By Rob Woods
- Get clear. More appointments per month with current and potential donors can only lead to improvements in major gift income. If you get fewer or the same number of meetings it is extremely unlikely that your results will improve.
- Understand that meetings are the best way to increase trust; trust makes massive gifts possible. Potential major donors will only give at a significant level once they have a strong sense of where the money goes (i.e. that it is urgently needed, and that it works) and they trust you. It is impossible to achieve these two objectives if they don’t meet you / representatives of your organisation. Each time they meet you, they are likely to get more sense of the difference that donations make, and to trust you more. So, as a major gifts fundraiser, most of your job is about ensuring that you arrange as much face to face contact with potential and existing donors as possible.
- Set a target. If you don’t already have a monthly target for the number of appointments, coffee meetings or event attendances you are going to arrange with potential and existing donors, set one today (even if you modify it later). There is no single action you could take this year that will be more powerful in improving your results, than knowing what you’re aiming for.
- Do three actions to improve donor relationships every morning, before you do anything else. One of the most successful fundraisers I’ve ever met, puts much of her multi-million pound success down to her discipline to talk to donors as soon as she gets into the office. Her rule of thumb is to improve her relationship with three current or potential donors before going anywhere near internal-facing tasks. So at the very least, she’s aiming to make progress with 15 donors every week. This much donor contact can only lead to increased trust and therefore donations.
- Focus on helping the other person. Never pick up the phone for your reasons, ‘please my manager’, ‘must make my target’ or even, ‘to help our beneficiaries’). Pick up the phone because you genuinely believe (and are focussing on the idea) that it is in the donor’s interests to become involved with your organisation. Once you have understood and practise the distinction between these two mindsets, (i.e. you call to give not get)…everything changes.
- Sit up straight, with your shoulders back and chest out. Even if you don’t feel like it you will feel far more confident when the body language you choose is that of a confident person. The reality is, as soon as you adopt more upright, assertive body postures your biochemistry changes. As Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School demonstrates in this inspiring TED talk adopting power poses, even only briefly, affects the hormones that your body releases, making you feel and sound more bold and in control.
- Associate to (focus on and feel, so that it comes across in your voice) how great it will be to attend the event you’re inviting them toe.g. tell them how interesting or inspiring your head of programmes is when she talks at the brunch meeting; or why you’re so excited about this particular thank you event at that Very Special Venue.
- Hold a prospecting event. This might be a breakfast meeting where your head of programmes will talk about progress with your new service or a champagne reception to say thank you (ideally without an auction and raffle). If you don’t have any budget to organise something, perhaps your organisation is holding another event which you could tag a (sponsored) VIP drinks reception onto. Send invitations and follow them up with calls. At the event, make sure you and your team chat to everyone and find out who is interested enough to agree to meet you for coffee. Clear your diary so that you can follow up the next day.
- Pick up the phone. Then do it again. The only way to get better at persuading people to meet you is to jump in. Sit up with your shoulders back, smile, focus on how they’ll benefit and… call a past or future donor to persuade them to meet you. One of the people who attended the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, fantastic fundraiser called Lois from the National Library of Scotland, once secured 56 meetings with wealthy people in less than a month. You don’t need to compete with her (clearly everyone has a different donor file) but I do invite you to compete with yourself, and notice how as you do so, your major donor income cannot help but increase as time goes on.
About the Author
Award-winning trainer Rob Woods has worked in fundraising since January 2000. Originally a major gifts fundraiser for the NSPCC, since becoming an independent trainer and coach in 2007 he has helped thousands of fundraisers and directors, chief executives and trustees.