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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Getting a major gift ask meeting

Julie Whelan Capell |

Asking for major gifts is not as hard as many people think, but it does require quite a bit of preparation.

As I discussed in last month’s post, first you need to figure out who you should be meeting with.

Once you have a prioritized list of qualified prospects, the next step is getting people to agree to meet with you.

Before I get into the details, there is something important that needs to be said.

Even though you carefully qualify your prospects, there are going to be people on your list who just don’t want to meet with you.

Hearing “No”

Hearing “no” (or hearing crickets) when you ask for a meeting can be pretty demoralizing. After all, you are trying to get a meeting with someone who has a strong connection to your organization.

Some fundraisers believe in the mantra that you never take “no” for an answer, but I am not one of them. I believe people have their own reasons for refusing a meeting. Whatever the reason, my advice is to accept their refusal and move to the next name on your list. Your time is valuable, so spend it on the people who are interested in building a relationship with you and your organization.

Having said that, there are some techniques for increasing the odds that your prospects will say “yes” to your request for a meeting.

Getting donors to accept a meeting with you

  1. Start with people you know well. It takes the pressure off when you are reasonably sure the person being called is likely to accept your request to meet.
  2. Begin with an email, then follow up with a phone call within a week or so. If you wait much longer, the email will be “cold” and getting them to take your call will be more difficult. Start both the email and the call by thanking the prospect for their previous donation(s).
  3. In person or via Zoom? Let the prospect choose the venue that is most comfortable for them. The conventional wisdom that one must never make a big ask on a phone call has been turned completely on its head since the pandemic. Many fundraisers now report that their prospects actually prefer to meet via phone or internet. A primary reason is that it saves so much time.
  4. Speaking of time, keep the meeting short. Typically, 30 minutes is long enough.

Working through common objections*

  1. “Are you going to ask me for money?” Whether or not a prospect says this, most will know you’re going to be asking for a gift. My advice is to be transparent throughout the process. When scheduling, let the person (or their assistant) know exactly why you want to talk. “Our organization is making it a priority this year to connect with our biggest supporters. I’d like to find out more about why you have supported us in the past, and discuss some exciting plans we have. along with how you can help us meet our fundraising goals to make those plans a reality.”
  2. “I don’t have time to talk.” Ask them for options for a better time. “I understand. Would next week be better, or possibly sometime next month?”
  3. “I’m already very familiar with your organization, so we don’t need to meet.” One tactic to meet this objection is to say that you have new projects or plans that you would like to discuss with them (you DO have new projects and plans, right?). Or you can agree and then try to continue the exchange by saying “That’s great! Could I ask you a question? Could you tell me what’s the thing we are doing that you are most excited about?”
  4. “I don’t want you to spend time or money coming to visit me.” This is very helpful information to know about this donor. Use this as an opportunity to find out how this person prefers to receive communication from you, If they prefer email or snail mail, ask them to verify their address. You might also want to suggest that they consider attending an upcoming event so they can stay connected and find out about your newest projects.

Throughout this process, remember to think of the donor as a friend.


Objections adapted from “Qualifying Donors for Major Gift Caseloads” by Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels 

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