Ilana Jackman: the six key steps to securing major gifts

You have a wealthy prospect and you want to get it right, so take a breath and follow these rules, writes the fundraising consultant

Ilana Jackman
Ilana Jackman

You have secured a meeting with a wealthy prospect. You have pinned a lot of hopes on convincing them to support your work. You want to get this absolutely right. You are totally focused on getting your gift. Before you meet them, take a breath and follow these simple rules. 

1. Focus on what you can do for them, not them for you
Donors have agendas. You job is to work out what theirs are and how they could align with yours.

2. Don't be apologetic
You are not begging. You're offering them an opportunity to achieve their aims. It might be some social climbing, it might be their philanthropic vision, it might be driving custom to their business. 

3. Ask open exploratory questions
What do you most enjoy about your involvement with the charities you support? How do your existing charitable partnerships meet the needs of your business? Paint me a picture of how you would like to, for example, end child poverty. 

4. Listen most of the time
Your role is to offer a concise (three minutes), inspirational summary of your mission to start the conversation and then direct it lightly using open questions. You want to understand all about their needs so you know what proposal to put to them. 

5. Know what end goal you're aiming for
Is it understanding which specialists from your organisation to introduce them to in order to explore a partnership? Is it knowing what project you want your chief executive to ask them to fund? Is it getting them on board as a volunteer? Is it a small starter gift, a legacy pledge or an introduction to the chair of their foundation with a recommendation?

6. Tie down the next actions
There's no point leaving the meeting without clear, agreed and time-bound actions. Wherever possible, keep the initiative – "I'll speak to my wife, we'll think about it and get back to you" is too vague. You will be delicately chasing forever. Say "Great. Can I speak to your PA to schedule a catch-up in a couple of weeks to hear your thoughts?"

Ilana Jackman is a fundraising and innovation consultant

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