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Meeting with a major donor and getting what you want

Missed our recent Fundraising Refreshments webinar on meeting with a major donor? Check it out:

It’s no secret that building a strong mid-major program is essential in today’s world of fundraising. But it takes more than just a steady pipeline of prospects to bring in major gifts.

Major giving is all about relationships and conversations. Simply put: You have to know how to ask people for money—which is something that a lot of fundraisers actually don’t like to do.

The key is putting the donor first when going into any conversation or meeting. Don’t focus on the dollar amount you hope to secure. Understand the “why behind the what” to see the bigger picture and determine the motivations of the donor. And master the nuances to go beyond expectations for these donors.

Major donors are looking for these types of conversations. They're choosing to spend their time with you because they already have a passion for your mission, and they want to know what the vision is moving forward.

So how do you convey this to the donor in a meaningful way?

It’s all about properly structuring a conversation based on four principles:

  • Intention vs. reaction
  • Content vs. process
  • Content vs. context
  • Needs vs. solution

The first principle—intent vs. reaction—is all about setting the table for the conversation.

When you meet with a donor, you have a desired reaction, or outcome, from that conversation. Maybe it’s inviting them to be a member of the board. Maybe it’s encouraging them to participate in a committee. Or maybe it’s asking them for a transformational gift.

But what you say is not nearly as important as what they hear. Therefore, the message is really important. That’s why every conversation should start with intent. That tells the donor what you want them to hear, and then that really impacts their reaction.

Let’s see how that looks in a conversation with Mrs. Smith:

“Mrs. Smith, today, I'm so delighted to be here with you. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me. My intention today really is just to express to you the impact that you're making for our organization and the number of people that you actually are affecting. Because not only are you doing amazing work, but these people's lives are being changed because of you.”

Now Mrs. Smith already knows what I want her to hear. That will impact her reaction.

If I want her to invest in something, then I might follow up with: “Mrs. Smith, my intention today is to share with you the amazing impact that you've had on all of these people and talk to you about how you can continue to transform those lives. Is that OK with you?”

When you state the intention, you have control over what they hear. Then, Mrs. Smith can have an organic, authentic reaction that's allowed her to really be a part of the conversation and not worry about what's coming next.

The video above is a recording of my recent Fundraising Refreshments webinar on this topic. Watch it to learn about the next three principles, and as always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions about meeting with major donors!

Karla Baldelli

Karla is an elite nonprofit fundraising executive with a 25-year career in mid-level and distinguished donor fundraising, engagement and stewardship for major nonprofits. Her experience includes transformational roles with JDRF, Coast Guard Foundation, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, The Salvation Army and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. While at the American Heart Association, Karla built the first-ever mega-donor event, Honored Guest Day.  She designed the campaign architecture for the $100 million Mission Lifeline Campaign and conceived the AHA’s National Giving Society, Cor Vitae.

Karla brings strong leadership and strategic counsel for thoughtful, year-round donor experience strategies integrated throughout campaigns and giving channels. Her expertise is changing the culture of major donor programs, including educating staff with her proprietary training, the Power of the Donor Experience.  Since coming to RKD, she has implemented a holistic program - leading with data insights and centered on the donor experience and organizational execution - that results in more inspired giving and increased revenue.   

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