As development professionals we are constantly called upon to properly prepare our volunteers for the often-daunting task of a face-to-face solicitation. We all know the advantages derived from the personal visit compared to a phone call, letter or brochure. Whether your solicitation team is requesting a seven-figure gift or a three-figure gift, the amount of time you spend researching your donor and preparing your team for the solicitation will be directly related to your success rate. At Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) we insure that the volunteers with whom we work are well prepared and thoroughly trained through the use of what we call the Leadership Solicitation Briefing Document.
If you are not using a briefing document now, you may wish to begin taking advantage of this helpful tool. At a minimum, a Leadership Solicitation Briefing Document should include:
List the full names, titles and companies of all the members of your solicitation team, including your name and company as well. Include their basic contact information so that the team members can stay in contact.
The full legal name of your prospective donor.
The prospect’s complete home address, home phone number, home fax number and home e-mail address.
The prospect’s place of business, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address. In two or three paragraphs, outline the nature of the company; it’s locations and what the prospective donor’s role over time in the company has been.
DONOR’S RESUME/VITAE & PERSONAL PROFILE:
Include a brief synopsis of the prospect’s significant past work experience, alma mater, hobbies etc.
RELATIONSHIP TO THE ORGANIZATION:
List the prospective donor’s relationship, if any to your organization. (Board member, volunteer, service recipient etc.)
List the exact date, time and location of the scheduled solicitation meeting. Include directions to the location and a phone number to call in case you are delayed.
List all your objectives for the meeting with the prospective donor. They might include things like: solicit a leadership gift of $100,000 per year for each of the next five years; recruit to accept a campaign leadership position; enlist help to recruit/solicit others at the same gift level.
- Greet the donor and break the ice
- Update the donor on the campaign plans
- Present the case for support
- Make a specific gift request
- Handle the response
- Set the follow-up action required
- Leave printed materials and request letter (excluding pledge card)
Each of these points should include who is responsible for handling that part of the presentation.
Here you include bulleted points to remind the solicitors of issues to raise during the meeting: facts about the prospective donor; specific issues that concern them about the organization or campaign; statements thanking the donor for past support throughout the community; insights gained about the donor from feasibility study interview; possible level of support indicated by the prospect during the feasibility study; whether the donor indicated any interest to serve in a leadership capacity; whether the donor would help solicit other prospects at the same level…etc
Following is the sequence of events programmed to occur at the meeting with the prospective donor:
- Break the ice – 5 minutes. Put the prospective donor at ease. Engage in genuine small talk. Let them seat you. Keep talking as the solicitation team is being seated. Ask questions about their family, a recent trip or their business. Thank them for agreeing to see you. The purpose of this is to get everyone relaxed.
- Present the Case for Support – 10-15 minutes. Talk about the excitement of starting the XYZ Campaign. Have each person jump in with 2 or 3 reasons why the campaign is important to the prospective donor and to the community. Make all your points as relevant and as personal to the donor as possible. Talk about the needs that the campaign will cover. Let the donor know that you have done your homework and that many believe they would be supportive of the campaign.
- Ask for the gift—BE SPECIFIC! Have a designated person ask for the gift. Explain to the donor you have come personally to ask for help. Let the donor know if you have made a commitment to the campaign at a similar level of support. Tell the donor you have come to ask personally for them to do three things; Consider making an extraordinary gift of $100,000 dollars per year for five years for a total commitment of $500,000 dollars; Accept a leadership position on the campaign executive committee (Chairperson, Honorary Chairperson, Leadership Gifts Chair, Major Gifts Chair, Community Chair, Corporate Chair, etc.); Help recruit and solicit other donors at the same level.
HANDLING THE RESPONSE:
Don’t worry about anticipating every possible response. In most cases, there are only four probable answers, and most responses can be reduced to one of these:
- “YES” (roughly 10% response rate)—This response is easy enough to handle—Thank them for their generosity and let them know that you will draw up a formal Letter of Intent.
- “NO” (less than 5%)—This response is unlikely if you have done the proper research. Don’t lose any sleep over preparing for this response.
- “I DON”T KNOW if I can give $100,000 a year, but I will give you $10,000 a year” (approximately 15%) If you are sure that this is the best they can do, accept it and thank them profusely. If, however, you think they simply may be making a quick decision and if given more time would consider making a larger gift, you should graciously ask them to take some time and think your request over.
- “I NEED SOME TIME TO THINK ABOUT THIS” (more than 70% respond this way.) Thank them and let them know that you understand that this is an extraordinary request and that they need time to talk it over before making a decision. Set a firm date and time for a follow up meeting.
LEAVE THE MATERIALS:
Leave behind a printed brochure about your campaign, a formally written request letter thanking them for agreeing to meet with you and including a recap of what occurred in the meeting. Let them know that you look forward to following up with them and hearing their thoughts.
All the above is offered as a suggested way to choreograph your solicitation and develop a briefing outline that includes the information that you need to be most effective. Using a solicitation-briefing document allows you, as the development professional in charge, to control what occurs during the actual solicitation meeting. All the information mentioned above should be distributed to your solicitation team well ahead of the scheduled meeting with the donor.
Where possible, you should hand deliver this to every solicitor and review it with them personally. This begins the rehearsal process and lifts this call to a higher level of importance—just like the personal solicitation does for the donor. Be specific when you assign who is going to say what and when. Hold one or two training sessions several days in advance of the meeting to go over the information and to role-play. Have your team switch roles so that each is comfortable with several roles. Finally, make sure you schedule the solicitation in the prospective donor’s office or home, not anywhere else. The more formally you approach each major solicitation meeting the better results you will achieve.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.