Scenario: A major gift officer has set up a Discovery visit with a prospective major gift donor. This prospect either has never given to your institution or she has given infrequently and modestly to annual appeals or giving days (i.e. all gifts well under $1,000).
During the Discovery visit, the gift officer realizes that the wealth indicator scores prospect research had provided were spot on. In fact, they may not capture the actual wealth of this prospect. Based on the conversation with the prospect, the gift officer has learned of a vacation home in Arizona and a months-long vacation the family is planning for later this year.
Similarly, the prospect has nothing but glowing comments about the institution and its mission. The prospect even came to an event and had a chance to visit briefly with the CEO and was impressed.
The bulk of the ingredients for consistent and generous giving appear to be in place. And, yet, this prospect has been neither consistent nor exceptionally generous with her giving.
Opportunity: In this scenario, the gift officer has an opportunity to quickly clarify another important variable that needs to be present for major gift giving to occur. Specifically, the gift officer could invite this prospect to make a “leadership-level annual gift.” Typically, that would be $1,000+ at most institutions. The conversation could go something like the following:
It’s been a real joy for me to put a face with a name and have the opportunity to learn more about you and your relationship to our institution. I especially appreciated you sharing the positive feelings you have for our mission and our leadership. Every week I meet with other donors who share with me similar sentiments and it occurs to me that you might be willing to join many of them by making a gift and becoming a member of our “Leadership Circle.” This is a gift of at least $1,000 and, each year, these donors serve as the backbone of support for our mission. Is this something you’d consider doing?
Outcome: Regardless of the prospect’s answer, the major gift officer learns valuable information. For instance, if the prospect immediately says, “yes, I’ll/we’ll gladly do that,” then the gift officer learns that this prospect could potentially, over time, develop into a major gift prospect. Therefore, she should stay assigned in the gift officer’s portfolio.
However, if the answer is some form of “no,” or “not right now,” the gift officer learns that this prospect is not a good candidate – at least at this moment – to stay assigned in the portfolio.
There are three critical questions major gift officers should aim to answer during Discovery visits:
- Does this prospect have the financial capacity to make a major gift?
- Does this prospect value the mission (or some portion of the mission) of our institution?
- Is this prospect generous?
The first two questions can, at times, be easier to answer than the third. One helpful way to gather increased clarity around question #3 – even during a Discovery visit – is to offer the test gift invitation.