One of the most helpful but underutilized strategies available to gift officers is the incremental invitation.
After making a gift of $2,500 in 2022, a donor who has been giving consistently for the last few years, is assigned to a gift officer’s portfolio. Not knowing much about this donor – save the giving history – the gift officer establishes a visit for discovery purposes.
The visit goes well, but the gift officer is still attempting to discern the capacity and willingness of the donor to be more generous and, potentially, make a major gift commitment in the future.
Toward the end of the visit, the gift officer says,
“I have really enjoyed our time together. Thank you, again, for your consistent and generous giving and for visiting with me today. I’m fortunate because a big part of my role is to meet with generous folks like you and learn more about the impact they want to make through their giving. For instance, I regularly engage with donors who give at the $5,000+ level each year. These are our annual giving leadership-level donors, and I wondered if you might be willing to consider a gift at that level this year?”
This incremental invitation approach has two advantages:
- Early in the burgeoning relationship, it offers the gift officer great insight and information on whether this particular donor might be a major gift prospect in the future, and;
- It communicates to the donor that the gift officer’s role (in addition to being a friendly and affable representative from your institution), is to discuss the specifics of the donor’s giving and invite increased gifts.
Inviting a more modest (but still significant) gift from a donor, even early in the relationship, is a helpful way to learn more about the donor’s thinking while keeping the risk of appearing unappreciative for past giving to a minimum.
Gift officers sometimes talk about multi-year, major gift commitments as if they happen simply because donors have the capacity and decide to act with generosity. But far more often, multi-year, major gift commitments are built over time with a gift officer who has helped educate, encourage, and escort the donor through a specific process of increased gifts.
Inviting incremental gifts today will lead to major gifts tomorrow.