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Soliciting major gifts

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Question:

What is the best way to approach an individual donor for a major gift?

Answer:

* Select wisely.

Attempt to identify the individual’s values. It’s important to select candidates wisely and do as much homework as you can because not all people choose to give to charity for philanthropic reasons.

Some may select to give because they believe in the mission of the organization.  Some may want recognition.  And some may want to give because it’s a great tax technique.

Those reasons are personal and individual, and all are valid.  With major gifts, it’s a matter of reflecting the values of the potential donor.

Once you’ve identified his or her motivation for giving, you can tailor the approach appropriately.

* Engage and educate professional advisors.

If professional advisors, such as accountants, succession-planning professionals, and attorneys, are educated about your charity and engaged in its operations, then when someone is thinking about his or her planning, professional advisors might be able to shed light on your organization.

If a donor doesn’t have a particular charity they are passionate about, an educated professional advisor can bring a charity to the table that meets a donor’s concerns.

* Be bold in your ask and humble in your appreciation.

Don’t ask for too little.  The worst that could happen is someone could say “thank you for thinking I could do so much.”

Once a person has made a substantial contribution, you have engaged them with your organization. Then, humility and appreciation are important, even if the donor is not an ongoing giver.

In business and in charities, the most active donors are the recurring ones.  By continuing to serve and address issues they feel are important, there may come a time when another gift is right in line.


Peggy Hollander is managing partner of The Succession Group, which has office in Coral Gables, Fla., and New York, and counsels families and family businesses on transferring their assets from one generation to the next or to their community.  The Succession Group has offices in Coral Gables, Fla., and New York.

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