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Face to Face
How to Get BIGGER Donations
from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman, CFRE*
Ken Wyman and Associates Inc
Consultants in Fundraising, Volunteerism, and Communication
64B Shuter Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1B1
(416) 362-2926
* Certified Fundraising Executive
Voluntary Action Directorate
Multiculturalism and Citizenship
Department of Canadian Heritage
October 1993
Do you want to reprint part of this book?
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Charities and nonprofit groups are welcome to copy and adapt portions of this
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Please contact the Voluntary Action Directorate or Ken Wyman.
References to fictional organizations and people appear interspersed throughout this
manual. Any resemblance to particular real organizations or people in these instances
is purely coincidental.
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the
subject matter covered. Please use it with the understanding that the author and the
contributors are not engaged in rendering legal or accounting advice. If expert
assistance is needed, please consult an appropriate professional. The analysis
contained herein represents the opinion of the author. In no way should it be construed
as either official or unofficial policy of any government body.
Published by the Voluntary Action Directorate
Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada
Department of Canadian Heritage
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1K5
© Her Majesty the Queen
as represented by the
Minister of Supply and Services
Portions as marked are
© Ken Wyman 1993
Disponible aussi en français.
Design: Douglas McKercher
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The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
Is Face-to-F
ace Fundraising
Fundraising for You?
The least expensive, most productive fundraising
How much more income could you raise this way?
The Income Potential Tests
1 The Right Volunteers
Is there a role for consultants?
How many volunteers do you need?
What would be a good job description for a volunteer solicitor?
Why is it better to have volunteers work in
teams of two?
How much time will this require?
Where can you find volunteers?
Help volunteers overcome the fear of fundraising
2 The Right Donors
Who gives more: individuals or corporations
and foundations?
How do you find the generous people who donate
big gifts?
Start with people who already support your group
Why ask the board to give first? How do you ask?
How can you find hidden giving potential among
current donors?
How can you uncover new prospects?
3 The Right Amount
How much do you need?
Has the prospect supported your group before?
Has the prospect contributed to other charities before?
How much might the prospect be able to give?
How can you make it easy for people to be generous?
With all this information, how do you decide?
4 The Right Time
When is the right time to ask?
Do you really need all the money now?
Which prospects should be asked first?
5 The Right Project
What's the money for?
How do you find out what interests the prospect?
Should you offer incentives to give?
6 The Right Approach
Do the final research necessary to get to know
your prospects as people
Cultivate your relationship with prospects
Prepare kits for the volunteer askers
Train the askers how to ask
Identify possible roadblocks and strategies to
overcome them
Make the appointment to see the prospect
Visit the prospect
Follow up afterwards
Appendix A: The Webbing
Webbing Exercise
Appendix B: The Big Gift Game
Glossary of Terms
Additional Resources
Evaluation and Suggestions
About the Author
Ken Wyman wants to express special thanks to the people whose insight and
assistance helped make this book possible, including many who gave permission
for their copyright material to be used here.
Allan Arlett
Karen Anderson
Linda Bronfman
Marga Callender
The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy
Gordon Cressy
Tom Daly
Kent Dove and Lorri Wimer of
Jossey-Bass Inc
Jim Dugan
David R Dunlop
Gail A Evans
Joan Flanagan
Fundraising Management Magazine
Marion Fulton
Greg Gatuso
Norman Guilfoyle
Tim Hamilton
David W Heetland
Lyman Henderson
Donna Hunter
Nancy Jackman
Kenneth Kerr
Kim Klein and Nancy Adess of the
Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Michael F Luck
Leueen MacFarlane
Don McRae
Charles F Mai
Ian McCuaig
Lyn McDonell
Linda Miland
Walter Murray
Aryeh Nesher
NonProfit Times
Henri Nouwen
William Olcott
David Olive
Carol Oliver
Helen Gardiner Phelan
Paul Pivato
Revenue Canada
Nancy Redner
Henry Rosso
Julie Shakespeare
GT “Buck” Smith
J Warren Steen
Hanoch Teller
United Church of Canada
Frank V Whitely
Mildred and Max Wyman
Joyce Young
How to Get Bigger Donations • v
vi • Face to Face
The Right Stuff
Six Secrets of Big Gifts
The right volunteer asks the right donor
for the right amount at the right time to
support the right project with the right
— The Six Secrets
There are six secrets to getting bigger gifts. This book will focus on how to find
out what is `right' in each case.
Depending on your circumstances, you may not need to go through each
one — or you may need to linger longer over areas that need extra work.
In a religious congregation, for example, it may not be appropriate to look
beyond your own members for donors; however, research into their interests
may be very important.
In a large organization with a history of major fundraising campaigns, it may
not be hard to find good volunteers; in others, this may be the key to success.
For most groups, I recommend that you follow the sequence laid out here in
logical and chronological order.
Identifying and acquiring major gifts is not a mystery — it is a simple
process made onerous only by those who choose to make the process
of acquiring leadership gifts difficult.
The magic words are hard work and high visibility, that is, getting big
gifts is tedious and requires your absence from the office and your
presence in the streets. If you are in your office every day, you are not
cultivating and soliciting major gifts.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 1
Is Face-to-F
ace Fundraising
for You?
The Least
Least Expensive, Most Productive Fundraising
Fundraising Method
Talking to specially selected people face-to-face is an excellent way for a nonprofit group to raise money. It is the among the easiest sources of large sums
of money. It works well in the short term — and even better with planning and
careful cultivation of prospects. It is also done less often than it could be,
particularly among grassroots groups. This method is for you if you:
• need quick cash for your organization;
• want a lot of money for a special project, such as a building or
equipment; or
• dream of an endowment fund earning interest to give your group longterm financial freedom.
The techniques described in this book will explain how to achieve those goals.
But this method is not for everyone. You must decide first if it's the right one for
you. Here's how:
Decision #1: Do you need big gifts?
This manual is devoted to helping you get big donations. But is `big' too big for
you? Or not big enough?
For many grassroots groups, having an individual donate $100 to $500 would
Michael F Luck, “A New Twist on Old Fundraising Maxims”, NSFRE Journal, Summer 1990, p 30.
Reprinted with permission. (National Society of Fundraising Executives, Suite 3000, 1101 King
Street, Alexandria VA 22314, USA).
2 • Face to Face
be cause for celebration — particularly if it happened often! For hospitals,
universities and other large charities, the definition of big gift may start at
$10,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more. Anything smaller might be considered
With subtle variations, the techniques outlined here apply at all these levels,
no matter how many zeros appear in the figures.
This book focuses on how to ask people for money in person. If you are ready
to get personal, then the definition of `big' is strictly relative to your
organization's past gifts. Use this handbook to learn how to approach the
special few.
Finding a special few who give much more than others will be a welcome
achievement in most groups — but not all.
A strongly egalitarian organization may consider it a matter of principle for
everyone to give about the same amount. They choose to ignore the potential
for different donations resulting from differences in people's incomes, expenses,
assets, lifestyles or level of commitment. They are concerned that all donors be
treated equally. They suspect that if a few people make a disproportionate
contribution to the budget, they might gain a corresponding degree of control.
Some people assume that those who have enough money to give big donations
must have done something unethical or immoral — and are therefore enemies
of the cause. If this describes your group, the techniques discussed here may
not be for you.
Some groups need a wide base of support. Advocacy groups, for example,
need to demonstrate that lots of people are on their side, whether or not the
supporters are all big donors. Religious groups need lots of people to attend
services, whether or not they are all generous donors. Clubs, membership
organizations, performing arts groups and many others have similar needs.
Groups like these may want major donors at the beginning, to help them
grow. They may want them to help pay for special extras as the organization
matures. In between, however, their main goal may be to increase the number
of small donors.
Direct mail, telephone solicitations and special events are generally good
techniques to reach large numbers of people who can each give smaller
donations. Those are the subjects of other Voluntary Action publications.
Through the upgrading system outlined here, you will discover the hidden
advantage of those techniques: they will lead you to the special few, the very
generous people who give so much.
If your primary need is for support from a large number of people, even
if they all give relatively small amounts, this technique is not for you.
Decision #2: Can you focus on individual donors?
This manual concentrates on individuals who give large donations. Some of
those people are rich and famous. Most are not; they are simply very generous.
You will learn how to find these generous people, and how to appeal to them
for large donations. The techniques apply equally well to capital campaigns and
to ongoing fundraising.
This book is about individuals. It is not about corporations, foundations or
How to Get Bigger Donations • 3
other big institutions that give grants.
Grant-giving organizations usually operate in a different way than generous
individuals. They often have a formal application process. It is usually
formalized and bureaucratic, and requires proposals written in accordance with
standard models. This is necessary when decisions are to be made by a
Individuals make faster decisions, often after a single conversation. They
seldom have to check with anyone except their spouse.
But the methods outlined here may also help to open doors at granting
institutions. You'll learn how to find contacts who will help your grant
application stand out from the pile. Learning how to present an appeal face-toface will be useful if you can arrange to meet with the institutional decisionmakers. Such discussions greatly increase your chances of success.
To get an institutional grant, however, you will almost certainly need to
supplement the techniques outlined in this handbook with a well written
proposal. The art of proposal-writing is a topic for another book.2
Some prospective donors (or prospects) who own small businesses or have
family foundations may prefer to make donations on their institutional cheques
instead of their personal account. If they operate without answering to others,
then you can use the techniques suggested here.
This manual does NOT try to cover all the aspects of campaign planning. Its
focus is precise: it's on people — how to find them, how to get ready, and what
to say so they will give you a big donation (no matter how you define `big'). If
your interest is primarily in institutional donors, this book is not your best
Decision #3: Can you find the prospective donors?
Are you thinking, “We don't know anyone who could make a major donation”?
People involved with non-profit groups are often surprised when they
discover the hidden contacts they have. Gifts ranging from $500 to $1000 each
are easily available to virtually any group. Many individuals are ready to give
donations of thousands of dollars — and more.
In the United States, amazingly large donations have been reported.
Comedian and educator Bill Cosby and his wife Camille gave $22 million to
Spelman College.3 Pulitzer prize-winning author James Michener has given
away artwork valued at $25 million to museums, and an additional $7 million
to creative writing programs,4 including a graduate writing school he helped
launch at the University of Texas with a $1 million endowment.5 Paul Mellon
Author's hint to the Publisher.
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising (Chicago: Contemporary Books Inc, Suite 1200, 180 North
Stetson Avenue (2 Prudential Plaza), Chicago IL 60601), 1991, page 147; reprinted by permission.
Lynn Rosellini, “The Man Who Loves Facts”, US News and World Report, 17 June 1991, vol 110,
no 23, p 58.
Jim Shahin, “The Continuing Saga of James A Michener”, The Saturday Evening Post, March
1990, volume 262, no 2, p 66.
4 • Face to Face
has given away more than $300 million.6
Sinéad O'Connor, the Irish rock star, donated her Hollywood mansion to help
starving Somalians. After watching a Red Cross TV charity appeal, she
telephoned the station and gave them the house. It is said to have five
bedrooms, three reception rooms, a jacuzzi and a pool, and is worth around
The past contributions of Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller live on in
the names of countless libraries, concert halls and other buildings, foundations
and endeavours.
Canada, too, has seen multi-millionaire philanthropists, some of whom were
noted eccentrics. While the main goal of this manual is to help you get
substantial donations from less exalted personages, a few examples of the great
and the notorious are important for the historical record.
Liquor baron Hiram Walker based a distilling empire in his company
town of Walkerville (now a suburb of Windsor, Ontario), built churches
both there and in Detroit, but closed the former chapel for two years
after discovering its pastor, a cuckoo in the nest, was preaching
Donors, no matter how rich or poor, do allow personal prejudice to influence
their decisions. Unlike government, they are accountable to no-one. Knowing
their biases may make all the difference. Another famous Canadian proved this
Donald Smith (aka Lord Strathcona), the Canadian Pacific Railway
financier who drove the CPR's last spike, was a munificent but quixotic
philanthropist. Smith gave away $12 million during his lifetime, and
another $20 million in his will. Among his most outstanding gifts were
the donation in 1900 of an entire mounted regiment to British forces
fighting the Boer War, and a $1 million donation to found Montreal's
famed Royal Victoria Hospital. Still, Smith's generous legacy was
marked by personal biases: unable to forgive Winnipeg voters for their
failure to re-elect him to his House of Commons seat, Smith held back
his charitable impulses from schools and hospitals in that city; and his
upper-class pretensions were betrayed in his will, which made a
bequest to set up a leper colony — but stipulated that only Englishmen
Joan Flanagan, 1991, pp 135, 160.
Reuters News Agency, “O'Connor Calls Charity and Donates Mansion”, The Globe and Mail, 1
December 1992.
David Olive, Just Rewards: The Case for Ethical Reform in Business (Toronto: Key Porter Books),
1987, pp 215-216; reprinted with permission. Olive notes, “In his famous essay, `The Gospel of
Wealth', Carnegie argues that rich men should give away their great fortunes, and in so doing create
`an ideal state in which the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of
the many.' To date the Rockefeller family has given away more than $1.5 billion to universities,
medical schools, and dozens of other worthy institutions and causes. The Rockefeller image has
been well and truly cleansed, to the point where even the most thorough encyclopedia accounts
often do not trouble to mention how paterfamilias John D Rockefeller employed a vast network of
spies to sabotage competing oil companies' refineries and pipelines.”
How to Get Bigger Donations • 5
of good social standing be allowed to stay there.9
In more recent times, Canadian universities have received many large — and
sometimes unusual — donations. Late in 1992, Queen's University received $12
million from Alfred Bader, an alumnus living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to buy
a 15th-century castle in England, with 140 rooms, a 93-hectare demesne, and
a moat. It will be converted into an international study centre. Queen's also
received a $15 million donation in the late 1980s from an anonymous source.10
There have been other breath-taking donations:
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, received a $25 million
bequest from Dr Harry Lyman Hooker when he died with no family in
the early 1980s. Dr Hooker was not a McMaster graduate, and lived in
New York City, not Hamilton, although he had some business interests
there. Dr Hooker was an early investor in IBM. The president of the
university got to know him and built up a relationship. As a result of
his gift, “you see students on campus wearing jackets that say `Hooker
Scholar'”, says McMaster fundraiser Tom Daly.11
McMaster also received a sizeable donation in the form of a collection of art
worth $30 million from Dr Herman Herzog Levy, a Hamilton jeweller, who took
art history courses at the university. When he died at the age of 88 in June
1990, also with no family, he left an estate of over $28 million to be split in
approximately equal amounts between McMaster and the Royal Ontario
Museum. This brought his total gift to McMaster to $44 million.
The University of Victoria received the $6 million Dunsmuir Lodge conference
building as a donation in 1986.
The University of British Columbia received $15 million from Vancouver
financier Peter Wall in 1991, and a $10 million gift from the Chan Foundation
of Canada to establish a performing arts centre in 1989.
Simon Fraser University received $13.6 million in the late 1980s from a donor
who wished to remain anonymous.
Most groups can only dream of such huge sums. They would be happy with
less than 10% of the $25 million gift McMaster University received. For most of
Canada's 67,000 registered charities, it would be fantastic to get a donation
totalling 1% of that record — or even .1%. In fact, many groups would be
delighted to find people who would give them $2500 — .01% of the gift to
For all too many nonprofits, it would be exciting to get donations of $250 on
a regular basis — and that is only .001%, or one ten-thousandth of the amount
McMaster University raised from a single person.
Getting donations of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars is an achievable
dream for almost every group.
David Olive, Just Rewards, pages 215-216.
Alanna Mitchell, “Universities learn to cultivate the rich,” The Globe and Mail, January 15, 1993.
Private conversation with Thomas M Daly, Development Officer (Foundations), MCMaster
University, 3 May 1993.
6 • Face to Face
Oddly, many donors are also surprised at how much they will give. Few
people consciously set out to give away large sums of money. When they do
give, it is in response to an exciting cause or a properly worded, well timed
presentation made by the right person.
The construction of the largest modern mosque in the western hemisphere
provides an example. It was built in 1992 in Maple, Ontario, just north of
Toronto, by Ahmadiyya Muslims. They raised a total of $4.5 million.
“Every cent was raised by Canadian Ahmadis”, said Hasanat Ahmad
Syed, national secretary of the Canadian Ahmadiyya Movement. (It is
estimated that between 5000 and 10,000 Ahmadis live in Canada.)
“Some sold their homes, some borrowed money, some female members
sold their jewelry to pay for the mosque.”
Ahmadis are asked to donate from one-sixteenth to one-third of their
monthly income to the movement.
While all the major work was contracted out, hundreds of volunteers
contributed thousands of hours, some working 18-hour days and
sleeping overnight in a trailer. “It was a privilege”, said Naseer Ahmad,
39, the owner of an advertising agency. “Not many people are given the
opportunity to help build a mosque.”12
Similar stories could be told by people of every religion. Dedicated people
also outdid themselves to create many of Canada's community centres, theatres,
homes for senior citizens, health-care institutions and grassroots groups of
every type.
Don't think that only the rich and super-rich are sources of generous gifts.
They are not only NOT the only sources, they may not be the best sources of
significant gifts for your organization. In fact, “giving decreases as donor
income increases,” according to John William Thomas, Vice-President for
Development at the New England Medical Centre in Boston.13
Perhaps you happen to have a board member who knows one of the McCain
family14, or the Eatons, or Peter Pocklington, or the Bronfmans15, or one of
Canada's other wealthy families? If so, by all means pursue that connection —
“Volunteers share `privilege' of helping build mosque.” The Toronto Star, 17 October 1992.
Mr Thomas was speaking at Impact 88, a conference at the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, held
in Toronto in November 1988; reprinted with permission.
