Asking Major Donors For Money In The First Meeting


Meeting 123

I have spoken to one of my mentees last week who is a major giving fundraiser of a small charity. He has been working hard on one of his prospects and has managed to secure a meeting with him. He is really excited (many major giving fundraisers will be able to resonate with this feeling) as it took him 9 months to secure the meeting with this individual.  I asked him what his next plan was and how well he is prepared for the meeting, to which he responded that he required my help – “is it a good idea to ‘Ask For Money’ at the end of the first meeting?”


My advice was simple –  as a rule of thumb, you never ‘ask for money’ in the first meeting, particularly when you do not know much about the individual (apart from your online research).

My mentee said there are two main reasons he wanted to ‘ask for money’ in his first meeting, to which I gave my response:

  1. “It took 9 months to book this (first) meeting and thus apprehensive if it will take a further 9 months to book the follow-up meeting or he may never meet me again” – Mentee

“Well, this is one of the major reasons why relationships do not progress with potential major donors because we focus too much on ‘Asking Money’ or figuring out how much we can ‘Ask’ in our very first interaction.  Successful people are very busy all the time, but usually, they do not mind giving 15-30 minutes of their time if they see value in it.  Thus, you should ask yourself a question, “why do you think he has agreed to meet you in the first place?”  Because, he is interested in your organisation, thus if you handle the first meeting well, make the first impression long-lasting and provide him with enough information that you think will suffice, then there is no reason he would not meet or communicate with you again” –  Major donor fundraising is a game of ‘Patience’ it is pretty normal that one prospect takes 6 months to 3 years before he makes any significant contribution. So don’t panic…

2. “My organisation needs urgent funds for a specific project we have launched and we need money in the next three months” – Mentee

“Major Donors do not only donate to us because we have urgent needs or we need the money,  they donate if they have a personal interest in the cause or they see that your organisation will make great use of their donation.  Last but not least, they do not donate according to our financial calendars – they donate when they want to donate or when they are ready to donate”.

To conclude, make the first meeting all about the donor and all about getting a second meeting:

One rule does not apply to everyone when it comes to relationship fundraising thus we have to react to prospective donors intuitively But from my experience, do not ‘Ask for money’, in the first meeting at all,  as you will not receive the expected amount due to a premature ask or any money at all.

If we ‘ASK’ for a gift in the first meeting and if they say ‘No’,  that would mean you having to work harder to receive a gift from them and a very slim chance of meeting them again, however, if we ‘ASK’ for another meeting or an advice or to attend an upcoming event and if the prospect agrees to it, that means they are interested in our organisation and they want to know more about what we do and that they liked you too 🙂  concluding a huge success. If they are not willing to meet again, that will tell you a lot, i.e if they not even willing to give their time to you, what makes you think they are ready to be ‘ASKED’ for money? Usually, from my experience, the bigger the gift, the more meetings will be required, which is great as I love going out and meeting people.

Thus,  make the first meeting all about knowing more about the prospect and going away and figuring out what they like, what motivates them, which project they are interested in, who else is involved in their philanthropic decisions, what are their hobbies, which other charities they are supporting. Maximise the first meeting to match the information you collected from online and offline sources by asking thoughtful open ended questions.  Make first meeting a discovery call, not a solicitation call.

Off course, as a fundraiser, I am always ready to respond if the donor shows any indication to make a gift. But my focus of first meeting remains as a discovery call and finding out as much possible about the motivations of donor to be interested in our organisation. Why, because this helps me to make the right Ask at right time instead of making hasten premature ask for the wrong amount. This helps to fully unlock the real potential of the philanthropist.

If you recently had a major donor meeting or planning one, please share your thoughts in comments.


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