In this webinar, author, speaker and consultant Gail Perry, CFRE, MBA shares her secrets for bringing major donors – and mega gifts – into your organization.

Full Transcript:

Steven:All right, Gail, is it okay if I go ahead and get started officially?

Gail:Sure, let’s get started officially, everybody. Hello, hello.

Steven:All right. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Raising the Money of Your Dreams with Donor-Centered Major Gift Fundraising.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just a couple of housekeeping items for you before we begin. I just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on today if you didn’t already get those. So if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to review the content later on, have no fear, we’ll be sending all those things out for you in just a couple hours after we conclude today.

As you’re listening today, please feel free to send in any questions or comments our way on the chat line. I’ll be looking at those, Gail will be looking at those as well and we’d love to answer all your questions in as much time as we have at the end of the presentation. So don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands, send those questions over. You can do the same on Twitter. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter stream as well. So don’t be shy, we’d love to make it as interactive as we can.

One last bit of housekeeping. These webinars are usually only as good as your own internet quality and internet connection. So if you have any trouble connecting, especially with the audio, we find that the audio by phone is much better than the computer audio. So don’t give up on us if you have any trouble. Do dial in by phone if you can. There should be a phone number for you in the confirmation email from ReadyTalk from when you registered, so try that if you have any trouble.

If this is your first webinar with us, just want to say an extra special welcome to you. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest like Gail for an educational session, one of the favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But in addition to that, our core business is offering donor management software.

So if you are interested in maybe taking a look at what we have to offer or maybe you’re thinking about switching next year from your current provider, check us out. You can download a quick video demo of Bloomerang right there on our website. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. So check it out. Do that after the presentation, don’t do that right now, but we’d love for you to learn more if you’re into that.

But right now, I am super excited to introduce one of the best in the business. We’re really honored and blessed to have Gail Perry here on the line with us. Hey, Gail, how’s it going?

Gail:How you doing? Glad to be here.

Steven:Yeah. Well, thanks for doing this. I know you’re super busy, you’re traveling all over the place speaking, giving keynotes all the time, so Gail was really nice to fit this into her schedule. And you’re all in for a treat. I just want to brag on her a little bit before I hand things over.

If you don’t know Gail, you’ve got to follow her, you’ve got to log onto her blog at Fired-Up Fundraising. She’s been doing this for over 30 years. She’s an internationally recognized fundraising consultant, keynote speaker, like I said, does lots of training, lots of writing for many leading publications.

She’s great. She was named one of the top 10 of America’s top fundraising experts. She is the author of “Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action.” She’s going to talk major gifts today, but if you want to learn more about all of her board expertise, definitely check out her blog at Fired-Up Fundraising.

She started her fundraising career over at Duke University and then she went on to actually lead fundraising at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she’s dialing in from today. Check out her blog. You can read her articles in places like “Fundraising Success” magazine, the “GuideStar” blog, “Capital Campaign Masters.”

I don’t know how you have all this time to do all that writing with all the speaking and consulting and the awesome things you do Gail, but you’re great.

Gail:It’s a lot.

Steven:It is a lot. People want to hear from you, so I’m going to pipe down and let you tell us all about donors and major gifts. So take it away, my friend.

Gail:Great. Well, this is terrific and I had fun writing this description and we are really going to talk about how to raise the money of your dreams and I’m going to introduce a new concept that I’ve been working on lately—donor-centered major gift fundraising. I am hearing an echo now in the audio. How does the audio sound to everybody? Steven, there you go, now I think it’s muted.

I’m going to share with you today what I truly believe is a kinder, gentler, much more fun and much more successful to raise big money. So does this sound like fun to everybody? Does this sound like fun? And if you haven’t said “hello” in the question box, say “hello” and I’d love to see where you are and your organization. It’s so wonderful to celebrate the nonprofit community here and, yes, we’ve already talked about Duke and Chapel Hill where I have been, and then, yes, you’ve heard all about me. You don’t need to know any more.

But while you’re saying “hello,” I have a really important question. Hey, Kathy Cara at the family house in Winston. I see some fellow North Carolinians. And, yes, I’m Southern, so there are going to be few “y’alls,” I hope you don’t mind. It’s San Antonio, Omaha, so wonderful to see everybody checking in and saying “hey.”

But tell me, let’s just brainstorm, how much money is really out there for your nonprofit, but you don’t have the time or the resources to go out and get it? How much money do you really think is out there for your nonprofit and you just can’t quite get it in? Because that’s a really important figure. I’d love to hear from some people, and while you’re sharing that, just enter it into the question box. I won’t use your name, but I want to talk a little bit about what I’m calling this donor-centered major gifts.

This is a workshop I did in Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. When you are donor-centered about your major gift work, that’s why I think it’s easier, more fun, and a more successful way to raise money. What I mean by donor-centered is that you’re taking the lead from the donor. And I’m going to share with you ways to let the donor take the lead so that you don’t have to do all the work and how the money will flow in without you having to do a hard ask.

So I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Also, people are starting to share how much money is out there. Paula says easily another $1.5 million, and half a million, too much money is out there and billions, billions. Andrea says, “How do we determine?” I want you to know your gut idea of how much money is really out there.

