The major gifts officer plays a crucial role in higher education advancement. While some advancement team members work on large-scale strategies to reach and appeal to large groups, major gift officers must be a lot more specific in their tactics.
In many cases, this involves formal meetings with alumni and other supporters. The first of which is needed to set the stage for a long, strong and beneficial relationship.
How can your team prepare for a first major gift meeting? This approach should help:
1) Targeting the right major donor prospects:
Unfortunately, your future major donors are unlikely to just raise their hand and tell you they’d like to give. Often, it takes detective work to identify those with the most passion for your school and the ability to give large amounts.
This step is as important as any. For advancement teams with limited resources, spending time and resources on meetings with prospects that are unlikely to offer a major gift can be a big burden.
2) Approaching your prospect:
Once you have identified who you want to speak to about major gifts, how should you start the conversation? You can consider different strategies depending on the size of your team and the number of targets you’ve identified.
If the workload won’t be too much, you can always set a call list and slowly go through it. In these calls, you can share upcoming projects and ask if the supporter wants to learn more about how they can help.
If you have a smaller team focused on major gifts, or a list too big to reach one-by-one, you can also try some tactics to have supporters identify themselves, such as sending a mass email and asking those interested in learning more to respond.
3) Preparing a general advancement presentation:
You are likely to take on a series of major gift meetings, and luckily, much of what you want to share with these prospects will be consistent. Usually, this will include highlights of the impact your organization has had, an overview of upcoming projects, and information on your school’s long-term vision.
You may want to prepare this general presentation so that in can be used in a few different formats. In some cases, you will meet with a prospect in a boardroom and be able to share a PowerPoint-style presentation, but in other cases, you may be meeting in a home or coffee shop where it’s easier to look at a printed document.
4) Adjusting the presentation for your prospect:
Of course, one size does not fit all when it comes to building a relationship with a potential major donor. From specific areas of interest to ability to give, there are certain things you will want to change or emphasize in your presentations.
By asking the right questions on phone calls before the meeting, you can get an idea of what matters most to your supporter. You can supplement this by taking a close look at the data in your advancement CRM, which should show you their donation history, events they have attended, campaigns they have responded to, and useful information like age and occupation.
5) Planning for the follow-up:
On occasion, your major gift prospects will be ready to contribute right away. More often, though, the meeting will be just the first step towards a longer process.
It’s important, however, not to leave the meeting unsettled. There should always be a follow-up plan in place, even if it is just calling back six months later to check-in.
If the donor is clearly interested but not entirely convinced, you should have other next steps ready to offer. For example, you can invite the supporter to your office to meet more members of your team, or suggest that they attend an upcoming event your organization is holding where they can experience the passion so many others have for your school.
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