The quality of a gift is directly related to the quality of the relationship between the solicitor and prospect

February 16, 2018

I have been asked so many times if I have a degree in business (arguably so that I can utilize the business acumen I acquired to solicit more/larger gifts). And every single time I am asked that question, I respond with “I would be a better fundraiser if I had a degree in Psychology — it’s not about the how to give, rather it’s about the why giving is important.” The biggest factor in procuring a large gift is not knowing the specifics around a Charitable Remainder Trust, rather it is about a genuine and deep connection to the prospect/donor. It is all about the quality of the relationships and trust — this is something that has to be built upon over years of cultivation, cherishing, and stewardship.

“Major prospects deserve personal attention. People give to people. Your relationship to the prospect has a direct impact on their gift. The more they know and trust the solicitor, the more comfortable they will be making a major gift. They need to know that they are getting accurate, current and reliable information about the organization and the impact of their giving. They also will be more comfortable knowing that the solicitor, with whom they have a relationship, is likely to be more familiar with their background, interests and abilities than would a stranger.”

I have had the privilege of stewarding many donors in Ottawa over the last 17-plus years. I believe that I have established a level of trust and comfort with these donors, even as a non-Ottawa native. So much so, that I often know what funding opportunities the donors are interested in (and even what opportunities the donors are definitely uninterested in). I have even told donors to slow down their philanthropic intentions with respect to a charity I was working for until we have our business plan more defined so that the impact of their benevolence can be felt even deeper and with greater purpose.

It has even come to the stage where some donors have asked me advice about their support for other charities. It is not a net-sum-zero (if the donor supports another charity that doesn’t mean that they will not support the one I represent). I have come to be a type of consigliere (but without the Godfather overtone) for many donors and I am honored that they value my opinion/advice.

But remember that in fundraising it is about quality, not quantity — many donors will give you an initial gift to establish the relationship and “see what you do with it”. If their gift is treated like a one-night-stand and is superficial, do not be surprised if the donor stays at that initial giving level. Furthermore, many ‘quality’ gifts come with other perks attached, like becoming goodwill ambassadors or even better, canvassers themselves!