“In the summer of 1986, brothers Harrison and Wallace McCain were appalled by news reports that
farmers across the southern United States were suffering the worst drought in a century. The
brothers, whose McCain Foods Ltd is one of the world's largest frozen french-fry producers,
organized a relief program through which McCain itself and hundreds of growers who sell produce
to the Florenceville, NB, company sent more than two thousand tons of hay to the stricken farmers
free of charge. The bales of hay, each bearing the message, “Gift of the farmers and citizens of New
Brunswick, Canada”, began arriving while US farmers still awaited proposed drought-relief
legislation from their own government, and made unnecessary a choice by farmers to let their
livestock die or sell the animals at below-market prices.” David Olive, Just Rewards, p 224.
“Two Montreal institutions — the Jewish General Hospital and the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman
Cultural Centre — owe their existence to the generosity of the founding generation of Bronfmans;
the succeeding generation that now runs the company has been tireless in its support of good
causes…” David Olive, Just Rewards, p 67.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 7
but use the methods outlined here for best results.
For the rest of us, whose world is made up of ordinary people, don't despair.
In the following pages, you'll learn how to find contacts you never knew you
had. You'll also discover how to make it possible for donors to give more than
they thought they ever could, painlessly and happily.
But could it work for you?
Granted, some communities are very poor, and face high rates of
unemployment. Certain regions of Canada have chronic problems, yet they give
more generously. In Atlantic Canada, for example, people had an average family
income of $30,254 in 1986. The average donation was $417 per family, or
1.37% of pre-tax income. By comparison, people in Ontario had an average
income of $39,444 but gave only $349, or .85% of pre-tax income. That means
that although the incomes in Ontario are 30% higher, the donations are almost
16% lower.16
Steinbach, Manitoba, had an average reported income of only $18,054 per
tax-payer.17 Yet they are the most generous donors in the country, with a
median donation of $870 in 1990. The median donation for all Canada was
$120 per tax-payer.18
When they give, poor people give a far higher percentage of their income than
the richest. In 1990, Canadian donors who earned less than $5000 a year gave
4.5% of their income to charity. This percentage dropped steadily as income
increased. At the $45,000 to $50,000 annual income level, it bottomed out at
1.12%. After that it climbed slightly: people earning over $250,000 a year
claimed 1.69% of income as charitable donations. The average was 2.3% for all
returns. 19
To be fair, the average dollar amount donated did climb steadily with income:
• People earning from $10,000 to $15,000 gave an average of $321.
• People earning from $45,000 to $50,000 gave an average of $529.
• People earning over $250,000 gave an average of $8,475.
• The average for all returns was $555.
In addition, the more people earn, the more likely they were to claim a tax
deduction for a charitable donation. This ranged from 21% of people earning
from $10,000 to $15,000 to 76% of people earning over $250,000. On the
average, 30% of all people filing returns claimed charitable donations.
Of course all this is based on what people report on their income tax. That
makes it somewhat unreliable. Not everyone claims all their charitable
donations. Some kinds of support given to charities are not eligible for tax
Allan Arlett, Phelps Bell and Robert W Thompson, Canada Gives: Trends and Attitudes Towards
Charitable Giving and Voluntarism, Toronto: The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 1988, pp
Revenue Canada, Taxation, 1992 Taxation Statistics (Ottawa: Revenue Canada, 1992), p 336.
Statistics Canada, Charitable Donations Data, 1990, ranked by media donation, distributed at a
Statistics Canada presentation in Toronto, 4 December 1991, p 7 (original is unnumbered).
Calculations were based on information contained in 1992 Taxation Statistics, Summary Table 2, p
8 • Face to Face
receipts, such as part of the cost of a ticket to a special event, a raffle ticket, or
the purchase of services. Nonprofits that are not registered charities can't even
issue tax receipts.
Some social-change organizations assume they cannot use face-to-face
fundraising techniques because they attack the interests of the rich and
powerful. But remember: a donor does not have to be wealthy to be generous.
Actual experience proves that there are many people who have enough income
to make generous donations as well as sufficient political consciousness to be
willing to do so. They can be found among progressives who have taken jobs
as university faculty, government staff, employees in many industries, the selfemployed and successful artists.
However, if you are still convinced after reading chapter 2 that there are
no individuals who are willing or able to give you donations of a few
hundred dollars or more, this technique is not for you.
Decision #4: Can you find the volunteers to ask for donations?
Asking people face-to-face for a donation is the most efficient way to raise
money. It is also the scariest.
In addition, it must be done by volunteers. The reasons why this is so are
outlined later in this book. For the moment, take it as a simple fact that you
cannot succeed with this fundraising technique unless you have volunteers who
are willing to personally ask for the donation.
Experience suggests you need a minimum of ten volunteers to achieve
`critical mass'. Theoretically, it could be done with just one: if one person asks
others, the team can grow. But realistically, this is difficult in practice.
This handbook will touch on some techniques for recruiting volunteers, but
volunteer recruitment is a broad topic, and there are many good publications
on the subject.20
If you don't have volunteers and can't recruit any,
any, this technique is not for
Decision #5: Can you devote time and effort to preparation?
Volunteers who will be asking for donations need and (usually) appreciate
training before they hit the streets. Are you prepared to invest time and energy
in training?
You may also need to spend time gathering information to help build
enthusiasm among volunteers and donors. For example, can you quickly answer
questions like these: What are your goals? Your projects? What would a gift of
$500 or $50,000 accomplish? What recognition can you offer?
For more information on recruiting volunteers, see Joyce Young, Fundraising for Non-Profit
Groups (Self-Counsel Press, 1481 Charlotte Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7J 1H1, 1991); Joan
Flanagan, The Successful Volunteer Organization; Maurice Gurin, What Volunteers Should Know
for Successful Fundraising (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 300 Water St, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6,
1981) ISBN 0-8128-2739-2; Volunteers: How to Find, Select and Train (Ontario Ministry of
Culture, Tourism and Recreation, Community Information Services, Toronto, 1978), 32 pp (out of
print, but copies were sent to every Ontario library).
How to Get Bigger Donations • 9
This book will show you how to prepare volunteers, provide kits, and follow
up after a campaign. The preparation process doesn't have to take long, but it
is essential.
In fact, it may be faster than most other fundraising methods. The alternatives
almost always involve more work for less financial return. The heavy work
involved in special events is legendary. The high cost of direct mail can be
staggering. Government, foundation and corporate grants can take months to
arrange, and require writing complex proposals and waiting for slow decisions.
Success in finding major individual donations does require preparation. Wise
planners spend two thirds of their campaign time on internal work before they
approach the first prospective donor. You must prepare your organization.
Research must be done to find prospects, and to find out their interests,
solicitors must be trained, and so on. All this will take time.
Don't be impatient. Careful preparation is worth while.
However, if you cannot take the time, this technique is not for you.
Decision #6: Can you separate the fantasy and the reality of big gifts?
This technique is good, but it is not magic. Prepare yourself and your
organization for long-term fund raising.
Some people dream of a single huge campaign to raise “all the money we'll
ever need.” But in reality, needs keep changing and growing.
The Fantasy:
Fantasy: You buy a list of the richest people in the country. You
write them a short and simple letter — well, maybe two.
Suddenly it is revealed to them in a blinding flash that their
worldly wealth has all been misspent. Overcome by delight in
your group, they shower you with money. In fact, they give you
so much money that you can't spend it all it once. You invest
their huge donation in an endowment fund. Your organization
lives happily ever after on the interest.
The reality, of course, is not like that. Most often, the donors who make large
gifts have supported your work for a long time. You may never have realized
that they could give much more, so you never asked. They may not have
thought of giving your group a lot of money, either. Here is a more realistic
The Reality
Reality (Part
(Part I): You have found a few individual supporters: a
small mailing list and a few other nice people. Perhaps some
current and former board members give more than token
amounts. For the most part, they give relatively small amounts,
and they give irregularly.
Your team is afraid to ask them too often, for fear you will
offend them and drive them away.
Carefully, tentatively, you build your relationships over months
and years. You send newsletters and form letters. Occasionally,
one or two donors stand out from the pack, because they give a
bit more, or a bit more often, or because they write you a
10 • Face to Face
thoughtful note, or because someone knows them. You write a
personal letter. Maybe you make telephone calls. When you talk
to them, you listen to them carefully, and take their concerns
When the time is right, a volunteer goes to see them in their
home, or they come to where you work. The volunteer, who has
been properly trained and rehearsed, asks them to give a specific
amount of money for a project they might like to make possible.
They give more than they ever have before.
Over the years, these donors give a little more. You look for a
way to pay tribute to these special people, and start one or two
groups with names such as Benefactors, Friends, or Sustainers.
They give still more.
Eventually, the donations become quite generous. When the
donors can no longer give you more money in the here-and-now,
you discuss ways to give from future money, such as wills and
life insurance. Finally, after a long and happy life, a donor passes
gently away to a better world, leaving your group a modest but
significant endowment in her will.
You combine these with other bequests accumulating as a
result of your thoughtful work. The interest pays a significant
portion of the costs of some important projects. The organization
recognizes that the need for its services is continuing to grow,
and fundraising efforts must expand to become more productive
than ever.
What if you can't wait? You need money urgently! You don't have any contacts
like that.
Relax! There's still hope. Big gifts do sometimes come from people who have
never given to your group before.
The Reality
Reality (Part
(Part II): After careful thought, two or three of your board
members or volunteers each discover one or two contacts with
people who are capable of making a larger gift. The potential
donors they know aren't usually the sort who give away millions,
or even thousands, but they might give you an amount that is
larger than you usually get.
The volunteers may not be old friends of the prospective
donors, or even know them well. It would be wonderful if the
prospects owed the volunteer a big favour, or wanted the
volunteer's business — but that's unlikely to be the case in a
grassroots group.
The volunteer is nervous about approaching the potential
donor. After some careful training and role-playing, the
volunteer, teamed with a buddy, is hesitant, but is now willing to
After several phone calls, the volunteer arranges an
How to Get Bigger Donations • 11
appointment to meet the prospect. They talk. The prospect is
impressed that this person she knows, even if only slightly, is so
After the discussion, she wants time to think about it — after
all, this is a lot of money. They arrange to talk again.
On the second visit, the prospect gives more money to this
group than she ever gave them before.
The volunteer isn't sure whether to be grateful for this gift, or
frustrated that it wasn't much more. Mostly the volunteer is
relieved that it's over, and makes a quick exit.
The organization, if it's smart, thanks the donor quickly and
treats her well. The next year, the same volunteer goes back and
gets a bit more. This continues through increasing gifts and,
ultimately, a bequest.
Is this for you?
To summarize, the techniques described here are not for groups that:
• are primarily interested in building up a large base of supporters for
• are uncomfortable asking some people to give more than others;
• want to focus on institutional donors, direct mail, or special events;
• cannot identify any prospects who might give even a few hundred
• cannot find the volunteers they need;
• cannot devote time and effort to preparation; or
• are enthralled by the fantasy of super-rich people giving endowments
without work.
This method is for nonprofit groups that:
• need quick cash;
• want a lot of money for a special project, such as a building or
equipment; or
• are prepared to work over the long term to build an endowment fund
that will earn interest to give your group financial freedom.
If you're ready to continue, let's go!
12 • Face to Face
How Much More Income Could You
You Raise This Way?
You could do a quick-and-dirty campaign in just a few weeks. The main task
would be to have volunteers visit the most generous of your current donors.
Leave new donors out for the moment — it takes a little longer to prepare for
Here's how to estimate your income:
The Income Potential Test I:
A Short-term, Quick-and-Dirty Campaign
How many volunteers can you gather?
The number of volunteers is usually the limiting factor. It surprises many
people to discover that they may be able to identify a surplus of potential
donors. If there were time and people enough to ask them all, you could raise
still more.
Start by estimating how many volunteers would be willing to:
(a) invest 15 or 20 hours,
(b) participate in training,
(c) visit people they know, and
(d) ask for a donation in person.
Let's use a fictitious organization as an example: “Friends of the Fountain
Pen” (FOFP). They can get 12 volunteers involved in this task, not counting some
who said they were too shy to visit anyone in person, but would write letters
with their favourite fountain pens.
How many prospects can you visit?
Doing this properly, each volunteer works as part of a two-person team. Thus
the Friends of the Fountain Pen, with 12 volunteers, have 6 teams.
Each team visits at least 5 prospects. Thus, 6 teams visiting 5 prospects each
gives you 30 visits.
Some people prefer to work alone. Although the total number of prospect
visits will be higher, in many cases the average donation will be lower.
How much have the prospects you will visit given in the past?
Look at the top individual (not corporate, foundation or government) givers
on your donor list. Choose one prospect per visit.
How much was their total giving last year? If any of them gave significantly
more in the previous two years than they gave last year, use the larger amount
as your base line.
The top 30 donors to Friends of the Fountain Pen gave from $50 (most of
them) to $500 (one of them). The total for all 30 was $3000.
For now, don't include people who might give for the first time if only you
could figure out how to get to them. Estimating their giving will depend on
more careful research into their ability to give and how much they are publicly
How to Get Bigger Donations • 13
known to have given to other nonprofits.
FOFP reluctantly agrees that without personal contacts, three `fantasy'
prospects cannot yet be included: two former prime ministers and a famous
millionaire, all of whom board members had seen using fountain pens on TV.
Such people may become donors in the long run, but don't spend time
considering them during this brief campaign.
Do not include anyone you are certain would not give more even if the right
person asked them personally. Perhaps they are angry with your group; perhaps
you suspect they could not afford to give more. Cultivation and research may
bring them around, but that's not a job for a quick-and-dirty campaign.
How much could these prospects give?
Were your supporters' past donations made in response to letters, phone calls
and events, and not to visits like this? If so, they are likely to give much more
generously than they ever have before. Many of them will give from 50% more
to double their past gifts.
Realistically, what portion will give, and how much?
Not every prospect will be willing or able to give. Past experience shows that
three or four out of five past donors will probably donate again at this level,
using these techniques.
If you approach people who have never given before, a smaller portion will
respond. Your results are more likely to be one in five for them.
Will people make multi-year pledges?
Many of the donors will agree to give each year for three to five years.
Unfortunately, not all of the donors will make good on their pledges. You'll
probably collect about three-quarters of the amount promised.
The Income Potential Test II:
A Long-Term, Careful Campaign
How much of your income could come from major individual donors if you keep
at this and do it right?
The usual ratio is that 80% of a group's donations should come from the top
20% of donors. This is the “80/20 Target”.
In some large capital campaigns the ratio is now higher. Some have seen 90%
of the money come from 10% of the donors. In some cases a mere 1% of the
donors contribute fully 95% of the income.
That's impossibly heady country for most grassroots groups. However, most
small organizations can do better than they are doing now. The 80/20 Target
is a reasonable goal — over several years. How much more could your group
raise if you could achieve the 80/20 Target?
The top 20% of donors are very important:
Of that 20%, about 90% are seen by somebody face-to-face. Very few
people give $100,000 over the telephone. And probably even [fewer]
14 • Face to Face
people give $1 million in response to a letter. People have to be seen;
there has to be contact eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart in order to be
convincing. Now why isn't it done more? Because the solicitation
process is a much more difficult process than all other fundraising
Aryeh Nesher, “The Skills Required for Face-to-Face Solicitation,” Fund Raising Management,
November 1984, p 18. Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 15
Secret No 1
The Right Volunteers
The right volunteer asks the right
donor for the right amount at the right
time to support the right project with
the right approach.
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
Volunteers must be the ones who ask prospects for big gifts. This is not a job for
staff — not even the executive director. It is certainly not a job for consultants.
Some organizations with few or no staff have dreamed of hiring someone to
look after fundraising for them. Re-evaluate! Staff can fill in grant applications
for government, foundations, and some corporations. Staff or consultants can
handle direct-mail campaigns. It is even possible (if expensive) to pay people
to make telephone fundraising calls.
Appeals to major individual prospects, however, must be led by volunteers.
A staff person may accompany the volunteer on a visit to an individual prospect,
but should never take the lead role. There are several reasons for this.
First, donors expect to be visited by volunteers, not staff. As one donor said,
“If the organization can't get a volunteer out for the 15 or 20 minutes it will
take to talk to me, they are in big trouble, and I'm not throwing good money
after bad.”
When staff people ask for donations, it looks too much like they are asking for
their own salary — and often, they are! Volunteers convey sufficient distance
to keep the focus where it belongs: on the work the organization will
accomplish with the donors' money. In rare cases, where a senior staff person
carries a great deal of prestige, he or she can be involved in a fundraising
presentation. A university president or a dean, a bishop or a respected rabbi, a
scientist or a noted journalist, for example, may be exceptions to the rule.
16 • Face to Face
In addition, face-to-face solicitation often depends on personal contacts. At
a forum I helped organize on major gifts, philanthropist Lyman Henderson
talked about who can ask him for a donation:
It must be a personal approach by someone we know. And the credibility of the appeal is going to be very much dependent on the credibility of the person we know, and the degree of friendship or the
degree of prestige or whatever, that that person has.22
Other people have said much the same. For his book Mega Gifts, Jerold Panas
interviewed people who had given donations of over $1 million. Here's how one
of them described the importance of who asks.
George Pardee tells how having `the right' person call on him can make the
I'm really interested in the Boy Scouts; so when they called on me the
first time for the YMCA capital programme, I just wasn't interested.
That's no reflection on the Y — it's just that it isn't as dear to me as the
Boy Scouts. The second time around, well, the person who made the
call on me was the difference. I have so much respect for him, I felt I
had to do something. It wasn't nearly as much as I give to some of my
other charities, but it wasn't insignificant, either. I like to be called on
by the right person. No matter how worthy the cause, the solicitor has
to be someone I respect.23
Don't let this frighten you away. Many people assume they don't know anyone
who could be a major donor. As you will see in this book, most people have
more contacts than they realize at first. Further on, we'll explain how to work
with people you don't know, and develop new contacts.
