As a former major and principal gifts officer, and through my interactions with hundreds of fundraisers across the country, I’ve encountered many situations where fundraisers are not gathering the right information before they make a solicitation. Highly effective fundraisers should be meeting or exceeding a 75 percent closure rate. Principal level gift solicitations should be even higher.
In my experience as a practitioner and as an advisor, I have found there are five key data points to study during the cultivation phase — before you move forward with a solicitation.
Who are the right team members to involve in the cultivation and solicitation? Who can influence the gift?
- Natural partners (donors, personal friend, business associates or family members with a connection to the prospect)?
- Development officer?
- Hospital administrative leadership?
- Board Member/Volunteer?
- Physician or nurse?
What is the right project(s) to solicit for?
- How well does the prospect’s passion coincide with the project or mission?
- What experiences have they had with your organization in relation to the gift?
Who is the right person or people to cultivate and solicit?
- Husband, wife or both?
- Financial or legal advisors?
When is the right time to solicit?
- Is the donor receptive to a solicitation?
- Is your team ready with roles assigned and properly rehearsed?
- Is any required documentation ready?
- Have you anticipated questions, concerns and objections and answered them in the presentation?
- Is the financial climate conducive?
- When will the family members be together?
Where is the right amount to solicit?
- Is there data available that confirms wealth?
- What is the donor’s financial capacity?
- Have they gradually increased their giving to your organization?
- Have they made large gifts to other organizations?
- Does their age or stage in life impact what they could give and how?
- What level of support, if any, have they already indicated?
- Are they expecting a solicitation of this magnitude?
- What other commitments do they have?
- What economic conditions are they facing?
As with most situations, preparation can make the difference between mediocre results and absolute success. Philanthropy is central to delivering on your institution’s mission, so carefully considering these five data points before you ask is worth the extra time and effort.