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Does Asking For Money or Falling Short of Your Fundraising Goals Scare You?

Asking for money can be a scary proposition. Managing the proper activities and orchestrating a team of people to conduct these activities can be overwhelming in the midst of everything else that an in-house development director or one (wo)man band has on his or her plate. Having a system, the right team in place, and following a plan can alleviate the fear before you even get to the request meeting.

Major Gifts can lay a foundation that put you well on your way to your annual fundraising goals or at this time of the year, icing on the cake. Whether you are just getting started with you Major Gifts Program or you want to revamp your team to hit the ground running in 2018, we have compiled a treat for you with some of our best tricks!

  1. Define Your Major Gift Opportunities. What is a major gift for your organization? For nonprofits with a smaller annual budget, this may be $1,200. For more established nonprofits with larger budgets, this may be $25,000 or greater. Define how these supporters will be recognized at each level. (Develop your Stewardship Plan before you ask for the first major dollar… more on this next month as a nod to Thanksgiving.)

  2. Choose Your Farm Team. Have a point person and a diverse team to help plan, implement and march your major gift program towards the win!

Who are the players?

  • CEO/President

  • Board members

  • A key development staff leader

  • A program staff liaison

  • Invested volunteers

What are their responsibilities?

CEO/President: Give credibility to the organization and should be a part of key donor meetings

Board Members: Assist in evaluation of donor pool; Accompany the CEO/President or Lead Development Staff on donor meetings (Determine at what giving level board members should attend donor meetings to add credibility and reflect a board-invested organization.) and Conduct peer-to-peer donor meetings supported by the nonprofit.

Key Development Leader: Plays the point guard, not necessarily the lead scorer; directs donor moves management and ensures stewardship plan implementation.

Key Development Staff Leaders & Program Staff Liaison: Assist in evaluation of donor pool; Engage their staff in identifying potential major donors; provide anecdotal information on donor relationships; Participate in donor relations.

Volunteers: Assist in evaluation of donor pool; Connect the CEO/President or Lead Development Staff to potential donors; and Conduct peer-to-peer donor meetings supported by the nonprofit.


  • Provide donor touchpoint forms

  • Schedule debriefings

  • Coordinate donor touch-points across the organization

  • Think relationship-based not transactional

  • Compile anecdotal information on donors

  • Review donor of focus and meeting objectives in weekly staff meetings

3. Establish Your System and Train Your Team. Establish the system that you will use to keep your donor activities on track.

  • Find and Evaluate: Conduct background research on your potential major gift donor. Consider past charitable giving, other involvement in nonprofit work, real estate ownership and stock ownership.

BOOnus TRICK: 3 Things to Help Evaluate a Donor’s Potential

  1. Is the donor connected or will they connect with your mission?

  2. Is someone on your team able to contact them?

  3. Do they have the capacity to donate at a major gift level?

  • Designate: Two development team members should be assigned for cultivation, briefing and asking the identified donor. This eliminates double asking and moves the donor towards a relationship versus a transactional bubble interaction.

  • Cultivate: Spend time building a relationship with your donor. You’re hoping to teach your donor about your organization and how their gift will help achieve your goals. You’ll also be able to learn more about the donor’s connection to your mission (or beneficiaries), when, why, and how they like to give, and how they want to be stewarded. This critical step helps you design a well-informed solicitation strategy.

  • Brief: Share with your donor a specific project or challenge that they could help solve and how it furthers the mission.

  • Ask: Complete the prior steps, go into the meeting with a specific objective, request, and next steps. Practice with your development team before making an ask and be prepared for any direction the conversation may take. A well-defined case for support and a proposal are effective tools for the conversation. (For more tricks, visit us at and send us an email with How to Make an Effective Ask in the message.)

  • Stewardship: Thank your donor and keep them informed and engaged for life. (Tune into our Facebook Fan Page on Tuesday, November 7th at 9:00 am EST.)

4. Keep a Global Record of Scheduling, Meeting Outcomes and Next Steps. Create an At-A-Glance spreadsheet so that your team can troubleshoot challenges by identifying the correct challenge or downfall your team is experiencing with scheduling and meeting with your donor pool.

5. Create Checkpoints. Check in with the team at key intervals through the year to ensure that progress is on track and to troubleshoot and provide activity solutions to push towards your annual major gift goals.

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