Major Donor Ask Visits: 3 Essentials Fundraisers Often Overlook

May 28, 2019Leadership

3-Essentials-Donor Leadership

In every major donor ask visit, fundraisers often overlook that donors need to be ready for the ask. 

You have identified and cultivated your donors — meaning you have informed them, identified their interests, and involved them with your organization. You have moved a potential donor along the path to making a gift eventually.  

It would be a disservice not to ask your donor to invest in your nonprofit – particularly a program near and dear to their hearts.

Can you imagine having formed a friendship with someone and then not inviting them to your party to have chocolate cake!

That is what it would be like if you didn’t invite someone to make a gift – to invest in a program they love.

They would be honored to support efforts you have exposed them to and they find meaningful. You are ready to ask them for their support and go on a major donor ask visit!

Who on your short list are you comfortable approaching for a major gift?

If you are new to asking someone for money, start with a lower level major gift. If your major gifts begin at $5,000, ask someone for $5,000. If it starts at $500, ask for $500!

It’s not about the gift. It’s about making a connection. It’s about making a difference.

Here are essentials fundraisers often overlook in most major donor ask visits:  

1.  Have No Surprises with Why you are Meeting

You are likely meeting with individuals supporting your nonprofit. Let your donor know why you want to meet with them.

When you (your board chair or another key player) contact the donor to set up the meeting, share with the prospective donor you would like their opinion on a matter. Share, also, that you have a project, program, or initiative they may be interested in funding. Ask if you could share this opportunity with them.

They know you are a nonprofit. But if it is not clear, let them know you will be asking for a gift consideration to support the ABC initiative.

Here are three sample phrases to use in a major donor ask visit so you don’t surprise your donor with an ask they were not expecting:

You have been heavily involved in the ABC initiative. Mary (board chair) and I would like to come to talk with you about a lead gift. Would that be okay?


I know you are very passionate about getting the ABC project launched. May I come to visit with you and share ideas about how you could support those efforts.


Thank you again for setting the meetings last week with the marketing expert. Thanks to you, the project is moving fast! Mary and I would like to talk with you further about the project’s impact and funding plans. Would you be interested in discussing a naming opportunity? If so, could we set up a time next week to come to your office?

2.  Align the Gift with your Donor’s Passion

Before even setting up the meeting or a major donor ask visit, know what the prospective donor is passionate about. Understand their values, interests, and passions. Read How to Determine Donors’ Passions. 

Align what the donor feels deeply passionate about with an organizational need or opportunity.

Fundraising is helping others connect a passion directly to your cause. There is no arm twisting or begging. We help them make that connection and give them an opportunity to help others.

3.  Listen to your Donor

Listen with intention, curiosity, and sincerity. Be acutely aware if you are dominating the conversation. Talk less than the donor.

Know what key points you want to make about the project you are asking them to support. Share them and be quiet.

Asking is more of an art than a science. Be conversational, sincere, and yourself. Your donors will naturally connect with you and feel a partnership when you ask for their support.

Most of all, enjoy the conversation in every major donor ask visit!

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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