Major gifts from the other side: a view from the donor's seat

publication date: Jul 23, 2011
author/source: Megan Tregunno
This article is reprinted with permission from the newsletter of AFP Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

Have you ever wondered what the "other side" is really thinking when you make your pitch? Malcolm Burrows, head of philanthropic advisory services at Scotia Private Client Group helped shed some light on this subject at AFP Greater Toronto Chapter's Fundraising Day in June.

In a session he called "Major Gifts from the Other Side," Burrows shared his top three pet peeves and nine insightful tips for fundraisers based on his experiences working with donors.

Three pet peeves

  • Don't steward and make a "pitch" in the same call. 
  • Don't push recognition! Not every donor is motivated by his or her "name in lights." Let donors decide if this is important to them or not.
  • Gift restrictions are doing a disservice to organizations. Be confident and don't distort your mission. Think broadly.

Nine tips for the ask/proposal

  • Be clear and concise about your case and mission. This doesn't mean you need a glossy package; it means you need to be able to articulate your mission). Be confident.
  • Educate new donors about philanthropy. Remember - gifts are not "deals."
  • Be intuitive about donor family dynamics. Listen to your donors. For example, don't assume your university pitch is to the husband just because he's the "rich one," when the university is actually his wife's alma mater.  
  • Negotiate the gift. Remember, this is a process. Focus on the shared goals of both the organization and the donor.
  • Donors sometimes need to be reminded. Be proactive and follow up.
  • Have a welcoming and engaging attitude - professionalism comes first.
  • Be simple and flexible when it comes to documentation (simplify your gift agreements). Remember - gifts are freely given, they're not contracts.
  • Accountability is not about shareholder reporting, it's about dialogue.  Keep the dialogue between the donor and your organization going strong with regular communication and updates.
  • Imagine the future.  Be realistic and don't over-promise. Always make sure you can deliver.

Megan Tregunno is director, marketing & communications for AFP Golden Horseshoe Chapter

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