However, everybody has a limited number of existing contacts. If you
depended only on staff people to use their contacts, their lists would quickly be
exhausted. Fortunately, every volunteer brings his or her own circle of friends,
and each new volunteer brings more contacts.
Finally, face-to-face fundraising takes time. It does not make sense to pay
people to do what volunteers can do. Although the rewards are very large,
volunteer labour is still more cost-efficient. In this era, all nonprofits have to be
highly cost-conscious.
Despite my strong conviction that this work is best done by volunteers, there
may be exceptions to this rule. I write this reluctantly, fearful that some novices
will see this as an excuse not to follow the more difficult, but more effective
route of volunteer leadership.
A volunteer who knows the prospective donor will almost always be the best
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 13, 1989. “This is a convention of
foxes,” Lyman Henderson said, “and you've asked four hens up to say how to undo the lock on the
chicken coop.” Lyman Henderson, in addition to being a generous donor and co-owner of a
printing company, is the author of The Ten Lost Commandments of Fund Raising.
Jerold Panas, Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them (Chicago: Precept Press, 160 East
Illinois, Chicago, IL 60611, tel (800) 467-9271 in the US or (312) 467-0424 Fax (312)
467-9271), page 87. Reprinted by permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 17
door-opener. If you don't have such a volunteer, however, the choice comes
down to approaching the prospect now with a staff person or waiting until you
can find the right volunteer. In some cases, the group's need is so urgent that
it just can't wait. In others, the chances of finding a good volunteer (even after
reading the rest of this chapter) may seem low. If that is your situation, begin
the process with staff — but use the most senior staff person you have. More
research, more homework, and more visits will almost certainly be required to
achieve success.
But in an article devoted to taking a contrary view of accepted wisdom, US
fundraiser Michael F Luck writes:
…Fundraisers should do most of the fundraising and not depend solely
on volunteers. Most people dislike the act or process of fundraising. The
few people who are comfortable asking for gifts are usually not even
good at it. The idea of assigning prospects to volunteers and training
them to be fundraisers is part of philanthropic legend — it is just not
worth the time and energy. For peer solicitation, however, volunteers
may be of help in writing letters of introduction, making telephone
calls or making verbal requests for attention from their colleagues,
friends and acquaintances on behalf of the fundraiser.
One way to be an effective peer fundraiser is to become well known
in the community. This is accomplished by being active in the
community — getting on boards, helping other nonprofits and
socializing. The bottom line is: If you do not have social events in your
home for people in the community, they will not invite you to theirs.24
Is there a role for consultants?
Consultants can be of great help, but they can't do it for you. The are not for
every organization, either.
As solicitors, consultants invite even more controversy than staff. Prospects
may see them as mercenaries without real loyalty. Despite many honourable
consultants with outstanding records of public service, the behaviour of a few
unscrupulous individuals has led to understandable concerns. This is especially
a problem if the consultants are paid a commission based on a percentage of
the total raised, or if they contact prospects on the group's behalf. Ethical
consultants are paid according to the amount of time they work, and they
always stay behind the scenes. They must not act as your `sales
Although I am writing this as a self-help book, I am also head of a consulting
firm. To avoid a conflict of interest in answering this question, let me turn to
Lyman Henderson:
What about the incorporated fundraising companies? It would seem
that a charity could benefit from their experience without making a
staff commitment. On the whole, they are effective or they wouldn't still
Michael F Luck, “A New Twist on Old Fund-Raising Maxims,” NSFRE Journal, Summer 1990, pp
18 • Face to Face
be in business. But they are expensive — particularly when compared
to volunteers. And because their reputation rests on success, they may
push you farther and faster than you wish to go.
A fundraising company will:
1. provide you with experience and expertise in planning and methods;
2. analyze what needs to be done to reach your goal and advise whether
this is realistically obtainable;
3. help with organization and administration;
4. plan the recruitment process;
5. set a value on key target corporations and individuals (from previous
6. plan and produce campaign materials;
7. train canvassers;
8. keep the machine running even during difficult times; and
9. most importantly, provide focus, cutting short time-consuming
discussions about which organizational setup or which approach to use.
It will not:
1. raise money for your cause;
2. provide canvassers or volunteers;
3. guarantee success.
Professional fundraising companies are particularly valuable in oneshot appeals, where you have neither the time nor opportunity to build
up experience and expertise. They are also excellent when an
organization is starting out on the campaign trail. In these cases they
can be worth their weight in gold. But they would be the first to say
that their value is in the relatively short term while they train your
volunteers to do the job themselves. Are you too small to interest a
fundraising company? Why not ask them? They'll soon tell you whether
they're interested or not.
It is essential to build up a professional approach and method in
fundraising. If you are new to the game, you can follow the twisted trail
of trial and error (if you survive long enough) or you can recruit or hire
experienced help. Having tried both, I strongly recommend getting a
consultant on board even if you have to pay for it.25
To get a list of consultants, contact:
The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy
2nd floor
1329 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 2C4
(416) 515-0764
Lyman Henderson, The Ten Lost Commandments of Fundraising, David + Henderson's
Bicentennial booklet (Toronto: The Council for Business and the Arts in Canada), 1984, pp 25-26.
Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 19
How many volunteers do you need?
You need volunteers to do several different tasks. Depending on your situation,
these may include:
• Recruiting other volunteers
• Training other volunteers
• Identifying potential donors
• Researching prospective donors
• Preparing information about the organization
• Cultivating the prospects
• Visiting the prospects and asking for the donation
• Handling simple correspondence
• Making sure good records are kept for the future
In small organizations, the same volunteers will do all these different types
of work. This is easiest to administer, and makes sense when there aren't many
people. In addition, it saves a lot of formal research if a volunteer who knows
the potential donor well handles all the phases. That may not always be the best
way, however.
If your current volunteers are overworked or don't feel competent to do some
part of this, you may need to recruit others with special skills. Many grassroots
groups find that their volunteers and board are very committed to the cause,
but don't approach prospects directly because they are too busy or because it
makes them uncomfortable.
It may be appropriate to divide the tasks according to special abilities.
Someone who is good at research may not be good at asking directly, or vice
versa. Or someone who is good at asking may be too busy to handle the other
At least ten volunteers are required. Below that number, it is hard to sustain
enthusiasm. It may also be hard to keep up the momentum if one or more
volunteers drop out for personal reasons. It is possible to succeed with fewer
volunteers — but it is harder.
20 • Face to Face
What would be a good job description for a volunteer solicitor?
The volunteer solicitors you need must be willing to:
• Ask potential donors face-to-face. It is important that the volunteers
actually visit the prospects, and come right out and ask for a donation.
They must not fall back on using the telephone or writing letters. Much,
much more money is raised through direct personal contact than by mail
or phone calls. They must not be wishy-washy. Ultimately,
Ultimately, they must
• Accept training. There are right and wrong ways to ask prospects for
donations. Using the wrong methods can damage your reputation and
turn off a potential donor — permanently.
Training will likely take about three hours in a group session.
• Ask five to ten people each. In view of the training and preparation
needed, it is usually not worth the trouble to train someone who will ask
fewer than five prospects. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. If
a volunteer can get a large enough donation, a single appeal may be all
that is needed. For the most part, however, that is fantasy, not reality.
Don't let volunteers take on more than five visits at first. In a list of
common mistakes people make, Warren Steen includes this:
One volunteer took 22 pledge cards! Isn't that great?
No, that is terrible! Encourage your enthusiastic
volunteer to take a maximum of five or six pledge
cards. Diplomatically tell him or her that additional
cards will be assigned after these have been worked.26
• Make their own generous gift. The volunteers who ask others to give
must first make their own donation. It does not have to be a lot of
money, but it must be generous according to their own ability.
“It's interesting to ask a person who approaches you, `How much did
you give?'” says Lyman Henderson. “If we find somebody said, `Well, I'm
still thinking about it,' then I don't think that approach has been
particularly significant.”27
J Warren Steen, “Fourteen Fallacies of Capital Campaigns”, Fund Raising Management, September
1992, page 22. Reprinted with permission.
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 1989.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 21
Why is it better to have volunteers work in teams of two?
Have your askers work in pairs. Two people should visit each potential donor.
This does mean it will take more volunteers than if one person visits alone —
twice as many. The results are worth it, however.
• Before the visit, if they are reluctant to make calls, one can urge the
other on.
• The prospects will be impressed that they are important enough to send
two people.
• The two volunteers can keep each other on track, each filling in any
points the other has forgotten.
It is tempting to skip this stage. Some inexperienced people let the volunteers
decide for themselves if they want to team up. This is a bad idea. Here is how
one fundraiser learned the merit of visiting in teams:
One prospect taught me the value of taking along a co-solicitor. He
was a master of dramatically and unexpectedly changing the subject.
Just when I thought he was ready to hear an important point or was
primed to respond positively to my donation request, WHAM! — off he
went on an unrelated topic.
So I tried again. We'd end up on the same roller-coaster ride. I was
stymied and went home without a gift. He was chuckling, I'm sure.
The director of development came along for the next visit. She
presented the case. I observed and made points at opportune moments.
He tried to divert our attention, but I was able to steer it back on track.
I heard when it was time to ask for the gift. I did, and he said yes.
He's now my favourite prospect to solicit — with or without a
partner. Our time together is almost like a fencing match. Thanks to
him, I've learned to listen intently, to be very focused, and to have some
Match the teams up carefully, if you can. There are various ways to do this.
Hints for matching include:
• Match an experienced person with a new person.
• Match someone who is shy with someone outgoing.
• Match someone who knows the facts and figures with someone who can
make an emotional appeal.
• Match a person who is a close friend of the prospect with someone who
is more objective.
• Match someone who may be impressive, but doesn't know your
organization well, with someone who can speak knowledgeably and can
close strongly.
• Match a volunteer with a staff person, if a staff person must go.
Marga Callender, “Solicitation Calls: A Personal Reflection”, The Nonprofit Times, March 1993, page
28. Reprinted with permission. Marga Callender is a development officer for the School Sisters of St Francis,
an international organization of women religious and associates.
22 • Face to Face
How much time will this require?
Each visit will take from twenty minutes to an hour. (If the volunteers stays
longer than that, they're visiting their friends, not making a fundraising call.)
A few prospects may require a second visit, or even a third.
A volunteer team will need time to plan a strategy before visiting. Allow a
little more time to make notations in the file after each visit. Add in a little
travel time to and from each visit. Altogether, it may take five to ten hours for
this segment.
Add to this two or three hours for a post-campaign session to share lessons
learned, to evaluate and to celebrate. Include the three hours for training noted
above. We're now up to between 10 and 22 hours.
If the same volunteers are involved in identifying potential new donors, an
additional two or three hours each will be needed.
Researching the prospects is important, particularly if you are approaching
people you don't know very well, and even more so if you are looking for very
large sums of money. The amount of time for research is harder to estimate. An
hour or two is often plenty for covering the main points for an average
prospect. However, when the prospect is well known or exceptionally generous,
research can continue to uncover useful information for much longer — days
and days. But that is rare for a grassroots group.
Where can you find volunteers?
There are people in almost every community who would be willing to help you
raise money. Many organizations are surprised to discover how easy it can be
to line up volunteers.
Start with people who already know your organization. They are already
supporters, and have a good understanding of your purposes. It will take less
time to convince them of the need or to educate them on your work. They may
need training on how to ask for a big donation, though. Begin with:
• Current board members: Members of your own board of directors are
the best volunteers, because prospects will see them as the people who
are most committed. Important prospects may also feel that people
equally important should come to see them about gifts. However,
current board members may be too busy, or feel that this was not why
they joined the board.
• Past board members: They have almost as much prestige and
commitment as the current board — maybe more. They are likely to
have more free time. Many organizations have been surprised to
discover that people who were board members years before would
welcome the opportunity to help out, but may prefer not to serve on the
board again.
• Current and past volunteers: They know what you do, and they may be
glad to do some different work for a change, if they have the skills. You
How to Get Bigger Donations • 23
know them well enough to evaluate what they can and can't do.
• Current donors: They can talk to other donors as equals, and they
obviously understand and support your work to some degree already.
Some are pleased to be asked to do more; few are likely to be offended
at being asked. There is a risk that they will discover unpleasant truths
about your organization when they see it in action up close.
• Current and past participants You may call the people your organization
serves by many names: alumni, audience, clients, customers, drop-ins,
fans, learners, members, parents, performers, players, recipients,
spectators, street people, students, subscribers, telephone callers,
viewers, and so on. For brevity's sake, I will refer to them all here as
This applies equally to arts groups and social service groups, advocacy
groups and schools, sports teams and health care providers. All have
people who participate in one way or another.
They can explain why the work you do is important better than
anyone. They are not appropriate in some groups, for example where
confidentiality is a concern.
• People not already active in your group. Don't limit yourself to people
who are already or have been actively involved with your group.
Although people who have been active are probably easier to recruit and
more effective as representatives, new people may have much to offer.
They bring new contacts, fresh energy and a new way of looking at
Some groups are hesitant to bring in `outsiders'. Self-help groups, for
example, may feel that no one else can understand the situation the way they
do. Sports groups think that people who don't participate (or drive their kids to
practice) will not care as deeply. Cultural groups may suspect that people not
steeped in the intricacies of their culture won't communicate in the same way.
All that may be true, but outside people can still be useful, even if sometimes
in a limited way. Often, outside people are interested and supportive.
Discovering how to include them can be energizing and liberating.
Care should be taken in opening your group up to new volunteers, of course.
Don't ask them to do too much too soon. Don't give them too much power
before you have developed trust.
Here are some examples of outside people who would be particularly useful
to recruit to help with major individual donations:
• People active in fundraising and service clubs: Someone who learned
how to do this kind of fundraising in a campaign for the United Way, a
hospital, a school or a religious centre may be willing to show you the
• Family and friends of people actively involved with your group: People
who care about your current volunteers, staff and participants may be
very willing to help out. Often they wonder when they'll be asked, and
are pleased to be included.
• Business leaders recently promoted to upper management: Busy as they
24 • Face to Face
are, they still need to make contacts and demonstrate that they are
community-spirited citizens. If they don't already support you, though,
you have to persuade them that you do good work and that they should
volunteer. Find them through colleagues who work in the business world
and by reading announcements in the media.
• People who have recently retired from business: You can help them fill
their newly empty hours and make use of their experience. A cautionary
note is required: many people who retire discover that their influential
circle of business contacts evaporates the moment they leave the job.
It can be depressing to discover that people you thought would do you
a favour as a friend were really only interested in a mutually beneficial
business relationship that you can no longer deliver.
• People just moved to town: You can help them make new friends and get
established in the new community. They can bring expertise they've
developed elsewhere. Find them through Welcome Wagon, real estate
agents, schools, and so on.
• People connected to politics: People who run for political office (and
those who work behind the scenes) are often active in many ways in
their communities. The best of them do so because they genuinely care.
Cynics may say that some are only interested in gaining exposure and
meeting potential supporters. In either case, political people may be
willing to be involved in your fundraising campaign (and if they get
elected, you may have friends in high places). Get their help before they
declare their candidacy. Once they are openly running, they may be too
partisan, and too busy, to really help.
Frank Stronach, the millionaire owner of auto-parts maker Magna
International, is one example of the positive side. He has been active
with charities for years. For example, he served as national chair of Big
Brothers in the mid 80s, and they continue to be a favourite of his. He
holds fundraising barbecue parties on his farm called Frank's Festivals
(with entertainment from bands like the Good Brothers) to benefit
organizations in the Aurora-Newmarket community, ranging from a
shelter for abused women to sporting groups. He chaired the regional
United Way campaign in 1983. In 1986, he served as chair of the YorkFinch Hospital's $5 million dollar campaign, because so many of his
employees lived and worked in the area. “He signed every single letter,
hosted lunches and dinners, leveraged several big gifts, and was a real
hands-on, terrific chair”, according to Nancy Redner, who was the
hospital's staff fundraiser. Frank Stronach ran for political office in York
Simcoe in 1988. Although he lost the election, he continues to be an
active fundraiser.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 25
Help volunteers overcome the fear of fundraising
Most of us believe that we don't know much about fundraising. And many of us
are afraid of it.
“Ask people for money? Not me! No way!”
Sound familiar? There is a solution: get them `hooked' on fundraising.
Many people find they get hooked on fundraising. They cite a number of
reasons leading them to feel this way:
Comprehensive training leaves volunteers confident that they know how.
• After you successfully obtain a donation, the feeling is fantastic.
• Fundraising is enabling and empowering. Good fundraisers realize they
are not merely asking for funds — they are creating a better, more
effective organization. Fundraising builds public support and enhances
your group's public image.
• Fundraising allows you to get out into the community at large and talk
about the organization to new people.
• Fundraising can help educate people about your organization's work. It
also measures the success of your past educational work.
• If you handle it properly, you're not going to lose friends by asking for
donations. In fact, people who give feel good about themselves. People
who are not asked to give often wonder why they have been left out.
• The volunteer who raises funds uses and improves skills in
communication, presentation, networking, educating and organizing.
• It is pleasant to discover how much you already know about how to
raise funds, and about who gives.
Remember: You're
You're not begging: you're offering an opportunity.
It is easier to recruit volunteers if you remind them that the prospective donor
is not going to be forced to do anything unpleasant.
The goal is to build a long-term and positive relationship with supporters who
may give again and again over many years. Offer prospects an opportunity to
fulfill their own best intentions. Contributions make a difference in people's
lives — no small benefit!
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest known for his many books on spiritual
journeys, tackled this very topic. “Fundraising is proclaiming what you believe
in,” he said, “and doing it in such a way that you offer the other person an
opportunity to participate in your vision; precisely the opposite of begging…
People only invest money in people who know how to make money grow… not
in people who say they have nothing, who will start begging again next week…
Ask for money standing up, not bowing down.”29
Neither guilt, embarrassment, harassment, pressure or any of the other
Speech given by Henri Nouwen on “The Spirituality of Fundraising” at the St Marguerite Bourgeoys
Society annual meeting, Toronto, 15 September 1992. Reprinted with permission.