So here’s the thing. If you think there are millions or hundreds of thousands out there available to the organization but you don’t have the time or the money or the resources to go get it, then let’s figure out how to make it happen for you because just think . . . Mary Kay says, “limitless amounts.” Julie says “millions.” Andrea says “$2 million or more.” But this is the number that you use to go to your board and go to your CEO and say, “Maybe we need to talk fundraising strategy, because if there’s this much money out there, then let’s invest some money in major gift fundraising and maybe cancel a few events and put our resources and our focus where it’s going to pay off the most.”

Because that’s what’s so frustrating to so many fundraisers is that they spend their on unproductive activities and unproductive fundraising. So I want to support you to go have a strategic conversation with the people who are making decisions. Or if you’re a decision-maker, have a strategic conversation with yourself, right? And really think strategy. What are we doing this year or this coming year and how are we doing it and why are we doing it? If we just shifted a little bit, couldn’t we raise more money?

So today, I’m going to share with you a lot. I’ve got a lot of little goodies but I’m not going to drill down deeply because this is sort of like a big time skim over major gifts. We’re going to talk about my top 10 favorite easy questions to get donors to talk to you and to find out what’s on your donor’s heart and mind and their hot buttons.

And by the way, this is new content. If you heard me before, this is brand-new stuff and I’ve been working, working on it lately so I’m happy, this is my first reveal today at Bloomerang. And by the way, let me say about Bloomerang that Bloomerang makes my number one fundraising software that I recommend and they didn’t ask me to say that but I absolutely believe that this is the best one and I think that these guys, Jay and Steven, who are helping to create Bloomerang do an amazing job and they really care. They care about the centers, they care about you, they care about the clients.

So let’s get started. You’ve got major gifts out there, right? You’ve got millions. But you need to get organized. This is so funny, everybody tells me they don’t have enough major gift prospects. I mean, I hear it all over everywhere I go. “We don’t have enough major gift prospects.” I’m going to give you my favorite prospecting strategies and I’m going to shock you a little bit, right?

We are looking for what we call a qualified prospect. I know this is a technical term but it’s very precise. What does it mean for a prospective donor to actually be qualified? A qualified donor is somebody who’s got wealth and financial capacity, they’re interested in your cause, and yes, you can cultivate them. If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S. and you’ve got a donor who loves you in Japan, it’s very difficult to cultivate this donor because they’re so far away, including the time zones, so I tend to focus on donors who are closer at hand because I can actually reach them and cultivate them.

So if you’re looking for qualified major gift prospects, where do you look first? Well, I want to introduce a concept and a lot of people are talking about this, not just me, that this is the Dorothy School of Fundraising, that there’s no place like home to look for major donors because they are sleeping inside your current donor files. In fact, somebody on my consulting team, Katherine Gamble, calls it “latent capacity,” for a technical term, in your donor database. She joined our consulting team and her most recent campaign as staff, she raised $50 million for the North Carolina Museum of Art from 280 prospects and 80-90% of them were already donors.

So I personally think that you should look more deeply at your current donors and see more deeply who might really have the capacity. And one of the things we like to do is to see who’s given a substantial gift in the past 18 or 24 months because I would suggest that those are your most likely prospects, right? You might have somebody who made a gift years ago substantially but I’m not so sure, I think it’s been a long time, and probably you want to look not too far away past two years.

I’m starting to get a little beep in the audio so, anyway, just let me know if the audio’s okay. By the way, Deidre says a major gift’s defined as $2,500. Everybody wants to know the size of a major gift and I frankly think that it depends on your organization and how much money you’re raising. I mean, a major donor at Stanford University may be $100,000 and a major donor at a small nonprofit may be $2,500 or even $500. So it just really depends. Good question.

Let me share with you my five favorite prospecting techniques. The first one really is to look inside your donor files. You know those 10 questions I’m going to give you? What you do is that you use the telephone to engage and qualify your donors. And you can do an awful lot of qualification over the telephone. I know everybody’s scared to death, perhaps, to pick up the phone, but I will tell you that you probably want to use the telephone to qualify your donors so you can determine whether you should invest your time in going to see them, because you’re trying to evaluate, “Should I spend my time with this donor or that donor?”

And I’ve got an older lady here, and why do you think I have an older lady? Because older ladies make more gifts, right? And they may be more likely to pick up the telephone. I don’t know about that. They may still have landlines. But studies show that older women, compared to older men, make more frequent gifts and make larger gifts.

There was just a big study of worldwide donors and, like, 76% of all donors were women. So one of my tips for looking for new prospects is that you want to be thinking about the older ladies that you might be neglecting, and she might welcome a visit. For younger donors, I don’t know about using the phone, but I do know that I fish where the fish are for major gifts and I go for the older people. Studies show that millennials and younger people do want to give but the size of their gifts are far, far smaller than the size of gifts that older people make. So that’s the general data.

