level to a similar organization will want to give at the same level to yours. Don’t confuse people you “suspect” may have the interest and financial capacity to make a major gift with those you know have the interest and capacity. Don’t expect to receive major gifts within a 90-day period (or less!). It’s nice if that happens, but don’t plan on it.

We talked with one volunteer solicitor who proudly shared with us that he is a major donor and a major gift solicitor for an organization he believes in. Each year he asks 10 people for $10,000 each. He has been soliciting many of these individuals for years, but each year there are a few new prospective donors. He sets an appointment with each, asking “I would like to take you to lunch to share updates on our organization, and to ask for your support.” These luncheons are looked forward to, and provide the donor with a consistent personal contact and source of information.

Next week: More ways to grow your personal solicitation program.

Copyright 2016 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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