26 • Face to Face
negative reasons to give have any place in this kind of fundraising. The goal is
not to extract money from unwilling victims by any means necessary. This is not
the place to try to squeeze money from a rock or a turnip. At best, that gets
money for today, and makes future fundraising much harder. At worst, it
backfires immediately.
Your goal is nothing less than to change the donor's life by a great
unselfish act — a huge gift in money and effort to achieve good. You
inspire him to transform his life by tremendous benefits to others.30
Some people are amazed to discover that this approach works! Here's an
example of what happened when a tenants' rights group approached a slum
landlord. The story is told by the board member who made the visit:
He didn't own any property where we were organizing. I knew he
owned some really foul buildings in another part of town, though. I
took some pictures in our neighbourhood, and took a community leader
from that neighbourhood with me. We talked for a long time about
irresponsible landlords, run-down properties, crisis in public housing
and the like.
He finally said, “You must know that I am one of the people you are
I said, “I don't believe you would have agreed to see us if that were
true. You have made some serious mistakes with your properties and
let them get run down, but in your heart you are not a slumlord.” He
looked so puzzled and sort of half hurt and half complimented.
He said, “How much do you want?”
I said, “$5000.” He wrote the cheque right there. The next day he
started fixing up his buildings.
This slumlord was not a bad person. He grew up in a slum, but he
had removed himself from all that. Instead of reminding him that he
was a capitalist pig, I reminded him of something that had been true a
long time ago — that he was a decent, caring person. Who knows how
long he's going to act right, but it's a good start.31
Don't do what feels wrong.
Some volunteers feel a prospect would only give as a personal favour. This
certainly happens. However, it does not build a long-term relationship between
the organization and the donor. It is seldom worthwhile.
Some volunteers feel they will be obliged to give an equally large gift to some
other cause the prospect supports. This too happens. It is the organization's job
to make this less likely, by keeping the donor excited about the work and
pleased to be thanked so thoroughly.
Don't send any volunteer to ask for a donation from someone they don't want
Charles F Mai, “Cultivating Major Gifts”, Fundraising Management, August 1991, p 56. Reprinted
with permission. Mr. Mai is the past director of planned giving and legacies for the American Cancer Society
in Chicago, Illinois, and in Columbia, Missouri.
Kim Klein, “Profile of a Major Fundraiser”, Grassroots Fundraising Journal, October 1987, vol 6, p 6.
PO Box 11607, Berkeley CA 94701. Telephone (718) 768-3403. Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 27
to ask. Some people are willing to ask strangers, but never someone they know.
Others feel the exact opposite.
For more information on how to proceed once you have recruited them, refer
to the chapter on how to train volunteer solicitors.
The next step is to identify potential donors. This may involve work by
volunteers as well as staff (if you have any).
28 • Face to Face
Secret No 2
The Right Donors
The right volunteer asks the right
donor for the right amount at the right
time to support the right project with
the right approach.
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
Who gives more: individuals or corporations and foundations?
Contrary to popular belief, corporations and foundations are not the most
important source of income for nonprofit groups.
Corporations give only 7% of all private donations to nonprofits in Canada.
Foundations give only another 5%. Individuals give 88% of the money — about
$3 billion dollars in 1990.32 These percentages are almost exactly the same in
the USA.
Individuals give more to Canadian charities
than foundations and corporations combined — 730% more!
5% or $170 million
7% or $238 million
88% or $3 billion
Allan Arlett, Phelps Bell and Robert W Thompson, Canada Gives: Trends and Attitudes Towards
Charitable Giving and Voluntarism (Toronto: The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 1988), p 18.
Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 29
How do you find the generous people who donate big gifts?
It is not as hard to find generous donors as most people think. In fact, you may
be surprised to discover major prospects among people you already know.
Research has given a detailed profile of the typical major donor. Of course,
your own donors may have a different pattern of characteristic traits. Canada
Gives provides two profiles of donors.33
The most generous donors to nonreligious activities are most typically:
• thirty years of age or older34
• married, with children or with children who have left home
• two-income families
• in a professional or managerial occupation
• making $50,000 annual household income
• university-educated
• regular religious service attendees35
• also donors to religious organizations36
• Prairie residents
• active in the community
• members of at least two associations
• volunteers
“The two most important factors are religion and community involvement.”
The most generous donors to religious organizations are often:
• sixty years or older
• married, aged 30 to 50, with children
• married, aged 40 and over, with no children
• single, age 50 and over, with no children
• two-income families
• in a professional or managerial occupation
• making an annual personal income of $40,000 or more
• university-educated
• Atlantic residents
Allan Arlett et al in Canada Gives, p 77 (nonreligious causes) and p 83 (religious causes).
“The average size of donations increased with age. Average income increased up to a peak for the 50-54
age group and thereafter it declined. In percentage terms, donations related to average income increased
consistently with age from 0.12% for those under 20 years of age to a high of 2.04% for those aged 75 or
more”, according to Allan Arlett et al in Canada Gives, p 30.
“Those who claim to be very religious and attend religious services more frequently give larger amounts
to charity. Similarly, those who are most active in the community and belong to the most organizations are
the most generous.” Allan Arlett et al, Canada Gives, p 81.
“The 42% of respondents who support only nonreligious causes gave $42 (Quebec $32); the 42% who
gave to both religious and nonreligious causes gave a median amount of $241 (Quebec $169). This is a very
major difference.” Allan Arlett et al, Canada Gives, p 82.
30 • Face to Face
very religious37
religious attendees
active in the community
members of at least two organizations
A US researcher added a few other factors, and came up with the next profile.
It varies only slightly from the Canadian models above, but focuses more
specifically on the biggest donors. The most likely major donor has38:
• previously given to your group
• personal contacts with someone in your group
• money to give
• been known to give to many causes
• demonstrated interest in your cause/issues
• served as a board member — if not on your board, for other groups
• received an award for community service
• children
• lived to be over 55 years old
• conservative views (no matter how they vote)
• fairly religious values
• remained married to their first spouse
• a high profile in the community
• a likelihood of leaving a bequest to your organization
At the simplest level, the people who will give the largest amounts are
“willing, capable, and interested”, in that order, said John Thomas.39
Willing: First and foremost, the prospect must be willing to give to some
organization. Many people have enough wealth to make major
donations, but simply are not the generous type. In fact, the
wealthiest people are not the most likely to give to a nonprofit
After your own donors, focus on people who already give to
other nonprofit groups. It is easier to convert them to your
interests than it is to get a donation from people who like your
work but don't have the giving habit.
Capable: The ability to give requires more than wealth and a generous
heart. Some people would like to give but cannot, because of
their expenses. People living in magnificent houses and driving
fancy cars may be so deep in debt that donations are not possible
until they return to fiscal health.
Interested: There are over 67,000 registered charities in Canada, and
countless more unregistered nonprofit groups. Even the most
“Non-Christian religions give substantially more than Christians. Among the latter, Protestants donate
more than Catholics.” Allan Arlett et al, Canada Gives, p 86.
Original source unknown.
Speech at the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy Conference, November 1988.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 31
generous donors must make decisions about what to support
and what not to.
Start with people who already support your group
There is a big and dangerous delusion about major donor campaigns.
Many people share the false notion that the campaign should begin by finding
a really wealthy person (even though that person may never have heard of your
group before, much less donated to you). Then they try to persuade him or her
that your group is worthy of support.
Quite the contrary. The secret of success is to begin with those most familiar
with your group, those who have already demonstrated their commitment. Then
slowly widen the circle of contacts.
…The danger is that enthusiastic campaign leaders sometimes
concentrate so much on new money that they have no resources left for
base maintenance. Consequently, their growth is not what has been
predicted as most of the new money is needed to replace erosion of the
old. Why does the new glitter more than the old?
Consider there's extra gold in them thar old hills. What better place
to search for additional support than among those who have already
been won over to your side? Old supporters can often be convinced to
increase their giving at least to match inflation. Others can be coaxed
to move up from the `Friends' category to the `Patrons', by giving more
and enjoying the added privileges of the higher bracket. Still others can
be convinced, on a more direct approach, that the organization needs
them for an extra special effort this year and they may respond because
of their strong belief in the cause.
In any case, the message is, “Look to your old money first.”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”,
but only if you keep a good grip on the bird!40
Start with the people you know best. It will come as a shock to some people
that board members should be your first donors.
Your major gift prospects are, in order of priority:
1 board members, current and past
2 largest current and past donors:
a) largest single donations
b) largest total cumulative donations
c) most frequent small donations
3 volunteers and staff, current and past
4 participants and, in some cases, their families
5 contacts of board members and volunteers
6 strangers — people selected on the basis of research:
a) people known to be generous to other nonprofits
Lyman Henderson, The Ten Lost Commandments of Fundraising, p 10 (emphasis as in the original).
32 • Face to Face
b) people who display interest in your area
least likely: wealthy people with no known interest in your work and no
record of philanthropy
Another way to express this is as `circles of influence'. Visualize a target, or the
solar system. The people in the centre are the most likely to give. The farther
out they are, the less likely it is that you will get a big donation. Current and
past board members are in the centre. Donors, current and past, are in the next
ring. Volunteers and staff, past and present are a little further out still, followed
by participants and their families and contacts of board and volunteers.
Strangers known for their generosity are at the outer limit — the only ones
more remote are strangers known for wealth but not generosity.
Why ask the board to give first? How do you ask?
“Our board give? He must be joking! They can only afford to give
their time. We don't have a bunch of rich people on the board, and we
don't want to.”
Many people don't believe there is any point in trying to get their board to
give at all — let alone give first. Yet there are good reasons why it is important.
There are techniques that can make it surprisingly easy. Even in difficult
circumstances, such as boards intentionally composed of poor people, it can be
Board giving is important. Even a token amount has value. In the eyes of
prospects, this symbolic gesture of leadership may far overshadow the actual
amount of money that a board member may be able to afford.
Let's explore three issues:
• Is it possible to get the board to give major donations?
• Why is it worth the trouble?
• How do you get board members to give?
Is it possible to get the board to give major donations?
If you are convinced your board members can not give or will not give, you
are not alone. Many organizations share this conviction. They may be right.
However, this perception must be challenged and forestalled early in the
It is not necessary that all board members be rich. It is even not necessary
that all of them give large donations. It is, however, absolutely necessary that
all make some level of financial contribution. Each board member should be
giving as much as he or she can afford.
Is this realistic?
A true story will show just how realistic it is. Lucy Charron, the then
Coordinator of the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), was attending
a fundraising seminar for small organizations on Grindstone Island (north of
Kingston, Ontario) in September of 1989. When others in the room expressed
How to Get Bigger Donations • 33
doubts about board members of grassroots groups giving money, she
NAPO has a by-law requiring that two thirds of board members must
be currently or formerly on welfare. One hundred per cent of our board
contribute financially.
Imagine the moral power this gives NAPO when it asks a prospect to give!
Many other organizations have found that board members are willing to give
donations in addition to their time, when approached in the right way.
Why is it worth the trouble?
Why is it so important for board members to give money? They already give
their time. They may be paying expenses to come to meetings — sometimes
major travel costs. Even if they do give, it won't add up to much money.
There are several reasons:
Prospects have been known to ask outright, “Do 100% of your board
contribute? If not, come back and see me when they do.”
Prospects feel nervous about an organization where the board does not
appear to be firmly enough committed to put their own money on the line. After
all, if you cannot persuade your own board to give, how can you persuade
others, who have less attachment to your mission?
It is also important for at least some of the board members to be involved in
meeting potential donors. Staff should not take on this role alone. If a prospect
asks the board member how much he or she is giving, as they sometimes do, it
is not sufficient for the board member to reply, “I give my time.” Time does not
pay any bills. The prospect is apt to respond, “I'll give my time, too, and you've
just had an hour of it. Goodbye.”
Even if the board member can give only a small amount, this can be adequate.
If prospects ask, tell them, “We keep the actual amount of everyone's donations
confidential. However, I can assure you that I give as much as I can.”
Some board members may be willing to name the amount. They might say “I
give X dollars — and that represents a significant percentage of my income and
a large share of the money I have available to give to charity. If you'll give in the
same proportion, we'd be happy.”
It may seem shocking that prospects would ask board members about their
own gifts. It happens most often when the prospect and the board member
know each other quite well — and that's the very sort of intimate relationship
that's ideal for an approach.
When a board member gives, the actual amount may not make a significant
difference to the overall fundraising goal. But it symbolizes a different relation
to the organization.
Sometimes the board member's attitude changes as well. Board members who
never before expressed any interest in raising funds suddenly realize how
central it is when their own money is on the line.
A token donation may be all that can be arranged at first. In the long run, the
board may have to take on more responsibility and dig deeper.
In traditional campaigns, the board members as a group are expected to make
34 • Face to Face
personal contributions totalling from 10% to 30% of the goal. If they can't give
it personally, they are often expected to take responsibility for raising that
This may be difficult or impossible for some organizations.
Grassroots groups, for example, may have people on the board representing
participants or minority groups who are poor.
Umbrella organizations and provincial and national federations also have
problems. If their board members are appointed as representatives from other
groups, their prime loyalty may be to their home organizations.
Still other groups have board members appointed as government watchdogs,
rather than as supporters.
In such cases, board members should still be asked to make at least token
contributions. At the minimum, if they are paying their own expenses, the
organization might reimburse them, and then ask that the money be donated
back. While this is primarily symbolic, it may suffice. Ideally, each member
should give to his or her own level of sacrifice. For some that may be $10. For
others, it may be $100, $1000, or much more.
Grassroots fundraising consultant and author Joan Flanagan offers this advice
to board members:
If necessary, look at your own list of where you make charitable gifts.
If this is the year you want to make a major gift, cut out the $25, $50,
and $100 gifts to groups that are less important to you, and combine
the amount in one major gift to the organization.
Even better, practice what you preach and change your habits to
improve your life. Then donate the money saved to the major-gift
campaign. Quit smoking and give $1000 to a nonprofit hospital or the
Lung Association; wear a cloth coat rather than fur and donate $15,000
to the Humane Society or the zoo; ride the bus rather than buy a new
statusmobile and give $40,000 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving; or
the group organizing for better access for disabled people on your city's
mass-transit system. You get the idea.41
How do you get the board members to give?
Here's the worst way to ask the board to give: march into a board meeting and
propose a resolution that henceforth all board members shall be required to
contribute a minimum of $100 to the organization on an annual basis.
This is bound to raise a storm. And it doesn't model the kind of approach they
should use in appealing to prospective donors: asking privately, listening to
their interests, and asking for a gift that is appropriate to their individual
Instead, board members should be approached about giving with all the tact
and care required for any other major prospect. All the techniques outlined in
this manual apply equally to the first round, when you ask board members to
donate. In addition, special measures are appropriate for these special people.
Choose one board member to spearhead the approach. Select this campaign
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 150.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 35
leader quietly. Do not ask at a board meeting if anyone would like to volunteer.
Do not have someone appointed. The person must be respected by others on the
board. She or he must already be giving, or be willing to start giving. The leader
will likely require training, as outlined later in the book.
The leader should, in turn, choose another prospect. Pick someone who can
be persuaded easily to give a significant contribution. Someone who can
influence others to give. The campaign leader should quietly speak to the new
prospect about contributing. If the prospect agrees, then the two of them
approach a third, and so on, until all have been asked.
All this is done by appointment. Meet them in your organization's office, or
the board member's office or home. Don't slip it in at board or committee
meetings or during breaks.
It may take some time to reach every board member. This is a critically
important stage, however, and the time is well worth investing. In a real sense,
all future major-donor contributions depend on the success of this stage.
Some board members may not be persuaded to give after this process of quiet
discussions. In that case it may be appropriate to make the campaign more
formal. Once all the board members have been approached — and not before —
the matter could be raised at a board meeting. The campaign leader could
announce the degree of success, measuring the percentage of the board
members who have given and explaining why it is important to reach 100%.
Here's how one national organization based in Ottawa handled the problem
of getting the board to give: they made a game of it. A draw was announced.
The only eligible entrants were board members who had not previously given
and were now making their first contribution. Prizes included restaurant meals
and a weekend in a hotel, all donated. It took them three years, but they moved
from no board members giving to full participation.
Ultimately, when appointing people to the board, consider their fundraising
contributions as one of the criteria. This is not to suggest that the only
consideration be the person's ability to donate or raise money. However, many
grassroots groups have let the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction.
They may wrongly assume that the kind of people they want as board members
couldn't contribute anything at all financially, and that people with money can't
possibly contribute anything intellectually or emotionally.
Where the organization does not have control over the board, another
solution is required. This applies when some or all board members are
appointed, or for some other reason can't be selected with any consideration of
fundraising factors.
In this case, set up another quasi-board, specifically for fundraising. It may be
called an Advisory Council or an Honorary Board. It may be semi-independent,
or The Business Council for
. It
and be named Friends of
may even be set up as a fully independent foundation, as many hospitals have
This group would be given the mandate of raising funds. Its members would
be chosen for their fundraising ability, their contacts, and their personal
willingness to give.
A team like this is well positioned to fulfil the motto increasingly used to
36 • Face to Face
describe the role of the board. Boards have moved beyond being asked to bring
their Three T's: time, talent and treasure. Now the catchphrase is the Three G's:
give, get, or get off.
A separate team with a fundraising mandate leaves the managerial and policymaking power with the original board. This is usually a satisfactory
arrangement. People who are capable of serving on a fundraising group usually
have no interest in taking over the policies or management of an organization.
Nevertheless, problems have occasionally erupted when trust between the two
groups breaks down.