So use the phone and use some of these questions I’m going to share with you too. My friend, Eli Jordfald, who is a big fundraiser at the Cancer Center of the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she works for a hospital. Anybody work for a hospital here? She searches for what she calls “wealth indicators” when she’s doing discovery on the telephone. She asks, “Now that you’re out of the hospital, are you planning to travel?” And if they say, “Well, we’re going to take the RV down to Florida,” that’s one thing, but sometimes they say, “We’re going to go on an around-the-world cruise.” So that’s a wealth indicator.

This is a humorous slide because not everybody has the capacity to reach these donors on the phone and to have a hospital question. But if somebody says, “I’m just an old country boy,” what do you think that means, just an old country boy? It means they’re a dead ringer for a million-dollar prospect. Hands down. Give me a comment if you’ve ever run into that before, give me a comment.

Now, I also believe that if you are an enterprising fundraiser, and again, this doesn’t work for a far-flung organization, but if you’re a local organization, go to community events because you can reach and access VIPs in so many different ways. And this is a political fundraiser I had at my home and, actually, there’s the first lady of North Carolina there in the pink. But it’s not hard to find events that VIPs are going to attend. The Chamber of Commerce has events. There’s civic events.

When there’s a downtown arts festival, I volunteer and I see people. I would also suggest that you should volunteer and become somebody in your community who’s known. I volunteered in politics forever when I was younger. I still do. And now I know everybody. Just $50 can get you into a local political fundraiser and then you can get to know your elected officials. So be active in your community.

I think that if you are active in your community in any way, it gives you a little bit more stature in front of your donors, so you’re not like the lowly fundraising staff person. Everybody says, “Oh, these VIPs are out of reach. I could never reach them.” I don’t agree. You don’t have to shell out money for a $500 gala. Sniff around and see what you can do.

And also, this is a porch party. That’s me in the red jacket. I hosted for my friend Cynthia who is running for office last spring and she did win—yay. As a board member, your board members can host events like this that are nothing but meet and greets. I know we struggle, struggle, struggle with board members having the nerve or the willingness to have an event like this, but you have to convince board members that there’s not going to be an ask, and if they invite 60 people, half of their friends will come who are interested and the other half of their friends who are not interested are not going to come, so all the board member’s doing is just issuing the invitation.

So I think if we lower our board member’s fear about what’s going to happen if they happen to see it and it’s just a cheerful fundraiser, then I think they are more willing to spring into action and you can really get a lot of wonderful, wonderful connections created if they’re willing to do this. I would far rather have my board members host a meet and greet or host a tour or coffee or just a social in which there’s just a little tiny introduction to our organization. I’d far rather them do that than ask them for 10 names, because they’re not going to give them to you anyway.

Paula says, “Are you comfortable with including, ‘This is not a solicitation event,’ in an invitation?” I think that’s awkward. I mean, if you feel like you need to say it, you can say it. If your board member who’s hosting really wants to say this is not an ask event, that’s fine. You want to make your board member comfortable. As board members, I’ve hosted porch parties and I send out the invitations by email and it was pretty casual but fun and there was a thought to ask like, “We hope everybody here is going to want to get involved, let us know.” It’s social, so you can’t do but so much hard fundraising.

Then I want to talk about screening sessions. You all probably know what screening sessions are. That’s when you put together a donor list or a list of potential donors. Maybe this is how you figure out who’s really the latent capacity in your database. You take the list to some other donors or board members and just review the names with them. I’ve written some blogs on screening sessions at Fired-Up Fundraising and if you go to my site, there’s a search box in the upper right-hand corner and you can type in some words and phrases and pull out a little article about it.

There are two kind of screening sessions. One is a small group gets together to review a list and there’s specific rules for screening sessions you should follow that are on my blog. And also there’s a one-on-one screening session in which you can get a whole lot more private information if you are just alone with another donor. It can be awkward to ask somebody to review a list. So what you might say is, “Would you mind brainstorming with me about some potential donors? Would you mind brainstorming with me about some potential donors?” And that is a lovely way to ask for permission to talk about other people’s money. Definitely be sensitive and careful to that.

Then of course we’ve got wealth screening, and a lot of people are using wealth screening. I believe in wealth screening but I’ll tell you right now that it’s got to be vetted and you cannot take wealth screening . . . I’m sure you already know this. You can’t take wealth screening data for granted. You can’t believe it 100%, so it’s just one more piece of data that goes into your research on a prospect.

The thing about your prospects is that . . . and this is when we’re going to go into our donor conversation. The best prospect research is done face to face in conversation with your donor. The best prospect research, the best way to identify whether somebody is a major donor with capacity or not is interviewing this person and asking them this series of questions.

You are still doing deep discovery. That’s a word we’re talking a lot about—discovery process in major gifts. You are doing reconnaissance. I think recon is a fun concept because I’ve got my Sherlock Holmes hat and my pipe and I’m looking, looking, looking where? We want to change the world and our community. We want to take all the homeless people off the street. Who do we need at the table to make this happen? Okay, I think so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so need to be on this team. That’s the way you really want to approach your major gift fundraising, with some sort of gusto, as opposed to fear.

