It’s not uncommon for a gift officer to tell me that she knows very well the organization’s major donors. When I happily follow-up this assertion with a few questions, I sometimes learn what is really “known” is the origin of the donor’s wealth and little else. In some instances, very little of import is understood about the donor personally.
This distinction is important. Understanding where donor wealth comes from tells us a good bit about the donor. However, it tells us little about her willingness, passions, interests, and goals for giving. And asking for a major gift without obtaining clarity around these more personal assessments is risky.
So, prior to asking a prospect for a major gift, I suggest you make 3 Appraisals:
- Wealth Appraisal – At what level could the prospect make a gift if she were motivated?
- Philanthropic Appraisal – In what ways has the prospect evidenced a willingness to make major gifts in the past?
- Interest Appraisal – How specifically do our mission, vision, and values align with the donors interests, values, and giving motivations?
In order to make these appraisals, the gift officer must learn more about the prospect’s personal life. For instance, what other non-profits does she support? Or, what hobbies occupies her interest and time? Or even, what are the life circumstances of her children?
Major donors, by definition, must have sufficient wealth and we must obtain clarity on the wealth appraisal. However, by understanding better our prospect’s philanthropic motivations and interests, we give ourselves a much better opportunity to successfully cultivate, solicit, and steward every major gift donor.