Major Gift Development

Making the Ask: Major Gift Solicitation Meeting


Thanks for joining my series on major gift development. Over the past several weeks I’ve covered the definition of a major gift, discussed why a major giving program is so critical to your fundraising program, the development of a cultivation plan, and preparation for the solicitation. Now we are finally ready to talk about “the ask”.

Once you have positively assessed readiness and prepared for the ask, you are ready for the solicitation visit. Let’s cover the content of the meeting, presenting the case, involving the prospect in the conversation and asking for the gift. I promise to cover dealing with objections next time!

First, a strong recommendation. In the array of tools available to fundraisers today, face-to-face solicitations are still the most powerful and are the preferred method for soliciting major gifts from individuals. A personal meeting is the most effective way to build a relationship as well as raise funds for your organization.


In preparation for an in-person solicitation, determine:

  • WHO should schedule and attend the meeting?
  • The ASK – how much and for what? Do you also want to invite involvement, e.g. committee membership? What do you know about the prospective donor? Review the individual’s history with your organization (donations and involvement).
  • WHAT materials do you need…to make case for support, complete the solicitation, respond to questions/objections?
  • WHEN and WHERE might be the most convenient place to meet this individual?

Scheduling the Appointment

  • Call the prospect to discuss a meeting (or email if calling is not possible)
  • Build rapport – be warm and enthusiastic
  • Explain that you are calling on behalf of ABC nonprofit
  • Thank for past support/involvement, if appropriate
  • Be clear about the purpose of your call – You are calling with the hope of scheduling a 30-minute meeting to tell them about ABC nonprofit’s programs, the impact it is having and its annual fundraising campaign.
  • Offer a couple of times and suggest meeting place convenient for the donor.
    • Once you agree on a time, send an email thanking for the appointment and confirming plans (send calendar invite).
  • Send a reminder email the day before your meeting.

See this week’s freebie for a sample donor solicitation meeting plan – this will help you build your script.

Remember however, not every conversation proceeds according to your plan, a script, or the agenda I have outlined above.  Be ready to react to questions, do a lot of listening, change the ask amount (or designation) in the moment, and even abort the ask if conditions do not seem right. Don’t rush the ask if the prospect does not seem ready to commit. You might find that the prospect or current donor needs more time, or more information, before they are ready to make their next gift. Major giving is all about relationship building — and you have to listen closely, read verbal and non-verbal cues, and assess whether the environment is right to proceed.

Next time, we will discuss the common put-offs and/or objections you may encounter when you solicit, so save your questions (and your anxiety about “what if?”) until then. I promise to offer you thoughts about how to respond to unanticipated reactions, but in the meantime, I hope this week’s blog and freebie help you get started with your solicitation prep.