And if you’ve been following me for awhile, you probably know that you’ve seen this chart that I created. This is really the fundraising cycle. There’s nothing new about it. But in terms of major gifts, it’s really interesting to thoughtfully consider this process for major gifts because we’re identifying prospects and then just it’s like sales if you’re selling cars or accounting services or something, and then you cultivate and involve them, that takes awhile. Then when they’re ready, you ask them for their support and then you go into deep donor stewardship. Remember, we talked about latent capacity?

When I was at Duke University, there was a motto that we used to say. “Hopefully the first gift is never the largest. The first gift is never the largest.” And my mentor at Duke said to me, I love this quote, he said, “The first gift needs to be an occasion of joy and celebration on the part of the donor and the organization.” The first gift is an occasion of joy and celebration.

So once you see a major donor or a potential major donor making some level of gifts, can you create a joyful experience, a post-gift donor experience for this person that is very customized and will bring them joy? Then if you can do that, use the thank you process to warm up the donor for the next ask. The thank you process serves as cultivation, serves as your donor loyalty tool, serves as the warm-up, keeps your donor on your team, keeps your donor engaged and involved. That’s why I think donor loyalty is just probably the biggest issue that we need to be focusing on fundraising today. I’m sure you hear about it a lot from the folks at Bloomerang.

So let’s share, I’m dying to share with you these 10 terrific donor conversations. I’ve been listening to the smartest major gift fundraisers around and I’ve been gathering their best questions with my favorite questions, so this is sort of like my brand-new customized list and I’m going to just show it to you right here. I have this slide at the end of the PowerPoint. Now, these slides are not necessarily consecutive, but they jump around a bit and you use these questions based on the situation and your goal with the donor and the process with the donor. But this is how you get your donor to talk.

So let’s review these questions one by one. Andy wants to know, “Is it better to call new donors ‘prospects’ or ‘potential donors?'” You know, I’m talking to an industry crowd here, so I’m going to call them “prospects.” But if I’m out in public or in front of my board, I might call them “potential donors” because it’s a little less technical.

So here is one of the very most wonderful questions that I think you could ever, ever ask a donor is, “What inspired your gift? How did you come to be a donor?” It’s interesting that we never really ask donors what their story is and, frankly, I think it’d be fascinating to find out why donors are giving. Even board members, if we can ask board members why they’re serving. If you’re going to ever develop a major donor, you’ve got to start with knowing their donor story. Know their donor story.

I sometimes talk about my ballet experience. I was a frustrated ballet dancer and I love, love, love ballet and I helped found ballet. I’ve served on boards, I’m always there with the local ballet company wherever I’ve lived and nobody has ever, ever, ever asked me why I care about the ballet. And I’ve got such a story of passion and heart and sensitivity and joy would just tumble out if somebody asked me that question. So I want to tell you that I think this is one of the easiest questions and if you want to let your donor feel joyful, start right here.

Here’s a similar question. “I’d love to know your story.” My friend, Eli Jordfald, who raises money for the Cancer Center at Chapel Hill here, this is one of her favorite questions. “Would you have coffee with me? I would love to know your story.” She also says, “Mr. Jones, my job is to know our donors. Would you have coffee with me? I’d love to know your story.” Isn’t that lovely?

I want to just caution everybody, this is beautiful manners. I’m Southern, I was raised to be a Southern lady, I want to make sure that I am never pushy. But I just tell you, I’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars by having beautiful manners. So just because you are donor-centered and letting the donor lead the way doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be wildly successful.

And here’s the thought, that donors expect to be doing the talking anyway, right? Don’t you know that if you’re at a party and you just ask smart questions and you let the other person at the party talk about themselves and talk about this or that, the other person’s going to love you forever and think that you are the nicest person in the world? So we fundraisers are specialists in being able to be quiet and bring other people out, and likeability is really key. You have to be likeable enough for your donor to be willing to ask you or to spend time with you and so all you have to do is get them to do the talking.

Richard wanted to know, “What is your very first ask with the donor and they haven’t given yet?” I’d ask the donor why they care about our cause? Because the donor took the meeting and the donor knows who you are. So that’s one of Andrea Kihlstedt’s fabulous strategies. She wrote the number one capital campaign book and when she’s doing an asking conversation, the first thing she does is say to the donor, “Tell us again why you care about our organization.” Same sort of thing, right? Same sort of thing.

But let me remind you that listening skills are really key for fundraising success. I tell some boyfriend stories and I’ll deviate. I had a boyfriend named Clyde and he’s a lovely, lovely man, just the nicest guy in the world but he talked too much. He talked all the time. My daughters were in high school and I said to my daughters, “How do you like my boyfriend, Clyde?” My daughter said, “Mom, he doesn’t have any social awareness. He talks all the time.” I just thought that was . . . I just said fundraising lesson in social awareness. Isn’t that an interesting and indefinable quality for smart major gift fundraising? You’ve got to have social awareness.

So the number one way to be boring is to talk too much, right, everybody? The number one way to be boring. And your kiss of death is to be boring because if your donor feels like they’re trapped in a conversation because you’re doing all the talking and they can’t escape, they will never want to see you again.

So let me just say that listening skills are vital and to be able to keep your self-awareness and keep your self-control even if you’re nervous, keep bringing the donor out. Then it’s easier, right? You don’t have to do all the work and the donor’s going to love you because you’re letting them do the talking.

