It Really Works!

From the Author of Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call (Charity Channel Press)

Do donor identification/qualification calls really work? In the life of today’s busy fundraiser, are they worth the time? Why should you spend your limited time initiating new relationships that might or might not pay off?

While there are no absolute guarantees, I’m here to tell you that , conducted strategically, a regimented approach to qualifying prospective major donors is almost always worth your time.


My personal experience bears this out. After being appointed a director of development in 2001 in a higher education setting, I spent much of the next two years making discovery calls. I’d estimate that as much as half of my work time was devoted to this task. The reason for this was simple: many of our current major doors and none of our prospective major donors had ever been personally visited by a representative of the University. Hard to believe, huh?

While there were extenuating circumstances, all the time spent opening doors paid off. In December 2003, a little more than two years into my new job, I experienced a highlight of my fundraising career. During that month, I documented a total of eight new major gifts in support of WMU. At that time, a gift or pledge of $10,000 was considered to count as a major gift.

I can take at least part of the credit for this occurrence. There was no doubt that many of the gifts came to fruition because of my early groundwork two years earlier. During this time period, I traveled to the far reaches of the country to initiate new relationships. There was scarcely a rental car company or major hotel chain with which I was not familiar.

Lest I appear overly boastful, I should note that December 2003 was the last month of a five-year comprehensive fundraising campaign to celebrate the University’s centennial.Two of the eight gifts were specifically secured before year end because the donors wanted to be counted in the campaign totals. Of those two, one of the commitments was actually secured during qualification visit — a rarity in major gifts work.

The lesson? Discovery calls conducted with a focused approach do work. My personal experience bears it out.

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Published in: on April 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to be Wise in Major Donor Prospecting

Wise BoyFrom the Author of Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call (Charity Channel Press)

Regardless of how new donor prospects come to a non-profit organization — whether through a special event, direct-mail donation, or an online gift — they should be reviewed or screened to determine whether or not they might be financially capable of making a major gift. The review can be accomplished through a committee of volunteers with knowledge about the donor population, a wealth screening provided by a vendor, or a combination of the two. All available resources should be tapped. Having said that, while volunteers can be helpful, my experience has indicated that they are usually happy to provide advice but often reluctant to help you make personal contact with a prospect. Further, while wealth screening can give you some indication of a prospect’s ability to give, it tells you nothing about one’s inclination to do so.

My point is that while no available assistance should be overlooked, when it comes to qualifying prospective major donors, the professional fundraiser must always be prepared to do the “heavy lifting.” If you believe a prospect may have the ability to make a major gift, that person must be qualified through a personal visit, and more times than not that chore will fall to the fundraiser. For the organizations that do use volunteers to qualify prospects, congratulations and well done. Even in such cases there is still always going to be a portion of the prospect pool that can only be qualified without such assistance.

In addition to verifying capacity, the purposes of the qualification call are to determine 1) the strength of the prospect’s interest in, or affiliation with, the non-profit organization and 2) the prospect’s inclination to consider a major gift, given appropriate cultivation.

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Published in: on April 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Opening the Door — First Steps

thDid you know that fundraisers find the task of the discovery call even more difficult than asking for a gift? It’s true, according to an Association of Fundraising Professionals poll conducted in March-April 2011. 25 percent of the respondees found calling on a prospective donor to be most difficult, while only 18 percent said the “ask” was most challenging. This statistic is not a surprise to me. If you have never met the person before, the “fear of the unkown” can loom large. I personally think that many fundraisers are starving for ideas about how to start the relationship. It never easy to create a bond with someone who is basically a complete stranger. That’s why I wrote “Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call,” a new book that will soon be published by Charity Channel Press (watch this space for information about the book release). In the book you will learn ways to smoothly “warm the cold call” so the introduction will seem much more natural. I’ve successfully used the techniques to qualify hundreds of prospective major gift donors, so if you are looking for a solution perhaps you will want to check it out. Happy fundraising!

Published in: on April 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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