In his "Major Gifts Solicitation Guide," Alexander Macnab, president of Chicago-based Alexander Macnab & Co., offers 14 tips to help fundraisers become more successful in their attempts to obtain major gifts for their organization:
- Solicitors must make their own gift or pledge first.
- Solicitors must know the story and the needs of the organization and of the campaign.
- Solicitors must know as much as possible about their prospects.
- Solicitation assignments must be made selectively, on a peer basis or with "name and/or title impact" in mind.
- Solicitation of Development Committee, Board of Directors, and all leadership gift prospects must take place in the context of a personal visit.
- Have a dollar figure in mind when conducting a solicitation.
- Solicitors should be able to relate the interests of prospects to particular gift opportunities to establish the campaign initiatives.
- When calling with more than one person, solicitors should decide who will say what to whom and in what order.
- Solicitors should sell the objectives of the project, not the tax advantages.
- Solicitors should allow the prospect to answer questions, voice doubts, and respond to the proposal. Listen and respond to the individual's point of view. Talk 20 percent of the time and listen 80 percent.
- Never argue. Criticisms and objections are possible signs of interest.
- Follow up -- a "thank you" note, an answer to a question, confirmation of the next meeting date, or whatever is appropriate -- should be conducted immediately following a call.
- Solicitors should debrief the development office as soon as possible following the call.
If you keep all of these points in mind when conducting a major gift solicitation, you should find the process a lot less stressful.