I also want to remind you, too, that the bigger the VIP, the more they expect to do the talking. So let me say that again. The bigger the VIP, the more they expect to do the talking, right? I had a friend who worked for Make-A-Wish here. I was mentoring her some and she emailed me, she said, “Gail, I can’t get an appointment. They won’t see me.” I thought, “Well, what are you saying when you’re asking for the appointment?” And she said, “I’m asking them if I can come by and bring them up to date on what Make-A-Wish is up to.”

So, my friend, if you were listening, would you want to have a lowly staff member come and give you an update on what Make-A-Wish is up to? No. But if she used a different phrasing of, “You’ve been giving to Make-A-Wish for 10 years and I’m the development director. I’d love to know why you’re giving. I’d love to know what brings you to us and I’m only asking for 20 minutes,” she could get in the door, don’t you think?

So here’s question number three. And again, this is from our friend Eli Jordfald who closed a $10 million gift recently for Chapel Hill, let me say. One of her favorite questions is, “And then what happened? Tell me more.” Going back, you just asked the donor, “Would you be willing to have coffee with me? I’d love to know your story,” and maybe earlier you said, “What inspired your gift?” And so if you can get the donor talking, then you can say, “And then what happens? Tell me more.” I love this because all you’re doing is pulling the donor out more and more.

I think this is absolutely brilliant and, again, this is kinder, easier, gentler. You don’t have to do all the work. All you’re doing is prospecting by interviewing your donors. Now, here is one of my personal favorites and I would say that this is my magic key to getting into a donor’s heart, their mind, and perhaps their wallet if they’re willing. And that is I like to ask, “What are your impressions?”

I have raised a lot of money with this question and the reason I like this question, it’s really interesting, if you remember, “Forrest Gump,” the box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Right? You don’t know what you’re going to get in the box of chocolates, do you? So you ask this open-ended question, very, very open-ended and what is at the top of the donor’s mind.

I remember one time the Raleigh Rescue Mission, I was helping them with a capital campaign and we were trying to develop a donor, the man who had started the Rescue Mission. He was no longer in touch with the Rescue Mission but we wanted their family’s name the new wing for homeless women and children. So the prospect for the naming opportunity for the new wing was this gentleman who founded the Mission.

So we had a tour and we were bringing everybody in town through the tour and during the tour we saw the homeless children in the daycare center, we talked to the lady who received emergency phone calls from women and children in the middle of the night who needed a place to stay. A fabulous tour, bring you to tears three times in an hour.

And one of the sons of the family decided to come in on the tour and so he went through the tour and he had a great experience and then lo and behold at the end of the tour, he was walking out next to me at the door and so what do you think I said? I said, “What were your impressions today? What did you think?” He said, “Oh my gosh, this was such an amazing experience.” He was very enthusiastic and so I said, “Well, gosh, I would have loved to have met your father because he really meant so much to this organization.”

The son said, “Oh gosh, my father, he was so devoted to this place and he practically raised me and I remember as a kid running up and down the halls of the Rescue Mission,” and so I took another step with this guy and I said, “You know, we have always dreamed of naming this new wing after your father.” I know this is a little bit aggressive but still it was just a hypothetical thing. And he said, “Oh, what a great idea to name the wing after my father,” and I thought, “Oh my gosh, now we’re in an asking conversation and I don’t even know the guy.”

So I was evaluating green light or red light whether I should go forward and I figured I’d take one more step and I said, “Well, the naming opportunity is a half a million dollars. Is that something you all might like to discuss?” He said, “Absolutely. We’d love to. Come see us. Come to our next foundation family meeting.”

So all I did, if you notice, in the story, this is a condensed version. I tell a longer version when I’m doing a public presentation. But the moral of the story is that I [inaudible 00:36:35] and I got him to invite us to bring a proposal and I qualified my donor. I mean, I knew exactly who my donor was, right? It was not like just somebody off the street I had this conversation. But it’s just an example of asking somebody their impressions will take you right down the magic highway and you have to be able to be nimble on your feet, right? You have to be nimble.

I want to tell you, I have a major gift coaching program I’m going to talk about in just a second and one of the people in my major gift coaching program, it’s like 10 months and I’m coaching people all the way through to get major gifts on the table, get it all set up. With Patrick Bérard of the Héma-Québec Blood Bank Foundation and Patrick was scared to death to go have a conversation with a donor. He finally got to the point where he actually could have a conversation and he would start right off the bat saying, “What are your impressions of Héma-Québec? And what is your experience with our organization?” And he learned how to interview people.

I also want to tell you that one of his early calls, he decided to make it a get-to-know-you call at the corporate foundation. He didn’t do any fundraising at all. He just wanted to get to know the person who was on the staff and you tell me if that wasn’t successful. He came back with $40,000 within a couple of months on that one.

Now, this question number five is really interesting. “Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our organization?” Every single person on this call, say something in the question box. Could you use this question tomorrow with somebody? Just give me some feedback everybody. Is this not the most wonderful question you have ever heard? “Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our organization or our mission?” This is easy. This qualifies your donor.

