The best lessons are the ones you learn several times over and I just had an experience that reminded me how important it is
to take the time to visit with potential donors during a Major Gift visit.
I often have the opportunity (and the privilege) of working with non-profits who have never conducted a capital campaign before.
One such client was gearing up to undertake personal visits to the board members after a successful study and launching
their capital campaign.
I spent a considerable amount of time preparing the volunteer solicitors. During the course of the orientation
meeting it was apparent they were still apprehensive about making the call. When the question was posed to them, "what would you talk
about with Mr. & Mrs. Smith if you were just plain, old talking to them?" the volunteers were able to list several topics that were of
mutual interest. Well that is the conversation you should have but with one topic (a request for support) added to the mix. The
volunteers took a deep breath because the task had been redefined for them. They were going out to talk with folks!
In preparation for a Major Gift visit I urge volunteers to begin each visit with some "pleasant conversation."
This is not a trick to get people to lower their guard; it simply puts people at ease and sets a pleasant tone for the remainder of the visit.
The fact is a good Major Gift visit is really nothing more than a conversation and a conversation by definition is an informal exchange of
ideas by spoken words.
Beginning a Major Gift visit by "visiting" is not just a good way to start things off, it is the logical way. Nearly every encounter you
have during the course of your day begins with small talk. You probably even say good morning, how is the weather or some other pleasantry
to the clerk at the Quick Trip in the morning? It is only reasonable to do likewise with someone you hope to enlist in your effort.
Starting your visit in this manner helps in the following ways:
It puts the prospective donor at ease.
It puts the volunteer callers at ease.
It gives the volunteer callers a chance to get into the flow of the conversation and find their rhythm.
It shows the prospective donor that you have a genuine interest (and your interest must be genuine) in what they have to say.
It allows you to identify additional points that may need clarification or follow up.
Just one word of caution with this approach; you don’t want to let the visit devolve into meandering conversation that touches on everything
and centers on nothing. There is a purpose to your visit and an invitation to participate in the campaign needs to be an integral part of
So be sure to visit when you visit. You will likely find your conversations to be most enjoyable. And as you read this you may find
that you have some questions, if so please contact us. We at
would welcome the conversation!