What You Know Is More Important Than What They Know

Time to make the call on the prospective donors.  You know which call it is – it’s the ask.  This is big.  In fact, it’s the biggest ask you’ve ever made of a prospect.  You’ve set up the meeting and a member of your Board will be with you.  You’ve created a call script.  You’ve even practiced it with the Board member.  You know the talking points and the messages cold.  You’ve got your case statement, a customized proposal, and you even have a hot-off-the-reel, super-cool video you plan to show her on your iPad.  You are ready.

But. . . .are they ready?

You answer this question silently by reviewing in your mind all of the materials you’ve sent to their attention.  They have shown up at more events this year than ever before so they know the case for support and the needs.  You have visited with them prior and you’ve had an opportunity to make the case and they have agreed that your institution is worthy of support.  Yes, they are ready, you say!

Well, maybe not.

When we ask ourselves the question, “are they ready to say yes to a gift solicitation?” we tend to answer it by reviewing a checklist in our minds of all the reasons why they should be ready.  They have heard the case – perhaps multiple times.  They understand our needs.  They attend events.  In other words, they know what they need to know to say ‘yes.’  We convince ourselves that they must be ready!

However, we often misunderstand a simple truth of the major gift giving process.  Namely, our role is not solely to get the prospect to better understand us.  Our role is to better understand them.

So, in answering the question, “are they ready to say ‘yes’ to a gift solicitation?” we should start by asking ourselves other questions.  Here are five of my favorites:

  1. What other institutions do they support and why?
  2. From whom did they learn to be generous?
  3. What is it about our institution that draws their support?
  4. How do they make decisions about where to give?  Who is involved in these decisions?
  5. Where do we rank as a priority in their giving?  And do they have current major commitments already in place with other institutions?

Of course, there are other good questions we should ask ourselves to see if our prospects are ready to respond affirmingly to us.  But these are a good start.

Do you know the answers to each of these questions for your major gift prospects?  If not, you probably aren’t ready to ask them.  Because what really matters is not what they know about us.  It’s what we know about them.

1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Excellent response to major gift officers. I have noticed that in all your advice blogs you advicate for a donor centered approach to out reach. I know you are right. How do I become a Jason McNeal student? Thanks.
    Debra Martin

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