Yeah, thank you, Michael and Paula and Jeff and Linda, thank you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nick says he uses it all the time. This is a great question because it’s going to tell you what you need to know. Mary says, “This question brings so much to the table.” You are qualifying your donor to find out. Erin says, “It asks donors to envision their own giving future.” You got that, Erin, absolutely.

Yeah, this gets the gold star of my favorite questions so far. And then how about this one? I’m sorry I’m overly enthusiastic but, “How did you become so generous?” How did you become so generous? What is this question going to tell you? This question is going to tell you what . . . The donor’s going to reveal his or her philanthropy and what else is she giving to. “Oh, my husband and I just endowed a professorship at Harvard.” That is a piece of information. It’s data. So things didn’t have to live up to this question, right? They have to live up to becoming more involved?

But I want to share with you in my major gift coaching program, good old Diane Fuller down in Georgia. She was also petrified of trying to do major gifts, petrified of having a one-on-one conversation with a donor. So she used the, “How did you come to be so generous?” question and it was just last month and she walked out with a $5,000 gift. So this is an example, everybody, of how the right kind of questions will have the donors throwing money at you. Now, is that not a lovely way to raise big money, because you don’t have to do the work? And I want to tell you, $5,000 was a big gift to Diane Fuller. So consider this one. You have to be the right context and time and place but I think this is a great one.

And then, now you’re drilling down. Now you’re drilling down. “What part of our work most interests you?” This is now you’re trying to find out your donor’s hot buttons. Again, here’s this event. The donor will tell you what she’s interested in.

The donor will tell you. So if you’re asking her, “What part of our mission most resonates with you?” you can use that phrase, or, “What of our work most interests you?” The donor may love the frogs instead of the elephants. Your donor may love the children instead of the mothers. Your donor may be interested in the community and building a cultural community overall, rather than the toe shoes.

Your donor has an aspect of your work they care about. Now you’re trying to find out their interest and their hot buttons. Here’s the San Francisco Foundation donors. They had a reason, a specific area of interest that they wanted to execute.

So what you’re doing is that you’re trying to find out what about your work is the donor passionate about, because once you find out their hot buttons, you can create a cultivation program for these lovely people who care about you, right? So you’re not having to work, you’re not being pushy. What do they like? “Gosh, let me take you on a tour. I will show you the blah, blah, blah.” Maybe The Boys & Girls Club, they’re interested in transportation issues or academic issues or nutrition issues, whichever one it is, you can invite the donor in to learn more about.

So here’s the challenge I want to send you away with. Do you know what your top 20 donors are passionate about inside your organization? You know, if we were doing a workshop, I would put you down and have you do a little exercise. What are your top 20 donors passionate about? Again, really, really, really powerful question.

Then, again, this is Gail Perry especially asking for advice because I believe that if you want money, you ask for advice. And if you want advice, go in and ask for money. So there are lots of ways to ask for advice. But you’re not asking the donor for advice about your program work. You’re asking for advice about fundraising. “Who should be involved? Can we do this? What do you think about our programs and can I pick your brain about this project we’re trying to raise money for? What do you think of it?”

During advice you can say to the donor, “Is this the kind of thing that you would be interested in personally?” You can say that or not, depending on the situation. Nick wants to know, “Can you ask the question, ‘Where do we fall in your philanthropy plans?'” I would absolutely ask the donor that, but I would wait and do it at the right moment.

But here’s Linda Frenette, and she was working with a Community Music School and she had an advice visit and walked out with $10,000 on the spot with no ask. This happens all the time.

Indra, they were members of my coaching program two years ago and Indra took my training on advice visits and they decided to throw out their presentation and ask their top donor, “We’d like your input on our business plan,” and I kid you not, she walked out with a $1.5 million challenge gift with $250,000 set to stay in cash. So this is what happens when you start engaging donors in this.

Here’s what I think. I don’t have this on a slide but this is one of my great mottos. You honor your donor by asking for more than money. You honor your donor by not treating them like an ATM but in treating them like a whole person. They have interests, they have passion, they’re curious, they have a history. They can help you. Ask your donor for their help and advice and input.

That’s why I call it donor-centered major gift fundraising. This is more holistic and it’s also where fundraising is in the 21st century. Hands down we are moving in this direction, everybody.

But how about question number nine? This is the beginning of the ask conversation. This is opening the ask conversation. “If you ever made a gift, what would you like to accomplish?” Give me some feedback on this one, everybody. “If you made a gift, what would you like to accomplish?” I love this question.

Along with number nine is this one. This may be my new favorite question too. “Would you like to know more about how you could impact this project?” So let me give you the backdrop of this question. You’ve got a donor who’s qualified. You find out their passions and their hot buttons. Then, number three, you develop a cultivation experience that’s very customized to help them learn more about their passions and hot buttons, about their area of interest in your organization, and then the last one is, “Would you like to know more about how you could impact this project?”

I mean, this is the ask, in a way. And the donor’s going to say, “Sure, I’d love to know more about it.” And you could say, “Well, you know, you could underwrite all the toe shoes for $50,000 a year or you could help us bring in guest choreography for blah, blah, blah?” You know, you have to have three ideas to float right out there.

