December 2, 2021
Donor solicitation is a process, not just an event. It’s an opportunity to gauge a prospective donor’s interest, followed by an open invitation to invest in your school. Solicitation is a time to investigate donor enthusiasm and identify opportunities that resonate with them.
The donor process involves several meetings—maybe handled by multiple solicitors or a team—and always a formal invitation.
Building Your Solicitation Team
You’ve identified a prospect—someone who has a strong commitment to your school and a track record of giving. They’re involved with the school and you know their passions. Now, you’re preparing for a fundraising approach.
First, decide who will connect with them. Create a solicitation team that can communicate your donors' values.
There are three solicitation roles:
- Cultivator: Someone whose relationship with the prospect can secure a meeting.
- Communicator: Someone who articulates the vision for the school and the project.
- Solicitor: The person who extends the invitation.
In identifying team members, consider:
- the School Head or another member of the Leadership Team;
- existing donors who can invite others;
- staff members who represent the prospect’s area of interest;
- and influential members of your school community (e.g., Trustees, parents, and graduates).
The Solicitation Conversation
When the solicitation team meets with a selected prospect, there are many elements that provide a foundation for their interaction. This process often requires multiple visits to build a solid relationship where all questions and concerns are addressed. This will ultimately leave them feeling great about the gifts they have pledged.
Avoid intimidating the prospect with multiple team members present. Invite only key members to the meeting.
The “fundraising ask” can be an uncomfortable task for any fundraiser. But with the right approach, you can eliminate the mystery and get the donations you need to support your school. Here’s how.
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Never Assume Anything
This step in the solicitation is all about relationship building. Never guess at what interests your prospect; sometimes a donor’s passion is not immediately clean. A parent who never attended sporting events may still be interested in your athletics program.
If you’ve identified a donor who made a contribution in the past, the next question might be: “Based on your interest in this project and your past generosity, would you consider supporting our new campaign and making a leadership gift?”
If the answer is “yes,” agree on the gift amount, work out the details if it’s a particular gift (e.g., a scholarship or naming opportunity), and move to the close. If the response is “no” or “not yet,” you’ll need to reevaluate your approach. (Stay tuned for a follow-up article in The Source about how to handle a “no.”)
Always Show Your Gratitude
Formalizing the giving level and process is just that—a formality. But what’s going to keep inspiring your donors to give annually is how they see their money in action. The final step in any solicitation is to follow up with a thank-you note conveying your gratitude for the prospect’s gift or willingness to consider your school.
But take your gratitude to the next level by showing them their donation’s impact. Donors continue to contribute when the school recognizes and appreciates them, and when they know their gifts made a difference and were used as intended.
That means, stay in communication with them long after their check is cashed. Share the ongoing impact their donation has made—and always thank them for their contribution.
While you may need to pivot your solicitation strategies as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, maintain the values of flexibility, consistency, intentionality, enthusiasm, and creativity. By staying focused on the beneficiaries of money raised—the students—your heart and intentions will guide you through each decision.
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