Advisory Councils have decided the Managing Board is incompetent. They
have refused to turn over money on request. They have even decided to give
funds to other organizations.
Managing Boards, in turn, have decided that the Advisory Council was not to
be trusted and refused to share important information.
In most cases, however, regular consultation and careful attention to the
balance of power have prevented any problems from developing.
How can you find hidden giving potential among current donors?
Once you have explored the potential for your board to become donors, you can
widen the circle. The next group to look at are your current donors. In almost
every case, some of your current donors could give more, if they were asked.
If you are fundraising for a new organization with no current donors, you
may wish to skip to the next section, which deals with finding new supporters.
However, this section is also good preparation for your long-term fundraising
Do not pass too quickly to asking strangers. It takes a long time to get results.
One study showed that on the average, three years pass between a first contact
with a potential donor and the day a large gift is made.42 Fortunately, you may
already be far beyond `first contact' with many people.
With rare exceptions, you should work with current and past donors before
starting on strangers, no matter how rich or generous the strangers may appear
to be.
Incidentally, the same study showed that fundraising staff stay with a charity
only 2.6 years on average. Volunteers may move on even faster. This underlines
the need for a long-term approach, with good recordkeeping for your successor.
Myth: Grass-roots groups don't know anyone with money.
Could your donors truly give more? Perhaps not, but if you don't try a face-toface appeal, you will never know for sure. Donors are not as likely to give large
sums as a result of mail or telephone campaigns, which are geared to relatively
small donations. If someone does give a lot as a result of mail or phone contact,
Phil Brain, Henry Rosso, David W Merrill and Roger Reid, “Interpersonal Relationship Skills for Major
Gift Development”, (The Fundraising School Indiana University, course materials, 1989).
How to Get Bigger Donations • 37
imagine how much more they might have given if approached in person.
A case study illustrates the point:
First, let's review the background of the group, which shall remain nameless.
The organization is large, well known, and has been around for decades. It is
controversial. Donors feel strong loyalty, but non-donors often bitterly oppose
the group's positions. It is not the type of group that attracts the wealthy. In
fact, it prides itself on focusing on ordinary people.
A study conducted by Ken Wyman and Associates Inc. found the group's
fundraising was very strong in direct mail and telephone campaigns. Many
donors were signed up on monthly payment plans. But even though there were
a large number of donors, virtually none gave as much as $1000 a year. This
was flagged as evidence of a problem.
Although the organization doubted that their supporters could or would give
that much money, they agreed to a test. Fifty previous donors were chosen,
based on past giving history. Ten volunteers were given one evening of training
and then told to go approach their prospects, using the techniques outlined
Two weeks later, the campaign was over. The volunteers had raised $40,000.
The average donation was over $1000. The effort involved was minimal.
Afterwards the donors were asked why they had never given so much to the
group before. Their answer was predictable: “No one ever asked!”
Many groups are convinced that all their supporters are too poor to
contribute. For a small number of groups, that is true.
For many others, there are exceptions. Many of the donors may be unable to
give much more, but a few could. Your group, too, may have one or two or
more supporters who, while they are far from wealthy, could make larger
donations than others.
Remember, you don't need a lot of well-to-do supporters, just a few very
generous ones. They may be able to make donations now, or leave you money
in their wills.
Let's look at some examples of actual donors:
Marion Fulton lives on a farm four miles outside the small Manitoba
town of Birtle, near the Saskatchewan border. The largest donation she
ever made — $10,000 — happened because friends “paid back a debt.
I had loaned them the money and expected them to pay back a little at
a time, but they paid it back all at once. Maybe they had a windfall. I
was debating what to do with it. I decided the church Mission and
Service Fund needed it, because they had a shortfall. People weren't
giving to the church like they used to.”
The $10,000 donation was in addition to her regular Sunday givings.
Altogether, Mrs. Fulton gives away “about 16 to 17% of my income. I'd
like to do more, but I can't.” At 72 she lives on a pension and a small
income from her share in the family farm, now leased to one of her
three sons.
“I gave $500 to St Boniface Hospital Fund. And £200 — that's about
$450 — to ACWW.” That's the Associated Countrywomen of the World,
a group she belongs to through the Women's Institute. ACWW has 9.5
million members worldwide. Most of her other donations are about
$100. A few years ago she gave the church a new piano, worth $4500,
38 • Face to Face
in memory of her late husband, Victor.
How does she feel about recognition? “I feel awful about it. I get a
little uptight when people want a plaque on things. I'm on the hospital
board, and some things you can put a plaque on and some things you
can't. Sometimes when people want a big plaque put up I wonder
whether we can't just live without their money. Mind you, I was
overruled on that by my own church. They thought there should be a
plaque on the piano, saying `in memory of Victor', because people
should know.”
Mrs. Fulton also gives her time generously. In addition to her work
on the hospital board, she travels four times a year to London, England,
for meetings of the ACWW, paying all her own expenses. She's also on
the national finance committee of the United Church. “I don't know why
people keep putting me on the finance committee, but I see the need
and I do it.”
Why does she give so generously?
“Compared with our expectations in the old days, probably a lot of
older people have more money now than they ever dreamed of. And
many of those people are willing to share. So if there are ways I can
help, I will.”43
Names have been changed in the following examples, but they are true
Ian Ferguson worked in the labour movement for years. When the
provincial government changed recently, he was appointed to a senior
policy position. He was suddenly making four times as much money as
he ever had before. He works long hours, and has no spare time now
for volunteer activities with the groups he used to care about. He feels
guilty about his good fortune, when so many old friends are still
struggling. He also feels guilty about how much money he has.
Roy and Mary Peters retired two years ago, and decided they wanted
to live more simply. Roy had been a university professor until he had
a heart attack. Mary was a public school teacher. Together they had
two good pension plans to supplement their savings. With their kids
gone, they sold their large old downtown house and bought a small
condo that requires no maintenance. They are active volunteers in
several organizations, and Mary is on the board of a local arts group.
At tax time last year, they were surprised to discover that they had
given away over $12,000.
Laura and Sam married late in life. They had two households full of
furniture and kitchen appliances to combine. Instead of wedding
presents they asked their friends to give donations to their favourite
charity, and raised over $7000.
Rebecca and Irv Singer were very troubled when Israel was attacked
in the mid-1970's. While not ardent Zionists, they were suddenly
terrified about the consequences if Israel lost the war. They aren't
wealthy, and didn't have much money available at that time of crisis.
Private telephone interview, May 1, 1993, and excerpts from Diane Forrest, “A Christmas Story: Four
charitable spirits reveal their strategies for giving”, Financial Post Moneywise, December 1988, pp 54-64.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 39
They took out a mortgage on their house and put thousands of dollars
into Israel Bonds. It took them years of scrimping to pay it all back, but
they have always been convinced they did the right thing.
Myth: Asking for more money might drive donors away.
Many groups are unnecessarily nervous about approaching their current
donors. They fear that pushing too hard will scare them away. Anyway, they
doubt that the donors really have more money to give. Wouldn't it be easier to
talk to new people instead?
These fears are perfectly reasonable. But the answers, based on years of
experience, are reassuring.
Will you drive away donors if you ask them again? On the contrary, because
you will send a well trained volunteer to talk with the donors face-to-face, in
almost every case they will feel closer to your group — whether they give or
not. No high pressure tactics will be used. No annoying junk mail or ill-timed
phone calls will increase their frustration. Instead, they will have a nice chat
with a pleasant person who genuinely cares about their opinions.
A few may express irritation. If they are driven away this easily, these were
probably people you were losing anyway. Apologies and promises not to offend
in future may win them back. If not, the loss must be weighed against the
benefits: extra income raised, and improved relations with the majority of top
It is not easier to sign up new people. It is much simpler to persuade a current
supporter to give more, than it is to convince someone who has never given to
make a major contribution.
Action: Identify the best prospects among current donors.
At this stage, your key step is to examine your donor list. There are several
ways to spot the people who might be willing to give more.
• Look for past performance. Search for the top 20% to 30% of donors in
the following categories:
N People who have made one or more unusually large donations;
N People whose total amount donated over the years is unusually
N People who have given much more frequently than most;
N People whose total number of donations over the years is
unusually high, even if the total amount is not;
N People who give an odd amount of money, “like $27 or $358,”
Joan Flanagan suggests. “An odd dollar amount can be a clue
the donor is allocating his or her total annual charity budget
among several nonprofits. This suggests the donor plans his or
her charitable giving and your group is already on the short list
of good organizations.”44
• Look for people with titles and degrees. If donors on your lists are
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 134.
40 • Face to Face
professionals such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, university professors or
accountants, they can probably afford donations larger than the average
person. They may not think so at first, but it is worth pursuing. Also,
short-list people who have important job titles at work, such as
president, vice-president, manager and so on.
• Look for people with upper-income addresses. If they can afford a nice
house, they might be able to afford a bigger donation (unless they are
saddled with a massive mortgage). If you have a second address for their
winter or summer homes, this may also be a sign of potential.
• Look for supporters who are known to be affluent and for celebrities.
Scan your donor list for familiar names. Are there well known people
who have given you a donation — even a small one? Look for business
leaders, authors, artists, athletes, politicians — any sort of celebrity. A
name that `rings a bell' could belong to an internationally known actor,
or a well respected local leader.
You may not know all the names. It may help to have one or two
knowledgeable friends go over the list with you, in strictest confidence.
It is not (yet) necessary to start comparing all the names, one-by-one,
with Who's Who. Simply see if any people emerge who can help you.
Leaders such as these can help persuade others. If they will allow you
to use their names, it may add needed credibility. There is often a
bandwagon effect in publicity — people want to go with a winner.
Indifferent people may be more likely to give if they know that people
they admire have given.
Take no action yet. Don't contact the prospects. At this point, you are simply
compiling your best list of prospective donors.
Do prepare a list covering these top prospects. Include their name, address,
telephone number, and complete giving history. If you have additional
information, add any other comments you can. More will follow on how to
research prospects.
The following section may not be relevant for groups that look for
donations only among their own active members.
But do not be too quick to limit your scope. Many groups have
discovered that people who are not actively involved will
contribute. For example:
• Religious groups may choose to look for donations only
among members of the congregation. But religious groups
have found that people who don't attend services — and
even people of other denominations — may be interested
in contributing to the upkeep of their building or to social
programs. One study showed that people who never come
to pray actually donate almost double the amount given
How to Get Bigger Donations • 41
by those who show up very occasionally.45
Self-help groups may feel that no one outside their
immediate circle will care. But they may be pleasantly
surprised to find support from families, friends,
professionals in related fields and people who are just
plain sympathetic.
Groups of all kinds may assume that former supporters
would not donate again. But groups that contact lapsed
supporters find these are often among the first to give
generously, even though they may not have the time or
interest to get actively involved again.
How can you uncover new prospects?
Once you have fully explored potential donors among current and past
supporters — and only then — you should look for new prospects. It is not yet
time to approach total strangers, however. There are still three categories of
contacts that offer better hope:
• Volunteers and staff
• Participants
• Contacts of board and volunteers
Volunteers and Staff
Action: Determine which volunteers and staff will give.
It may seem even more absurd to ask volunteers and staff to give than to ask
the board. They often work long hours for little or no pay.
It's true that the volunteers and staff of most nonprofit groups are already
contributing a lot just by being there. Frequently they are not well off
financially. Their donations, if they give at all, may not make a huge difference
in your income. You may even be concerned that merely asking them would be
a severe blow to morale.
Despite all that, you should at least consider this step seriously. The results
may be a pleasant surprise.
Hospitals, for example, routinely ask their staff to give during major
campaigns. While the results vary from institution to institution, some staff —
particularly the doctors — have made substantial contributions.
Here's another example:
At an international charity, the consultant's suggestion that the staff
should be asked to contribute was met with derisive laughter. “They
are all underpaid and overworked,” said the Director of Development.
“and they've just formed a union. This would be a bad time, and I doubt
they would ever react positively.”
Allan Arlett et al, Canada Gives, p 87.
42 • Face to Face
A few weeks later, however, it became apparent that the staff were
giving very generously to an internal United Way campaign. The
consultant asked, “If they can raise money on the job for the United
Way, why not for the nonprofit they work with daily?”
Despite misgivings, the organization agreed to ask the staff to donate.
A special project was selected with a view to exciting the staff. Asking
was done on a peer level, never by people in authority.
The results were overwhelming. Money just poured in — and some
of the worst paid staff gave the most.
Why did they give so much, despite the awful working conditions?
One person summed it up for them all when she said, “We care a lot
about the work this organization does. That's why we put up with the
low wages and the long hours. Of course we would contribute part of
our wages — we sure don't work here for the money! Only nobody ever
asked us before.”
Other organizations have had similar experiences. Volunteers and staff
members in nonprofit organizations are often very committed to the work they
do. It may come as a surprise that they should be considered as potential
donors. While they may not all be among the largest donors, a few of them may
be `willing, capable and interested'.
Some groups have been pleasantly surprised to discover they had volunteers
and staff who were reasonably well off, and happy to give money as well as
time. Some staff and volunteers had spouses who worked in high-paying jobs.
Others had inherited enough to be comfortable, or had saved up before retiring.
The assumption that they were all poor turned out to be false.
While not all volunteers and staff can or will donate financially, it is worth
asking which staff and volunteers might. Aside from the financial benefits, it
can improve staff morale. It also impresses outside prospects and granting
agencies to know that the staff cares enough to give a little extra.
Action: Determine which participants will give.
Consider whether some of your participants (be they audience, clients,
customers, drop-ins, fans, learners, members, parents, players, spectators,
students, or subscribers) or their families might also become donors. Don't be
too quick to say `no'.
Why is it worth asking participants to give?
In some groups it may be hard to believe that your participants or their
families could contribute significant donations, but it is often true. Perhaps not
all can do so; maybe even not the majority.
Even if your participants can't give much money, the fact that they give any
at all may impress other prospective donors. This demonstration of their
commitment has real value.
In some cases, they may have more potential to give than you suspect. It only
takes a very few who are unusually generous to make a difference. Remember
How to Get Bigger Donations • 43
that 80% of the money comes from 20% of the people.
Is it ethical to ask participants?
Asking participants to give is a forbidden topic in some organizations. While
this is partially understandable in social service agencies working with the poor,
it is remarkable how many other organizations share the same attitude. Many
arts groups, schools, hospitals and other nonprofits are still debating the merits
of asking their participants to give.
There are many examples of success: a community college expressed delight
and surprise when three students each gave $300 to a campaign for better
facilities. An amateur musical group, knowing full well that several performing
members were `yuppies' and `DINKS' (Double Income, No Kids) had never
thought to ask them for money. While these may be exceptions, there are many
more like them.
For those who are reluctant to ask participants, one prime concern is that the
services must be accessible to all, regardless of income. This is indeed a
laudable goal. Asking people to contribute extra if they can, however, does not
interfere with open access. Make it clear that every person will get the same
service whether or not they donate.
In fact, some people have said that they prefer contributing to the
organization that helps them. It changes their relationship from
recipient/passive/inferior/ victim to donor/active/equal/self-help. It's
empowering. Not asking them can be seen as paternalistic. They should have
the right to decide for themselves.
One seniors' service group found that asking participants to donate actually
tripled the number of people using the service.
They posted a sign showing how much it cost to deliver each service.
At the bottom of the sign were the words “Any amount you can pay
toward these services is gratefully accepted, and will be put right to
work. Thank you.”
The result was a 300% increase in the number of people using the
various services the centre provides. The puzzled executive director
surveyed the centre users. He learned that people liked being able to
Several people made comments like “I never used this place before,
because I don't like taking things for free. I am not so poor that I need
free service. I can pay my own way.” Another said, “I can take care of
myself pretty good and I don't need handouts. I've worked hard all my
life. I like coming to the Centre and seeing people, and the prices are
affordable. Sometimes I put in a little extra for someone who isn't as
well off.”46
For a more complete discussion of the ethics of this issue, see The GuideBook
Kim Klein, “How to Establish Voluntary Fees for Service”, Grassroots Fundraising Journal, August
1992, pp 3-5.
44 • Face to Face
to Fundraising for Disabled People's Groups.47
Examine your own users and consider if some of them might be capable of
making major contributions. Allow them to make their own decisions about
giving. Don't say No on their behalf.
What if you don't have participants' names and addresses?
In some cases, it is easy to find the participants. In a small organization you
may know them all personally. Larger groups may have membership lists.
Service groups may have files on participants. In this case, discretion will be
required; arrange to look only at the relevant information. Respect participants'
right to privacy and confidentiality.
In other organizations, you may not have the names and addresses. People
who use a community centre or a pool, for example, may not be asked for their
names or addresses. Spectators at athletic events or art shows may come and
go, especially if they are outdoor events.
Fortunately, there are ways to collect these names and addresses.
Many groups already have a partial list that they haven't recognized the value
of. They have held a raffle, and have ticket stubs tucked away in a drawer. Start
with those names.
If you haven't already done so, consider holding a free draw, to get names and
addresses. Arrange an attractive prize. Perhaps a local restaurant will donate
a dinner. You might give away a free membership, or a book. In a prominent
location, put up a box, bowl or basket. On a large sign, invite people to drop in
their business cards or write their names and addresses on a piece of paper.
Asking for business cards may not be appropriate in an organization that does
not serve business people. It is desirable, however, because of all the
information you may get: where people work, what kind of job they do, how
senior a position they have, what degrees they hold, and so on.
Some people have suggested going to a restaurant or other business that was
already collecting business cards and asking for the ones they collect. This is a
bad idea. You have no way of knowing whether or not the people whose cards
you get are aware of your organization. At best, it is a random sample. At worst,
they may even be angry at this invasion of privacy. Collect your own contacts.