So what do you all think about my 10 donor conversations? Is this donor-centered fundraising? I’d love some feedback. Give me some feedback and let me know what do you think of these questions.

Marlene loves them. Deidre loves them. Jenny, Rhonda loves them. Can you see yourself using these? Yeah. They’re very donor-centered, aren’t they? You let the donor . . . Guy says, “It’s very helpful.” Laura says yes. Stacy and Gail are thumbs up. “Instantly usable.” And Jessica, definitely share these with your board members, it will help them get over their fear of what on earth you’re going to do with their donors, with the people they give you.

Do pass these on. This is my first introduction of this stuff to the world so you are the first person. Let me just do a little bit more here and I want to challenge you now, this is challenging. I want to know what’s holding you back from raising this money. Everybody, can you be honest? Vicki says she used two of these in an email response to a donor who reached out to us. I love it, I love it. Vicki, email me and let me know how you do.

What’s holding you back? Is it that you can’t get out of the office or are you not sure what to say or do? Do you feel awkward or unorganized? Michelle says she can’t get out of the office and part-time fight. Stephanie says she’s struggling finding new donors and Katie and Danielle says she feels awkward.

Here’s what you need to think about. You need to look inside yourself about what’s keeping you in, what’s keeping you back. A little pep talk, okay? Because Cher said that if you are not willing to make a fool of yourself, you’ll never do anything great. So you just have to be cheerfully aggressive and I’d be glad to coach you that it’s not so horrible if you can . . . And by the way, I’m going to try to respond to your questions later if I can’t get to them today.

Angela says she’s more motivated after she has these questions in her arm. Anybody more motivated? Team of 9 doing 100. I’m sorry, Sonny, you’ve got to be careful about that.

So let me talk about what will save you. You’ve got to have some internal tools and structure. And if you’ve got a volunteer that doesn’t want to give you money because they think their time’s sufficient, they may not be philanthropic people. You may need to bless and release these people if they’re not interested because you’ve got other people who will.

So let’s talk about the three things you must, must, must have if you’re going to be successful in major gifts. The first one is, duh, you’ve got to have a major gift prospect list. I’ll tell you, the people in my coaching program, we spend months developing this list and making sure the right people are on the list. It may take you several months to really come up and a lot of people, this year, in 2017, they started out with 250 identified major gift prospects and they ended up winnowing it back to 40, which was the number that they thought they could really tackle.

So consider that you can raise more money with fewer prospects, and that if you spread yourself too thin, you’re not going to be able to be successful. So you’ve got to have the prospects, that’s number one.

You’ve got to have a monthly team meeting, that’s number two. And why would I say that you’ve got to have that list and you’ve got to review it once a month? Why would I say that? Because if you don’t do it once a month, your major gift program is not going to move forward. It’s going to be haphazard, it’s going to be when you get around to doing it.

And define team, Katie, when I’m doing major gift coaching I want everybody to have a team, even if it’s one other person because I would suggest that you cannot be as effective if you’re dangling out there in the wind by yourself, that you really need to pull some people in.

Sometimes there’s a gung ho board member who will help, and sometimes your executive director wants to dive in. But you need some structure, right? You need some structure and if your exec director doesn’t build relationships and thinks of donors as targets, maybe your exec director needs to be brainwashed. Let me get my hands on them. You have a problem if you have an exec director. Maybe a board member can talk some sense into your ED.

But, look, the third thing you’ve got to have for internal structure and tools, remember, what are they? The first one is your prospect list, that list that breathes and gets changed and updated and gets visited and then you’ve got to have a couple of people get together with you at least monthly.

And then you’ve got to have the whole organization behind the effort, and I know this is the toughest. And we’re talking about building a culture of philanthropy and it’s not easy. These are my board retreats that I do. And here’s another one. Whatever you can do to get everybody behind fundraising is what you need to do.

I was talking to somebody on the phone this week and they made . . . Oh, one of my major gifts coaching people. They made a 45-minute presentation to their board members about how major gift fundraising works using a lot of this content, and the board members were ready to dive in and be supportive. So my point here is that if you can educate your board members and your leadership as best you can, cheerfully, enthusiastically, with a smile and they can see that you’re not afraid of it, then maybe they will listen up and dive in and help in some way. They do not have to ask in order to be successful, okay? Take asking off the table.

So real quick, let me share with you strategies for getting out of the office, because here’s the door, here’s you, young and beautiful and with curly hair and you’re trying to get out of the office to go see the donors. And I’ll tell you what’s happening all over the world. I did some workshops in Australia, same thing’s happening. It’s not just that but the thing is that sometimes the internal staff is sniping at you and saying, “What are you doing, out having another lunch? A two-hour lunch? A three-martini lunch?” It’s debilitating, quite frankly, for fundraisers to have to deal with this.

Three things. You need to educate the people around you that it’s your job to be out of the office, and I believe in enlisting everybody for help. You announce to the whole team, “I’ve got three appointments for this week. Yes, and I’m trying to reach five.” Every week enroll them in supporting you and talk out loud about the number of calls your accomplishing per month. So you’ve just got to let them know over and over that it’s your job to get out of the office. It’s your job.

