Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Jamie Roseman, at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, about her experience with major gifts.
Here’s a snapshot of our conversation, followed by some additional commentary to help you boost your own major gift giving.
Question 1: Qualities and Characteristics to Raise Major Gift?
AE: What do you think are necessary qualities and characteristics to raise major gifts?
JR: As a fundraiser, listening is key, and should always be first and foremost.
I am a careful and attentive listener, and I think it shows in my major gift work because I always try to honor the person I’m listening to. It helps me really hear the person’s full story and background.
I also think it is important to ask the right questions — in order to learn the person’s history and background with our organization and movement. It’s our job to be able to help direct their philanthropy in the way that’s most meaningful to them.
AE: Yes, I agree – listening and being able to ask the right questions is really important to being a good major gift fundraiser. What types of questions do you ask people?
JR: Some of the questions I ask people, include:
- Tell me more about how you became involved with Planned Parenthood?
- What brought you to support Planned Parenthood originally?
- Do you have other family members who support our organization?
- Tell me more about what most inspires your philanthropy.
In the case of Planned Parenthood, people often have a very personal connection to our organization and it is very common to have multiple generations of supporters.
Once I have a better understanding of why they are supporters, then I can help best direct their support to the right programs and initiatives.
These are great questions. It’s so important to ask open ended questions. I would also suggest these questions:
- What made you give in the first place, and why do you continue to give / stay involved with our organization?
- What do you love most about our organization and what would you like to see changed or improved?
Question 2: Most Exciting Major Gift?
AE: What was the most exciting major gift (not necessarily the biggest) you ever received and how did it come about?
JR: I think any gift that is personally meaningful to the donor — often tribute gifts — are the most exciting for me personally. And, I love being able to truly help a donor have an impact through their philanthropy.
AE: That’s so true. How do you do that?
JR: I spend a lot of time meeting with and talking to donors, and learning about their passion, interests and motivation. Then, I can better understand their priorities and help them support new or existing initiatives.
It’s not always the largest gift, but the most personal gift that makes a difference. I love to connect the dots.
Indeed, a rewarding part of the process is when you can match a donor’s passion to your programs and services. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but when it happens, it’s like magic!
I always like to say: Fundraising isn’t about begging! It’s about being a match maker. The person you are asking for money should be honored to be asked, and grateful to give – not guilted into it or resentful in any way.
Question 3: Any Major Gift Advice?
AE: What advice do you have for others who are trying to raise major gifts?
JR: When a donor declines a gift, really listen to their reservations and hesitations. You will learn a lot. Always take the time to ask follow up and clarifying questions.
One time, I had a donor who said no, and it enabled us to have a much more open and honest conversation. I was able to return to the donor with a new proposal at a later date, and because I had a much deeper understanding of what they were really looking for, we got the gift!
This is so true. One of my fundraising mentors always says, “The best fundraisers are the ones who can turn a ‘No’ into a ‘Yes’.”
In addition to “no” and “yes,” you have a third possible answer from a prospective donor: maybe. Learn why “maybe” is the best answer when asking for a major gift.
I want to thank Jamie for taking the time to chat with me and share her experience.
Do you agree or disagree with me or Jamie? I’d love to hear about it. And, if you have any questions or advice for other fundraisers regarding major gifts, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Be sure to share your thoughts.