If your only contact with participants is by telephone, ask the callers for their
names and addresses. If your organization provides information on a
controversial or sensitive topic, ask for the name only after the information has
been provided, so you don't discourage a caller. Make it clear their calls are still
confidential, that giving their names is optional, and that you are asking for
their names for fundraising purposes.
If you work with children, try to get the names of their parents or guardians.
Depending on the kind of organization, it may be appropriate to ask for
Ken Wyman, The Guidebook to Fundraising for Disabled People's Groups, 1988. Available free from the
Disabled Persons' Participation Program, Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, Room 13A5, 25
Eddy Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0M5. Telephone (819) 953-2680. Specify whether you want it in print or
on audio tape, in English or French.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 45
grandparents' names, too.
What precautions may be needed?
Special precautions are needed in any situation in which making contact
could cause problems. Battered women, for example, could find their lives
threatened as a result of an innocent fundraising appeal, especially if they are
still living with their abusive husbands. The same need for care may apply if
you provide therapeutic counselling, treat sexually transmitted diseases, or deal
with many other sensitive issues.
In this circumstance, make it clear why you are asking for a name and
address. Emphasize that it is completely voluntary.
Exercise great care in contacting people to make certain that you do not put
them in jeopardy.
A letter, for example should never have anything `incriminating' on the
outside envelope — even the return address could be too revealing. Even if the
envelope is blank, someone else might be opening the mail, so decide carefully
who you write to and what you say.
Similarly, an intercepted phone message could cause problems. Speak only
to the person on your list, not to others who answer. Don't leave messages: a
suspicious or jealous spouse could use this as an excuse for violence.
What do you do after you've got participants' names?
A large list of participants is almost certainly worth using in a direct mail
campaign. However, this book focuses on major donors. The immediate task is
to sort out potential major donors from the long list of names. How?
The answer will vary depending on the type of relationship you have with the
people on the list, and the amount of information you have.
If people have purchased memberships, season tickets, subscriptions or such,
focus on the people who have:
• paid the most,
• been paying for the longest, or
• purchased gifts.
“For older organizations,” Joan Flanagan recommends, “look for second- or
third-generation members and multiple members from the same family.”48
If people are students, alumni, or participate in activities, note what years
they were involved, and what their favourite activities were. For parents,
spouses or children, the same question applies. Focus on people who have been
• for long periods,
• in several activities, or
• frequently.
Review the suggestions in the earlier section on current donors, such as looking
for famous names, degrees, titles, or addresses in pricier neighbourhoods.
Remember, you are still only at the stage of building your list of potential
donors. Don't contact these people yet.
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 134.
46 • Face to Face
How Can You Get Gifts from
Your Board, Staff, Volunteers, and Participants?
The techniques are the same as for any other prospective big
1. Make your own gift first.
2. Choose the #1 best prospect.
3. Choose a specific project dear to the prospect's heart.
4. Decide how much to ask for, based on ability to give.
5. Cultivate the prospect.
6. Pick the best asker for that prospect.
7. Train the asker and consider possible objections.
8. Approach each prospect privately.
9. If your prospects give, train them to ask others.
10. Build the pyramid slowly.
More Tips
• Do not just announce a new policy at a meeting. Select one
volunteer, board or staff member first. Choose a person likely to
give and to influence others to give.
• After you have your first contribution, work with the donor to
select the next-best prospect together. Ask the donor to ask the
next prospect. Then send those two to talk to others, behind the
scenes, quietly.
• For the `hold-outs':
Discuss their reasons privately.
Offer to count unclaimed expenses.
N Organize contests.
N Wait for them to retire.
Board and Volunteers' Contacts
Action: Discover the contacts of the board and volunteers.
Your board, volunteers and staff probably know potential donors who don't
already have a direct connection to your organization. Once you have fully
explored people who have had direct contact with you, it is time to expand
farther afield.
These prospects are part of almost everyone's network. They may be friends,
family, old school chums, neighbours, business colleagues or chance
acquaintances. At first, the board and volunteers may not think they know
anyone. Techniques that you will learn shortly may reveal some unexpected
Do you know people with similar interests?
Your board, staff and volunteers are likely to know people who will be
interested in the same topics as they are. This applies whether the organization
is concerned about art, science, religion, social service, recreation, economic
How to Get Bigger Donations • 47
development, fighting racism, or any other topic.
These sympathetic people are the first set of contacts to explore. You may
discover them by using the methods below.
Do you know people who give to other nonprofits?
The second set of contacts are people you know who are generous to
nonprofit groups, even if you don't know their views on your cause. If you have
a friend who is an active volunteer or board member with another group, or
who has sold you tickets to a charity event, they are potential donors.
The world can be divided — unequally — into two types of people: those who
are caring, giving and working to make it better; and those who are apathetic
and inactive.49 In the long run, it may be important to educate those who are
apathetic and get them active. In the short run, however, it is easier to start with
those who are predisposed to care. Once you are stronger, you can take the time
to try converting the uninvolved.
Who might give just because it's you who asks?
In a major-donor campaign, who you know is a very important factor. Many
prospects will give because of the person who asks them, regardless of their
feelings about the organization itself.
You probably know people who have purchased tickets for special events that
they had no intention of attending, in support of nonprofit groups they did not
care about, simply because of the person who asked.
People who would give to your organization because the right person asked
are the third category to consider.
There are many reasons why they do so.
A major component has to do with business. Someone may give to a major
customer, or to an important supplier, because they hope it will improve future
People also give out of friendship and solidarity.
They give because they respect the person who asked them, and know that if
that person is involved, the cause must be good.
They give because they don't want to say No and risk offending someone they
will see regularly.
They give because they feel an obligation to someone who recently made a
donation to their own favourite cause, or because they know they will be asking
soon and want to have a favour owed to them. This attitude of `you scratch my
back and I'll scratch yours' is very common among big donors.
They give because of power relations. A donor who gave more than $1 million
to a hospital told this story:
I was planning on giving the hospital a lot — several hundred
Less than 30% of Canadians claim donations to charities on their income tax. “About 5.4 million
taxpayers donated a total of $3.1 billion to charitable organizations in 1991, based on tax credits claimed on
income-tax returns… There were 18.4 million tax returns for 1991 — leaving about 13 million taxpayers who
claimed no donations for tax purposes. But … many donations aren't claimed on tax returns.” Canadian Press,
The Globe and Mail, 6 January 1993.
48 • Face to Face
thousand dollars. I knew why the fundraisers were coming to see
me when they made the appointment, and I was ready.
But when the time came, I opened my office door and in walked
the chair of the fundraising committee, who happened to be my
company's biggest customer, followed by the surgeon who was
scheduled to do an open-heart operation on me in just a few
weeks. I knew I was in trouble!
Some people will be troubled by this kind of fundraising. They believe that,
if the cause is good enough, the donors will find them. I called this the Better
Mousetrap Syndrome, in memory of all the inventors who expected the world
to beat a path to their doors and were disappointed.
Clearly, in the long run, your organization is better off with donors who
genuinely respect your work. They are likely to keep coming back year after
year — even once their original contact has passed on.
In the short term, however, it may be better to have the money for your
important projects than to remain excessively pure. In addition, once people
have made that first donation, you can continue to educate and cultivate them
to become real supporters.
That is not to condone manipulation and pressure tactics. Some fundraisers
have gone overboard in the pursuit of the donation. In one recent case, a family
contested their mother's will after she changed it to leave a large part of her
money to a television evangelist. The overzealous fundraiser had wormed his
way into her trust, acting as a confidant and business advisor.
Between the two extremes lies the path to ethically expanding your support
from very generous people.
How do you find all your contacts?
The next step is to find all the contacts your board and volunteers have, who
might want to support your cause.
First, here's how not to do it.
The worst method is to write a letter to all your key leaders asking them to
send in a list of their contacts. Time after time, this has produced dismal results.
Board members may be too busy. They may be reluctant. They may give a list
with conditions, such as “you can have these leads on the understanding that
I personally won't talk to any of them.” Even when they are willing to help, they
may not be able to think of anybody they consider useful.
Because of these problems, we at Ken Wyman and Associates Inc refined a
process called The Webbing Exercise.50 It is intended to reveal the hidden
network of contacts and connections that an organization has — `the people
you didn't know you knew.'
Board members, volunteers, staff and administration, each have their own
lives away from your organization and they each know lots of people — in fact,
more people than they ever thought they knew.
But how do you get to know who they know?
The Webbing Exercise and related material are © Ken Wyman, 1993.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 49
Hold a Webbing Exercise (described in Appendix A). This is a session that
gives everyone a chance to delve into themselves for the names of people
they've come in contact with over the years. Even those who insist that they
know no one may think of names that will become `obvious' through the magic
of hindsight. They will be surprised to discover that some people they knew
long ago may now be in a position to help your organization.
The Webbing Exercise can help your organization beyond finding major
donors. It can also help identify people who may become:
• Donors and supporters
N Immediate donors
N Long-term benefactors
N Contributors of gifts in kind
• Campaign leaders
N Possible solicitors
N Door-openers
N Campaign chair
N Campaign cabinet
• Volunteers for committees
N Fund raising
N Communication
N Special events
N Recruitment
• Future board members
Action: Uncover outsiders who should be asked.
If a group is very new or very poor, the kinds of contacts suggested earlier in
this chapter simply may not exist. You may need to start with strangers.
Groups that do have past donors, participants or contacts should explore the
potential giving of these prospects thoroughly before approaching people with
whom they have never had any communication.
But when it's time to look at the outer edges of your potential circles of
influence, who should you ask for a donation?
The answer begins with research.
People Known to Be Generous to Other Nonprofits
The first step is to separate the givers and the non-givers. People who give to
some nonprofit groups, even if not yours, are better prospects than people who
have never given to anyone.
• People publicly recognized for giving. Begin by collecting the names of
people who have been publicly recognized for giving to other groups —
especially groups like yours. Their names can be found on plaques on
the walls of nearby hospitals, community centres, post-secondary
schools, art galleries, museums, theatres, and athletic facilities. Go with
a notepad and copy them down.
• People listed in nonprofits' printed materials. Check the materials of
other nonprofit groups for the names of people being thanked for their
50 • Face to Face
contributions. Lists of people are often printed in annual reports,
newsletters, souvenir programmes at concerts or events, and other
publications. These are frequently divided into categories, such as
Benefactors, Angels, etc, which reveal roughly how much the donor
• People mentioned in the media. Stories in the media often mention
people who give and who lead campaigns. When the local newspaper
runs a photo of a cheque being passed, clip it for your files. For example,
here are excerpts from a newspaper column about Nancy Jackman:
I went to see Nancy Jackman on impulse, to ask her about money —
specifically, why she gives away so much of it, and why other women
Jackman is an unlikely combination of imp, cherub and feminist earth
mother, and is also, implausibly, the Tory candidate in the St George-St
David by-election. She has qualities of spontaneity, feminism and goodhearted generosity that one does not normally associate with Rosedale
Recently, Jackman stunned a group of women who had come to seek
her advice by suddenly offering them $50,000.
“We were blown away”, recalled Marjorie Wilson, a Port Perry
volunteer. Wilson heads a grassroots group of women who suffer from
osteoporosis, the stealthy disease that leads to thinning bones, mostly
in post-menopausal women…
Nancy Jackman's $50,000 is a `matching' grant; it will be given only
if the women can raise an equal amount quickly through a public
I know that Jackman has helped create and fund some of the most
exciting and progressive feminist efforts in the country — from the
Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to the Canadian
Women's Foundation. But this latest act of generosity made me start to
wonder: Why, when there are so many relatively affluent female
professionals and solvent widows, do women's causes have to starve?
Why do some women have the urge to give, and so many never think
of it?
Few of us could ever equal Jackman's largesse. She inherited wealth.
But unlike 99% of wealthy women in this country, she immediately
began to give it away to help other women.
Jackman tried to explain. “Most women owe their money to being
part of the status quo, so they give to status quo charities, their
husband's or boss's favourite hospital or arts group. It takes strong
character — and maybe a fundamental rage at unfairness — to break
that pattern… I give to create systematic change, not for service
While newspaper stories don't always provide such valuable insights,
they can provide many useful nuggets. Just two days after the story
Michele Landsberg, “Wealthy women should do more to help out worthy groups”, The Toronto Star,
20 March 1993.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 51
about Nancy Jackman, another journalist reported on a $2 million
donation made by Patrick and Barbara Keenan for kidney disease
research at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto:
Patrick Keenan told a news conference: “We've planned this day for
a long time. …Because we have special feelings for this hospital, we
always thought we would like to do something significant for it.
Barbara Keenan added that there were family reasons for choosing
to underwrite kidney disease research with their donation, but she
declined to elaborate.
Patrick Keenan is chairman of the hospital's board of directors and of
the Canada Development Investment Corp. He is on the board of the
Ireland Fund. Barbara Keenan is past clerk of the session of Rosedale
United Church.52
Because March is Kidney Month, there were many stories on the
theme. Another paper reported that “Hockey personality Don Cherry
recently donated $15,000 to the Kidney Foundation of Canada and the
Credit Valley Hospital. The money [was] raised from last summer's Don
Cherry Golf Tournament…” 53
Clearly, it pays to have several volunteers clipping stories from
newspapers and magazines, and taking notes when stories run on
television or radio. Even if you are not raising money for kidney disease,
this kind of information can be useful in estimating a prospect's
potential gift to your own group.
• People found in private research. In addition to these open lists, private
research is likely to turn up a few names. Talk to fundraisers, both staff
and volunteers, from other groups. Some of them may be protective of
their donors, but others may willingly suggest potential donors. The
United Way may be particularly helpful, whether or not your group
belongs to it.
In some cases, if the other group supports what you do, they may be
willing to exchange lists of donors. This is done routinely for direct mail
campaigns, and can be done for major donors as well. (For a discussion
about the ethics of list exchanges, and practical tips about protecting
your interests, see Everything You Need To Know To Get Started in Direct
Mail Fundraising.)
• People giving to political campaigns. Interview politicians and their
campaign managers — they, too, are fundraisers. Discuss your need to
locate special supporters with others who know the community well,
such as service clubs, local journalists, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Sympathetic business leaders, such as bankers, car dealers and real
estate offices, can also point you in the right direction, if they wish.
• People who fit the profile of major givers. Finally, study the profile of
major givers (presented in Chapter 2 of this book) and look for people
Donna Jean MacKinnon, “Pot of gold gift to kidney research”, The Toronto Star, 18 March 1993.
“Kidney Foundation fundraising moves into high gear this month”, The Mississauga News, 7 March
52 • Face to Face
who fit the pattern.
Be realistic about how productive it will be to make cold calls on
people — even those known to be generous. “It is futile to cannibalize
these lists if the names are all strangers to your volunteers”, Joan
Flanagan warns. “If none of your leaders know any of your community's
current major donors, work on recruiting people with wealth and power
for your board before you launch a major gift campaign.”54
People Who Display Interest in Your Area
Sometimes you can uncover the name of someone with a real motivation to
care about your work. Even though you have no contacts, and even though you
have no reason to think they are philanthropic, it may be worth contacting
People who have had life-changing experiences. Someone who has had his
or her first heart attack, for example, may suddenly be interested in
donating to a health charity. Someone may start collecting art, have a
child enroll in a school, or become religious.
• People with similar interests. You may find out about an old connection
that would be a clue that the person might be receptive. “Historic
preservation groups can check the historical society and genealogical
society to find people with deep roots in the community”, Joan Flanagan
suggests.55 “Environmental, hunting and fishing clubs can find wealthy
outdoorsy types by checking… for owners of campers and recreational
vehicles and… boats and yachts.”
People with No Known Record of Philanthropy.
Now we're down to the bottom of the barrel — people who have:
• never been involved as a board member of your group,
• never donated to your group before,
• never been a volunteer or staff person in your group,
• never been a participant or part of the family of a participant (as far as
you know),
• never been mentioned as a personal contact of anyone you know,
• never displayed interest in your area, and
• never shown up on lists of people generous to other charities.
Perhaps the only thing you know about these people is that they appear to
have a lot of money.
Why even bother asking them? There is not much reason to think they would
give you money. Most groups should never have to ask people in this category,
but many think this is exactly where you should start. They study stories in the
media about the rich and famous, make lists, and dream big. They watch the
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 137.
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 134.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 53
lotteries, and contact big winners.56 “If only someone could get in to see Mr and
Ms Rich,” these wishful thinkers sigh, “they would see the light, and understand
why they should support us.”
Realistically, such people are probably not worth the time and effort it takes
to make a proper approach as outlined here.
At the most, you might invest a postage stamp to send a letter to such a
person. If you get a glimmer of interest, or a token donation, you might
proceed — slowly.
Even that might be a waste. “Do not be misled by people who flash a lot of
cash,” Joan Flanagan notes. “With easy credit, almost anyone can look rich. I
knew a salesman who dazzled his clients with an $80,000 sports car. He
confessed to me that it was 102% financed: he even financed the licence plates.
On the other hand, there are people worth millions who drive the same compact
car for fifteen years.”57
For now, let's stick to the proven methods.
Action: Research each suspect.
People who might give, but who are not yet serious prospects, are called
suspects in the jargon of major-donor fundraising. Once you have identified
suspects, you need to collect basic information about them in one place, where
it is easy to find and use. More research is needed to decide who is really worth
the effort, and who may not be.
Open a File on Each Major Gift Prospect
Create a file folder for each person who has the potential to give a substantial
donation. Collect all the basic information in one place, for easy reference.
For most groups it's easier to do this with a file folder and pieces of paper
than with a computer. Don't waste time developing your own custom database.
Many software companies have developed special fundraising databases for
sale; they are excellent. When you are ready for a computer database, purchase
one designed for fundraising records.
However, many grassroots organizations find them too expensive and timeconsuming to use at first. This can be a complex distraction from the major
mission: asking the prospects to give. Start with old-fashioned file folders.
What exactly do you need to know?