So I want to know what your takeaways are today. I want to know what your takeaways are. I tell you what, there are a bunch of people here. I would like one takeaway from every single person who’s listening, because this is the best wrap-up you could ever do is for everybody to share their takeaways and I’m going to read them.

So what did you learn today that you think you can use? And Steven told me I could say a little tiny bit to you all about . . . While you’re putting this in, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my major gift coaching. I open this program up every year. It starts in February, it closes in November. So only open up applications in the fall every year. So we’re now taking in letters of interest for people who want to find out if major gift coaching is right for your organization.

But there are two goals. One is that I want to help you raise real money this year, and the second goal is to lay down the systems and the structure over a 10-month period to help you get major gift coaching going in the long run. And this is just a little bit about the curriculum but it’s very deliberate and I’ve got special gifts. I’m not going to blather about it because you don’t really need me to, but if you’re interested in finding out more about it, send me an email and we can see if it’s right for you and your organization.

It’s grown from 4 months to 6 months to 10 months. It’s grown from 6 people to 12 people, and now to 40 people. I can’t tell you what a joy it is for me to be engaged in this work.

I want to see action items. Henry, ready for board retreat. Celeste says that she sees herself more of a people person than a money person and it builds on her personal interests. Barbara says she sees new questions for donor conversations that she hasn’t used yet.

Give us your key takeaways. Give us your key takeaways. Ashta says she’s going to more community events and ask the right questions. Mark said that he loves the 10 questions and there’s too much emphasis on wealth screening and you’ve got to get out and know your donors. Ben says it’s all about making fundraising personal. I love that. “Old country boy” leads to $1 million gift.

Jodi really likes the idea of educating your coworkers on what your job is and Jessica’s going to use these questions in her volunteer training for a capital campaign. Richard said his takeaway is whittling down the prospect list. Yeah. And Angela, she wants to tap into her donors’ internal motivation. Tonya is better equipped now to qualify donors and get to know them personally. Melissa says that she sees tools for working smarter with a small team. Yes, rather than working harder, let’s work smarter.

Daniel says this is common sense and Michelle said she is going to lunch with a prospect in a few minutes and she’s going to ask what her perception of her organization is. Nick says it’s reaffirming that he’s already doing a lot of the right things. Vicki loves it. Lisa says she needs to start a major giving program now. Kathy says she likes the phrase “social awareness.”

So listen, everybody, it was so much fun, so much fun working with you. I love your heart, I love your energy. Kathy says, “What are your impressions?” is a game-changer for her. I’m collecting these questions. If you have any other questions, share them with me and I’ll add it to my list because I’m going to be rolling out this particular presentation in several different places. I’m going to be in Toronto at the Congress next week.

Eileen says, “Loved the 10 conversation starter questions that focus on the donor.” So do you really agree that this is kinder, gentler, more fun, and more successful fundraising? Was I out of the box on this or was I on point? Was this kinder, gentler, more fun, easier on the fundraiser? You don’t have to do that much work, right? You don’t have to do that much work.

We talked about 10 easy, fun conversation topics that you can have with wealthy donors. We talked about how to make them like you. We talked about how to find your true believers so you can turn on a flow of happy, generous major gifts.

So glad to work with you today. If you’re interested, let me know, if you’re interested in the coaching program. It’s not a trivial decision. You need to really be thoughtful about whether you want to undertake the project because it’s real and we have accountability and we have training and we rock.

Just thank you so much. Thank you, Steven. Thank you, Bloomerang. I’m going to turn it back over to you.

Steven:Yeah. Thank you, Gail. You’re the one who gave us all that great info so you deserve all the thanks. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to show us all that good stuff. I love the new model and I really love that list of questions you shared towards the end too. So thanks for being here. It was fun.

Gail:Oh, great. Thank you.

Steven:And I know you took a lot of questions during the presentation but can people get in touch with you, maybe email you or sign up for your blog?

Gail:Yeah, I have my email on the cover slide. It’s gp . . .

Steven:Let me go back to that. Here we go.

Gail:Yeah, here it is, That’s my personal email. That’s not the one I send out in my newsletter. And if you want just a little dose of Gail in your inbox every Friday morning, truthfully, you can subscribe to my newsletter which is also irreverent and fun.

Steven:You’ve got to do it. Yeah, really good stuff. Follow her on Twitter. And thanks to all of you for hanging out with us. I know it’s a busy time of year. You’ve probably got year-end stuff, maybe some events going on. We’re going to take next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States but we’re back two weeks from today to talk about last minute things you can do for year-end giving.

If you’ve been maybe procrastinating or you just want to get some new ideas perhaps, join us two weeks from today, 1 p.m. Eastern. We’ve got Alice Ferris and Jim Anderson, a dynamic duo for sure. They’re awesome and they’ve got some pretty fun ideas for you for year-end giving going into December. So hopefully we see you then.

If not, there’s other webinars that you can register for out into December. We’d love to see you some Thursday, but in the meantime, look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. I’m going to get that into your hands in just about an hour or so and hopefully we’ll see you again in a couple weeks. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Have a good Thanksgiving if you’re here in the States, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Gail:Take care, everybody. Bye bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.