Most donors – most people – appreciate feeling special. Most folk enjoy feeling admired, important, distinguished, and significant. People, generally, respond favorably to feeling valued.
On the other hand, almost no one likes to feel targeted. To feel like they are the only one being asked. Or that they are the first one being asked. Or that the success of an entire campaign or capital project hinges on their generous support. Most tend to avoid that harsh spotlight.
The subtleness of this distinction is important.
If you want to ask a donor for a lead gift and you recognize that they may appreciate feeling special but not targeted, you might frame the invitation to give by saying,
“At this early stage in our campaign, we are in the process of talking with our most generous donors – and you and your family are certainly in that group. We are inviting gifts of at least six figures. . . . Would you be willing to help us get this campaign started with great momentum and consider a gift at that level?”
Or, if you want to introduce to a donor the idea of making a planned gift, even early in your relationship with them, you might say,
‘Thank you again for spending time with me. Hearing more about your history with our institution and what it means to you is heartwarming. In fact, your story reminds me of the stories of I’ve heard from so many others with whom I get to visit. And, as I reflect on what you have said, it occurs to me that your experience sounds a lot like the experiences of people who have made the decision to include our institution as a beneficiary in their estate plans. Have you already included our institution as a beneficiary in any estate plans or would you ever consider doing so?”
In both examples, the gift officer is indicating that the donor or the prospective donor is in a special group of people. People who care. People who are generous. People who are valued.
And simultaneously, the gift officer is assuring this same person that they are not being targeted. In fact, we are talking with a number of others right now. Or, you remind me of others who have already done what I’m introducing to you as an option. You are not alone.
Subtle phrases that frame our messages thoughtfully can be the difference between donors feeling valued or pressured.