The more you know, the better. Ideally, the person who will actually ask for
the donation should be a friend or business colleague of the prospect —
someone who knows the donor well. If you don't have that degree of familiarity,
extra information can make all the difference in the world.
Start with basics, like the proper way to spell the prospect's name. Lyman
Henderson says:
Asked how they would spend $100,000 won in a lottery, only 8% (Quebec, 5%) mention giving to
charity, according to Allan Arlett et al, Canada Gives p 72.
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 138.
54 • Face to Face
What are the biggest mistakes that people have made in asking for
money? Well, Ann, who is spelled A)N)N, says `misspelling my name'.
…It seems such a simple thing. If you send something to me spelled
L)I)M)O)N, I'm not likely to be particularly turned on.58
Pay attention to the titles people prefer.
• Some women will be irate if you use anything but Ms; others will be
equally adamant that they want to be called Mrs or Miss.
• Some want to be known as Doctor, or Professor.
• Some titles are complicated. An ordained minister, for example, would
be addressed as `The Reverend AB Black' on an envelope, but in the
salutation of a letter would be `Dear Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms Black'. It is
considered bad form to address most clergy in the salutation of a letter
or in person as `Reverend Black'.
If the person was a volunteer, board or staff member with your group, add in
a few notes about that experience. With rapid turnover in personnel, it's
amazing how short an organization's memory can be.
One fundraiser described the day he called an organization where he had
worked ten years before. Although he had held a very responsible position for
five years, there had been three other people in his old job in the interim. Now
no one was left from the old days, and no one even recognized his name.
The same has happened to people who were members of the board of other
groups, and even people who considered themselves founders of an
Collect as much information as you can. The more information you have, the
easier it will be to make an effective appeal. When people talk to the prospect,
put notes about the conversation in the file. If a newspaper of magazine article
is written mentioning the prospect, put a copy in the file.
On the following pages are sample information forms for you to adapt. If
some questions are irrelevant to your appeal, omit them. Add others you may
consider important. No standard form can be perfect for everyone.
In the chapters to come, we will add more parts to this form.
More Information
As time goes by, you will compile more information in each person's file. This
information will help you answer vital questions such as:
• Who should you approach first?
• What parts of your work will interest this person most — and what
might you be wise not to mention?
• How should the approach be made?
• Are there sensitive issues that may arise?
• Will a particular prospect appreciate public recognition? If so, what
• Who has the best chance of persuading a particular prospect to give, or
to give a little extra?
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 1989.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 55
• When would be the best time to ask?
• How much might this person give?
Some people are shocked at the idea of gathering this kind of information on
a prospect. None of this requires you to violate a person's privacy, hire a private
detective or become a snoop. Much is available from public sources. Sometimes
it is legitimate to supplement this with casual conversations with the prospects'
friends, or even with prospects themselves. You will find guidelines on what to
look for and where to find it in the pages following.
If you feel uncomfortable with any part of it, however, you may wish to gather
only the information that you feel is legitimate. Do not abandon all research
just because some of it seems inappropriate.
Some information comes from statistical tables published by the government
and other researchers. This may not tell you details about a specific person, but
it can help a great deal.
Some information can also be gathered by talking to your own friends or
colleagues. For example, if you want to know how much a certain lawyer earns,
ask another lawyer about the general salary levels for people at the prospect's
firm, and those at her or his level of experience.
Sometimes, you can get the information directly from the prospects
themselves. This may come in casual conversations, in surveys, and even in
formal interviews.
Even though you may be overworked and in a hurry, research like this is not
a waste of time.
If you are in an emergency situation, you may not have time to do all the
research properly. Do as much as you can, and hope you guess the right
answers on other questions. Without this preparation you may find that a
prospect gives much less than you might otherwise have received.
You can, however, begin to make contact with the prospective donor before
you have all the research done. This is especially true if you expect to visit the
prospect more than once, which is a good idea for really big donations.
As noted earlier, fundraiser Michael F Luck wrote an article reminding
experienced fundraisers that it is sometimes necessary to bend the rules. On
this topic, he wrote:
…Prospect research can be a long and arduous task which delays major
gift fundraising. If you know where a prospect lives and that they have
had a relationship or interest in your cause, there is sufficient
information to start cultivation. Most people, if asked questions in a
relaxed and informal way, will tell you everything you want to know
during a visit. Prospect research is important and it is helpful, but too
much can be unproductive. I have seen too many fundraisers so `hellbent for leather' with a giving target and specific need that they never
listen to what the prospect has to say during the visit. The fewer
preconceived notions you have prior to an initial visit the better.
56 • Face to Face
Sometimes being too smart isn't smart at all.59
Of all the questions you need to answer, one of the most important is, “How
much might this person give?” Yet many groups don't know why this is so, or
how to develop an answer. The next chapter is devoted to this topic.
Michael F Luck, “A New Twist on Old Fundraising Maxims”, NSFRE Journal, Summer 1990, p 33
(emphasis added). Note, however, that such cultivation may not be sufficient basis to ask for a donation.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 57
Prospect Information Form
Part I Individual Profile
Prospect*s Name:
Home Address:
Phone: (Home)
Postal Code
What is the prospect*s relationship to us?
O Present donor
0 Past donor
O Present board member
0 Past board member
O Served on committee(s)
O Served as a volunteer
0 We presented him/her with an award
0 We consulted him/her for advice
0 Participant
0 Other:
What is the prospect*s background?
Business interests:
Current job/business/profession:
How long at this job:
If retired, last job and year retired:
Previous known jobs, businesses owned, directorships:
From face to Face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous PeopleKen Wyman 1983
published by Voluntary Action Directorate. Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K 1 A 1 K5
58 • Face to Face
Who will contact the prospect?
Who will ask (name):
Why chosen:
Have they given their donations?
O Yes
o No (If No, they must give before asking.)
Other people we know who have had contacts with this prospect (list as many as possible, no matter how
What is their connection?
Prospect Information Form
Part I — Individual Profile
How to Get Bigger Donations • 59
The Right Amount
The right volunteer asks the right donor for the right amount at the right time
to support the right project with the right approach.
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
YOU SHOULD NOW HAVE A LARGE LIST OF PROSPECTIVE DONORS that has been carefully and rationally
compiled, based on the advice in earlier chapters. But it's still too soon to talk to them. It's time
to find out more about their willingness, interest and ability to give.
You must now tackle an issue many new fundraisers consider the hardest problem: deciding
how much to ask the prospect to give.
Is this really necessary? Some people, who are new to their roles as fundraisers, fear that
specifying an amount will anger or insult the prospect. “That's a decision,” these skeptics say
“that should be left entirely to the individual. We'll just state our case and leave it to the person's
Ultimately the decision is up to the prospect, of course. Yet most people actually appreciate
guidelines. They don't want to give too little and have someone think they are cheap. They don't
want to give too much and look like suckers and easy marks.
You will raise far more money if you know how much the prospect might give. It is usually
(but not always) better to also suggest the amount as long as it is the right amount.
Challenging the majority view on this topic, fundraiser Michael F Luck wrote:60
…You do not have to ask for a specific amount of money in every instance. When you visit
with a prospect and (s)he tells you about the areas of your organization (s)he is interested
in, your eventual `ask' is just beginning to be defined. I once sought a gift from a very
prominent family in the community. After a series of visits, the day of reckoning came —
how much should I ask for?
The prospect asked me how much I had him down for, to which I replied that I didn't have
him `down' for anything. I went on to explain that he could give whatever amount he wished
to give to establish the endowed fund that would forever carry his family name and assist
in supporting burn victims and their families. I got the gift, and it was a large give — much
larger than I suspect he was initially prepared to give.
The prospect later confided that during 35 years of multiple solicitations too numerous to
mention, I was the first fundraiser who did not ask for a specific amount of money — he was
both elated and impressed.
What does this mean? It means that sometimes the endless task of prospect screening to
size up your prospect is not the most productive use of time. In the instance I just shared,
I had a specific gift amount in mind, and I think the prospect knew that. However, it was
Michael F Luck, “A New Twist on Old Fundraising Maxims”, NSFRE Journal, Summer 1990, p 33.
60 • Face to Face
important that I allowed him to be in charge and call the shots — let him share his ideas, his
desire to help and, lastly, the amount of his gift commitment. All you and I are supposed to
do is plant the seed and be a catalyst — we don't always have to be the leaders too.
Let's look at the responses of the philanthropists on the givers' panel:61
Linda Bronfman: I hate being told the dollar amount. I find that very presumptuous… I am
interested in hearing what your needs are, how much it's going to cost you to do what you
want to have done, and what you think is the likely success of your campaign, how many
larger donors are out there, so that I can figure out, if I want to make a difference for this
project, for this organization, how much would I have to fund it.
I was once solicited by someone who named a dollar amount. I had actually had in my
mind something larger than that, but I was so annoyed by the dollar amount that I said
“Fine, that's what I'll give you.” She was happy. She may have made whatever she needed,
Lyman Henderson: I like people to be specific. If a friend comes up to me and says “You
know we're building a new clinic for osteopathy, or whatever, and we'd like you to give”, I
like them to tell me how much they want. The reason is: then I know the price of friendship.
I know how much I have to pay to keep them as a friend. Or at least I know the target they're
expecting and I can deal with it accordingly. Some people find this pretty crass, so it has to
depend on the individual.
The conclusion? Suggesting a specific amount or range will result in a larger donation more
often than not. However, you must have done enough research to know what the right amount
is, and not estimate too low.
How you ask is important, too. There are better and worse phrases to use at this sensitive
moment. That will be covered in the chapter on the right approach.
For now, let's assume that it is a good idea to know roughly how much a person might give,
whether or not you mention the numbers to the prospect. The rest of this chapter will
concentrate on that.
How do you decide how much to ask for?
There are six factors involved in answering this question:
1. How much do you need?
2. Has the prospect supported your group before?
3. Has the prospect contributed to other charities before?
4. How much might the prospect be able to give?
5. How can you make it easy for the prospect to be generous?
6. How can you take all this information into account and make a decision?
Let's examine these one by one.
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 1989.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 61
1. How much do you need?
How much you ask for depends in part on how much you need. That doesn't tell you how much
the prospects might give; but first things first.
Many people assume you should tell all prospects the overall goal, and ask them all to give an
equal portion. But some people have more to give. Two people with the same income may have
different life-styles, and therefore be able to contribute differently. In short, experience shows
that there will be wide variations in the amounts people give.
How much can you spend?
In large campaigns, a preliminary goal is established based on how much you could
productively spend.
Don't be too quick to say you could spend an infinite amount. Too much money can be as
much a problem as too little.
For a case in point, we turn to the Reverend Canon James Dugan, Director of Stewardship and
Financial Development for the Anglican Church of Canada:
A small church in Atlantic Canada (which shall remain nameless) received $600,000 as a
bequest. It almost destroyed them. Some parishioners wanted the church to live off the
interest, so they could stop giving. Some wanted to launch new projects they had never
dreamed of before. Others wanted to give all the money away, because it was causing rifts.
Others said that that wasn't the purpose for which the donor gave it.
It took a year before they could sort out the answer. They only barely survived. They
worked through a stewardship statement, which called for them to take care of regular
maintenance of historic buildings (their church being one) and to take on local outreach and
international development.
Other charities have had the same kinds of problems. People who have won lottery jackpots
have had similar problems coping with their new-found wealth.
If you think this doesn't apply to you, decide how many people you could hire quickly. Who
would supervise and train them? How long would it take to move into new offices to
accommodate them? How long would it take to get equipment? How long would it be before they
could be productive?
With these concerns in mind, develop a realistic estimate of how much you could spend
productively in the next five years.
You may wish to set several figures:
• A challenge budget — the most you could use productively.
• A measured growth budget.
• A status quo plus inflation budget.
A minimal budget, the lowest you could survive on if the worst cutbacks happened. This
assumes closing some programmes, laying off staff (if you had any to start with) and
doing everything short of closing completely.
How can the goal be divided among the potential donors?
Once you have a clear sense of your overall target, it's time to divide it among the prospects.
Fundraiser Kent Dove explains why this requires care:
One of the most common fallacies regarding gift ranges and distribution patterns is the notion
that a campaign can succeed if everyone in the constituency gives the same amount. For the
purpose of illustration, this theory suggests that a campaign with a prospect universe of 1000
can achieve a $1million goal by having each prospect give $1000. It never works. Why? This type
of approach is not fair or equitable to donors. Wealth is not distributed democratically in this
62 • Face to Face
Instead, you divide the total goal using a mathematical formula that has been developed and
tested in years of fundraising. Let Kent Dove tell you how:
A traditional gifts table is constructed as follows: The lead major gift, the single largest gift
need, is calculated to be 10% of the campaign goal: in a $1 million campaign, the lead major
gift needed to predict success is $100,000.
Then, each successively smaller gift is half the amount of the previous one, and the number
of donors needed is doubled…
A standards-of-giving table is a sobering thing, and rightly so. It says, in effect, that without
gifts of the order indicated, the entire effort has little if any chance for success. In the mood
of urgency created by this awareness, campaign leaders are better prepared to offer specific
suggestions to prospective donors, and volunteers are better able to base each approach on
the specific standards of giving needed to ensure the campaign's success.
Gifts Needed in a $1 Million Campaign
% of
of Gifts
Kent E Dove, Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc,
Publishers, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco CA 94104, telephone (415) 433)1767, 1988), pp 68-69, 75.
Creating a gift table is a complex process with several variations. If you plan to do this, read the entire chapter
on the subject.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 63
2. Has the prospect supported your group before?
At the most basic, you must find out whether or not the person has previously given to your
organization. If not, your job is twice as hard: you must convince him or her to support you, and
you must suggest that the amount be large.
If he/she has supported you before, a few more questions are worth answering:
• How much was the last gift? This will have a major impact on how much the next gift
will be. There are certainly cases where a donor has gone from $25 to $250,000 in a
single jump. But more likely, a grass-roots group will be thankful if a donor doubles the
previous gift.
Has the donor given more than once? It will be much easier to get a large donation from
someone who has been contributing for a long time.
• Have the donations been going up, going down, or staying the same? It will be much
easier to get a large donation from someone who has been giving more and more, than
from someone who has been giving less and less, or giving the same without regard for
Are there any giving patterns? Does the person always give at the same time of the year?
That's the time of year to ask again. Approach him or her around the anniversary date
of the last donation, to ask for an annual repetition. If a major donor has given regularly
for years but misses a donation one year, get in touch.
• Do certain appeals produce better results than others?
N A choir might discover that the donor always gives to appeals to support performances
of Mozart, but never to Vaughan Williams or k.d. lang — or exactly the reverse.
N A food bank may have a donor who gives to help lobby for new social policies, while
that same donor has ethical reasons for never giving food itself.
N An environmental group may discover someone cares more about fighting polluters
than stopping the seal hunt.
In each person's file, add the history of the person's past donations to your group.
There is a form for you to adapt on the next page.
64 • Face to Face
Prospect Information Form
Part II Donor History
Prospect*s Name:
What is the prospect*s history of supporting us?
(If there are more details than will fit here, attach them.)
Previous donor to this group? 0 Yes
0 No
First became a donor (date):
Gifts (starting with
most recent)
Response to:
First gift:
Total gifts:
How many:
What does the giving pattern show, if anything?
What special interests are revealed by the results?
Did the person ever refuse a request? O Yes C No
If yes, why?
Who asked?
How was the appeal made?
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa KIA 1K5
How to Get Bigger Donations • 65
3 Has the prospect contributed to other charities before?
Do the people you are preparing to ask for support contribute to other charities? If so, how
much do they give?
You may be asking “Why is this important? How could you find out?” Let's look into these
Why is this important?
Imagine you have a prospect in mind: let's call her Jean Labelle. You discover she has given
a hospital $25,000 and the symphony $10,000, and contributed $5000 to building a new
community swimming pool.
Imagine another prospect: Marc Hudson. He has not made significant donations to any of
these projects or any others you know about.
Does that affect your decision on how much to ask each of these? Of course it does, and it
You should take other considerations into account, too, of course. We'll come to them soon.
Similarly, you might find that one prospect apparently supports many other organizations
similar to yours. Another might have chosen yours as the only one of its type.
How would you find the answers?
It is easier than you might think to gather this kind of information, without invading people's
privacy or being rude. There are bounds of decency and legal limits, which you must not
overstep. Let's explore some simple, easy and ethical ways:
• Board members and volunteers may know some of the basic information, at least about
the potential donors closest to them.
• You may see their names listed among the top donors in concert programs and annual
reports from other nonprofits.
• Their names may show up on plaques on the walls of hospitals, community centres,
churches, concert halls or other public buildings. •The amount given may be revealed
in part, if donors are conveniently acknowledged in categories, such as Benefactors —
$10,000 to $24,999; Sustainers — $25,000 to $49,999; and so on.
• For some high-profile prospects, there may be newspaper or magazine articles at the
“If your prospect contributes to political candidates, his or her donations may be public
information”, Joan Flanagan points out. “Especially look for donors who gave to politicians who
ran on issues defined by your organization. If the politician won, remind your prospect that the
politician won because your group cut the issue for the public. (It doesn't hurt to have a letter
from the elected official saying this.) If the politician lost, remind the prospect that electoral
politics gives at best a 50-50 chance of winning, whereas a terrific organization like yours is out
there fighting for the citizens every day…”63
You will never find out about every donation a person makes. Some are made anonymously.
Some are too small to be publicized. Some were made too long ago; others, too recently.
You may not know the exact amount of a gift, but you can usually determine the range.
Similarly, you may not know the exact date, but you can usually determine the year.
Any information you find, however, is worth recording in the prospect's file. Here is a form
you can adapt:
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, pp 138-139.
66 • Face to Face
Prospect Information Form
Part III Support of Others
Prospect*s Name:
What is the prospect*s history of supporting others?
(If there are more details than will fit here, attach them.)
Research done by (name):
Gift Range
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizanship Canada, Ottawa KIA 1K5
How to Get Bigger Donations • 67
4 How much might the prospect be able to give?
Not everyone can afford to give generously, no matter how much they love your work. A
single mother of three young children in a low-paying job might be doing all she can to give
On the other hand, a single person with few responsibilities who earns more than about
$35,000 a year might be expected (and invited!) to be far more generous than her or his last
gift of $50 or $100. The same could be said of a working couple who earn a combined salary
of over $60,000, depending on their expenses.
How much people are capable of giving depends on:
• their income,
• their assets or other sources of support, and
• their obligations.
Kim Klein uses examples such as these to illustrate the importance of research:
One of the biggest mistakes fundraisers make is assuming that how much a person can give
will be directly related to how much they have. Obviously, how much money a person has
influences how much they can give, since no one can give more than they have. However,
many people have a lot more money than they will ever give, while many others with little
money give a high proportion of what money they have.
…Even if you have names of people who are `wealthy', there are many factors
governing how much money a person may have access to. Take, for example, a
donor whose family is known to be worth $100 million. Will this person make
a $2500 gift? In this case, it is unlikely, given her circumstances. This donor is
22. Her inheritance is set up in a series of trusts, each worth more as she gets
older. She received $50,000 at age 18 and $100,000 at 21. Because she lives
on only the interest from her trusts, has no other work, and has recently put a
down payment on a house, she does not have a large amount of disposable
income at this time. How much she is actually worth, how well she
understands her money, and how much she has access to are three very
different things.
In another case, a prospect is known to own a lot of real estate. A popular
saying in his community is “Jack owns half the town.” Jack is probably worth
several million dollars, but this money is not liquid. At any given time, Jack's
cash flow may be very slim, particularly since Jack lives … where real estate is
not selling well.
Sometimes we hear people say, “She could give a big gift. She lives in a really
lovely house, is president of her corporation, must make six figures, goes for
weekends to Greece…” From the prospect's viewpoint her money situation
looks like this: “I am so broke. I pay so much property tax in addition to my
mortgage, and I have to go to Athens to check on my aging mother, but I can
only stay a few days because of work, so I wind up spending a fortune on that
travel. I work 70 hours a week, and my husband has just left me for someone
else and is filing for divorce. We are really stretched at the office because we
are opening some new stores, so all top management have deferred their
68 • Face to Face
salaries for two months.”64
She goes on to outline how to estimate the giving potential of two hypothetical
…For example, Gene Reilly, 42, has been a paralegal in a large corporate law
firm for at least the 12 years you've known him. He is active in various causes,
and his name has appeared on the back of several newsletters in a list of
donors to those groups. He cares about your group, and he is your neighbour
and friend. He lives alone and seems somewhat frugal… You think he earns
between $40,000 and $50,000… If he gave 5% of his income, he would be
giving between $2000 and $2500. A safe guess is to assume that he gives away
a total of $800 to $2000 to all the groups he cares about.
…Think, “How much does Gene care about the work we do?” Also,
remember that if this is his first gift, it will be less than subsequent gifts. In
Gene's case, put him in the $250 range.
Let's take another example. Sue Smythe, 36, works as a creative director for a
medium-sized advertising agency. Looking in the [newspaper] want ads, you
know that jobs of this sort are advertised at $100,000 and up. Sue has said to
you that she's happy in her work, and has commented, “It's fun earning so
much money.” She shares custody of her young son, age 6, with her exhusband. He is also in advertising, but you don't know his job or salary. She is
active in her church and, in fact, chairs the Building Committee. She is also
involved in anti-apartheid work and volunteers at her son's Montessori school,
which is also your daughters' school. You know her from there, and she always
asks about how your organization is doing. She has come to special events you
have invited her to and is clearly committed to the goals of your group.
Based on her income and her religious convictions, we will go with a guess
that she gives up more than the average person and could be giving up to 10%
of her income. As a range, she may give $3000 to $10,000 to the building fund,
payable over five years. She perhaps gives another $500 to $1000 to the school
and $500 to her group, plus miscellaneous donations to various events and
causes. That adds up to $3000 to $4000 a year. She is a giver. Flatter her and
ask her to be one of the $1000 donors.
This should give you an idea of how to proceed. People are not insulted to be
asked for more than they have, unless it is an absurd amount or the request is
delivered badly. When you ask gently but straightforwardly, “Could you set the
pace with $________?” or “We need a few gifts at $________. Do you think you
could help with that?”, it gives people a way out if they need one, yet makes
them feel happy if they can give that much.
Knowing the person and knowing what they believe in are the key
ingredients for prospects.65
Here is a short list of some of the easiest sources of information to help you get to know
Kim Klein, “Identifying prospects, Part One: Gifts of $100 to $2500”, Grassroots Fundraising Journal,
February 1991, pp 4-5.
Kim Klein, Grassroots Fundraising Journal, February 1991, p 6.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 69
• Conversations (as appropriate) with:
N your board members and friends
N other contacts
N the prospect's friends
N the prospect's business associates
N the prospect's family
• Who's Who
• Specialty editions of Who's Who (eg, Women, Pharmaceuticals, etc)
• Directory of Directors
• InfoGlobe (the Globe and Mail reference service) or other newspaper files
• Financial Post cards
• Annual reports of companies the prospect is active in
• Corporate public relations departments, which may provide biographies of top
• City hall public assessment records, which show the assessed value of homes and
commercial property, who owns it, and how much they pay in municipal taxes
• Obituaries, as Joan Flanagan recommends: “Obits can tell you about family relations,
religious preference and memorials.”66
• Taxation statistics published by Revenue Canada, which show average income by
occupations. The table that follows gives selected data, based on 1990 tax returns (as
published in 1992).67
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 136.
Revenue Canada, Taxation Branch, 1992 Taxation Statistics (Ottawa: Revenue Canada, 1992),
adapted from Summary Table 3, p 89.
70 • Face to Face
Average Income
Doctors (SE)
Dentists (SE)
Lawyers and Notaries (SE)
Accountants (SE)
Engineers and Architects (SE)
Other Self-Employed Professionals 34,685
Salespeople (SE)
Property Owners
Business Proprietors
Entertainers, Artists, etc. (SE)
SE: self-employed
Number of
Percentage of
How to Get Bigger Donations • 71
Prospect Information Form
Part IV Ability to Give
Prospect*s Name:
What is the prospect*s apparent ability to give?
(If there are more details than will fit here, attach them.)
Estimated annual salary, pension, income from investments:
Estimated profit from business:
Other sources of income:
Total income:
Other evidence of wealth:
$ ________
Estimated net worth:
$ ________
D other
a large mortgage
other large loan payments
other obligations
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K1A 1K5
72 • Face to Face
S _______
Known Obligations
The prospect apparently supports:
children at 0 home 0 private school
0 spouse who is not working
0 parents
0 other dependents
$ ________
Information suggesting changes in spendable surplus income for better or worse;
Prospect*s business
Details and source:
or investments are:
Prospect made major purchases lately:
0 house 0 business 0 boat 0 car 0 vacation home
Details and source:
Prospect recently sold:
0 house 0 business 0 boat
Details and source:
Prospect recently: 0 divorced
Details and source:
Prospect recently had
Details and source:
0 car
0 vacation
0 married
0 had
0 up 0 down
o other
0 other
a child
lottery win
Other information:
Additional Addresses and Phone Numbers
(as indicators of potential giving and to use for selected contacts)
Summer cottage (dates):
Winter home (dates):
Car/mobile phone:
Prospect Information Form
Part IV — Ability to Give
How to Get Bigger Donations • 73
5 How can you make it easy for people to be generous?
People often want to be generous, but feel limited by their financial situation. If you can
help them find ways to give more generously, they may be grateful. Several techniques
have been used for this:
• Spread a donation over several years instead of a single lump sum, or monthly
instead of an annual lump sum.
• Make monthly payments automatic through credit cards or pre-authorized
• Use life insurance, wills and bequests to increase the total donation, reduce taxes
and make a larger donation.
• Arrange donations of goods or services.
• Arrange matching grants, usually from the donor's employer.
Let's explore each of these.
Spread a donation over several years instead of a single lump sum, or monthly instead of
an annual lump sum.
Many donors are prepared to commit themselves to making donations over several
years. An advantage for your nonprofit group is that it enables you to plan ahead. It also
means you don't have to go back to the same donor each year. Instead, you can visit more
Donors like this option too. It allows them to plan their payments according to their own
cash flow. In addition, many donors can give more over an extended period of time than
they could possibly give in a single donation.
Large donations are routinely pledged over three to five years. This allows the donor to
take advantage of the maximum tax credits for charitable gifts. It also provides the
nonprofit with security for future budgeting.
For smaller amounts, donors may prefer to spread payments out over a year, paying
quarterly or monthly. Someone who would not dream of writing a single cheque for $500
may be quite comfortable with monthly payments of $40 or $50. For example:
• The donor may like the idea of sponsoring a particular piece of your work. Let's say
you need the money for equipment, such as a $25,000 van, a $2500 computer, or a
$250 shelf of books. The prospective donor may want to buy that for you — but not
have the money. If the donor pledged annual payments for five years of $5000 (or
$500 or $50), you could proceed. You get the equipment, and the donor gets the
• The donor may want the honour of being a member of a giving club you create,
such as the President's Circle, the Founders' Society, or the Friends of the Great
Horned Owl. The entry level for the clubs might be a donation of $25,000, $2500 or
$250. Donors who can't give the whole amount at once might join the club through
an annual pledge for five years of $5000, $500 or $50, respectively.
Since you don't get all the cash up front, you may have to lease the equipment.
Alternatively, you could get a bank loan based on the donor's pledge.
In order to cement this relationship, it is a good idea to create a pledge commitment form.
74 • Face to Face
Action: Develop pledge commitment forms.
Pledge commitment forms are not used as legal documents. They are the donors'
statements of what they intend to do if they can. It is highly unusual (and not
recommended) for a nonprofit to use one to pressure a donor who chooses to withdraw
support, or who is unable to keep making payments.
Prepare pledge forms for the donors to complete. Each form should show the donor's name
and address, the total amount of the pledge, when payments will be made, and the amount
of each pledge.
It is common to ask the donor to sign it, to demonstrate agreement.
Note that you should not normally leave the form with the donor in the hope that she or he
will fill it in and mail it to you later. That mistake may lead to the donor pledging much
less than you hoped for. You are likely to raise more money if the donor completes the
form during a conversation, where you can answer questions, build excitement, and, yes,
sometimes exercise a little persuasion.
Action: Set up a pledge reminder system.
Donors who pledge to pay a little at a time over an extended period may need reminders.
This is not a dunning letter, but rather a gentle suggestion that another season has rolled
around and it is time to make a payment.
The sad truth is that not all donors make full payment on their pledges. Fundraisers
routinely discount the total amount pledged, assuming they may actually receive as little
as half the amount promised. That is a lot of money to lose because of neglect, inactivity,
or overwhelming pressure from other work. With proper pledge reminders you can collect
80 to 100%.
One nonprofit was thrilled when a well known benefactor pledged $5000 a year for ten
Everything went well for three years without a reminder.
In the fourth year, however, the cheque did not arrive. Since the executive director had
heard that the donor was having a poor year in business, the board decided not to bother
The year after, the donor was in the middle of a divorce; again, no cheque came, and no
reminder was sent.
By the sixth year, it was difficult to find a way to contact the donor. He had originally been
deeply committed, but no one knew how he now felt. The nonprofit desperately needed the
They never did get another cent.
Continuing friendly communication would have prevented this problem. The donor
might still have had to skip a year or two — but the bond would have remained strong.
Develop a pledge reminder package to send the donor before each payment date. For top
donors this ought to be personal visits. For most, a personal letter will do. “Avoid form
letters like the plague”, as one millionaire put it.
For monthly donors, some organizations send a stack of envelopes once a year. This is
not recommended. Frequent contact is more likely to produce payment in full.
The pledge reminder package should contain a letter, a reply envelope, and a reply form.
It is not an invoice or a demand for payment, but just a reminder.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 75
The letter should thank the donor for past gifts. It may also provide news of your group's
successes, to reinforce the donor's commitment. For larger donations, it should be
personalized, by computer or by hand.
The package should also include a reply envelope, to make it convenient for the donor to
respond. This should be a postage-paid envelope, so the donor does not have to find a
stamp. For many people, the inconvenience of finding a stamp at home can lead to delayed
or missed payments. For more information on business reply envelopes (BRE's), contact
Canada Post, or refer to Everything You Need To Know To Get Started in Direct Mail
The reply form should include the donor's name, address and personal file number. This
makes it easier for the nonprofit organization to keep track of donations. The form should
also show the amount due at this time. It can also mention the total.
Add a few well chosen words and an illustration to reinforce the donor's desire to
continue contributing. Each pledge form must perform the `sales job' all over again.
It is difficult — but necessary — to politely request donors to make up missed payments.
Prepare polite reminder letters. Send these quickly, especially if the donor has always been
on time in the past. Inquire if there is a problem, or if this was simply an oversight. Offer
to extend the payment period if the donor prefers.
Do not, under any circumstances, simply ignore the missed payment deadline and hope
the donor will catch up later. The longer you delay communication, the harder it becomes.
A recession can hurt pledge collection. How should you handle fundraising in bad
economic times? Offer to let donors spread contributions over pledge periods of up to five
years. Allow them to delay the initial payment date if necessary. If a donor faces difficulty
in meeting his or her pledge commitments, offer to renegotiate the payment schedule or
the amount of the gift.68
Of course, if the donors cannot or do not want to continue making payments, you would
not put pressure on them.
Make monthly payments automatic through credit cards or pre-authorized chequing.
Many organizations arrange to bill smaller payments to donors' credit cards, or deduct
them from their chequing accounts through pre-authorized payments.
Such arrangements are frequently used in the business world for monthly payments on
mortgages, cars, insurance and other large purchases. Not enough nonprofit groups use
this system for their donors.
Some donors are even happy to continue making small payments on an ongoing basis.
This is referred to as a negative option. That means the money goes to the nonprofit until
the donor says to stop. This may go on for a long time. Some donors at OXFAM-Canada;,
for example, have donated monthly through pre-authorized payments for over 15 years.
Some of these generous people have signed up for an `Inflation Protection Plan', which
automatically increases their donation by a specified percentage every year.
Ian McCuaig, “Fundraising in the Recession”, The Prospect, April 1991, p 4. The Prospect is the
newsletter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives, Greater Toronto Chapter, 15 Clarence Square,
Toronto Ontario M5V 1H1, tel (416) 596)6742. Mr McCuaig was at the time an account executive with the
Gordon L Goldie Co Ltd, Toronto. He now works with Marts and Lundy in San Francisco, California, and
can be reached at (415) 922)9425.
76 • Face to Face
Action: Set up credit card payment options.
If your nonprofit does not currently accept donations by credit card, visit a bank, credit
union or trust company to make arrangements. They have simple procedures and will
guide you smoothly through the process.
There are minor costs involved:
• Credit card companies charge a commission for their services. This is based on a
percentage of all the transactions using their card. For a new customer, they will
usually request a 5% fee.
• The credit card company will likely require a small deposit for the card-impression
• They may also request that the organization set up a special clearing account for
deposits, keeping a minimum balance in the account at all times. In recent years,
the security deposit has grown larger, as credit card companies protect themselves
from fraud. If your organization is new or not well known, you may be asked to
keep large sums on deposit.
These fees and security deposits are negotiable. In most cases the local manager has
authorization to reduce the charge considerably. Most nonprofit groups and registered
charities have arranged fees of 3% to 1.5% or less. Ask a volunteer to lead these
negotiations. The ideal person is a respected business leader who has a large account at
that financial institution.
Donors can authorize your organization to deduct from their accounts regularly. Set up a
simple system for routine debits.
Use a `Bring Forward' (BF) file with slots for each month. Put a reminder in the
appropriate slots for each donation the person has approved.
Fill in one credit card slip for each donation. It is not necessary to have access to the
donor's card to make an impression. The credit card number, expiry date, and the donor's
name can all be written in by hand. In the spot for signature, fill in `MO' for Mail Order,
`PO' for Phone Order, or `SOF' for Signature On File. Deposit it as the credit card company
Send the donors regular letters to remind them that you appreciate their support. This
becomes more important if the donor gives quarterly or less often, in case she or he has
forgotten the pledge and wonders about the amount on the credit card bill.
Action: Set up a pre-authorized chequing option.
Pre-authorized chequing (PAC) allows donations to be deducted from the donors'
chequing accounts as if they had written cheques.
It is better than post-dated cheques. The donor won't slow down as writer's cramp sets in
from making out so many cheques. The sheer act of preparing 12 or more cheques can
daunt and depress a donor. In addition, PAC can continue indefinitely without you having
to remind the donor or request more cheques.
It is better than credit cards, because all credit cards expire, and the donor must renew
the pledge.
However, the occasional bounced cheque for insufficient funds is more common with
PAC than with credit cards.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 77
Major banks have established procedures to set up PAC management on behalf of
corporations and nonprofits. They will be pleased to outline their plan to you.
Minimum monthly charges and service fees do apply. Because of these, it may be cheaper
for a small organization to concentrate on credit card plans at first. PAC can be introduced
once volume becomes large enough to justify the administration costs.
Use life insurance, wills and bequests to increase the total donation, reduce taxes and
make a larger donation.
Many donors can give far more to a nonprofit through planned giving than they can in
cash or pledge. This involves wills, special life insurance policies, and annuity
Prospects often respond well to carefully prepared face-to-face discussions about these
ways to help. Many of them are delighted to discover they can do more then they had ever
Life insurance and annuities, for example, have several attractions. They may mean that
the donor will actually have more cash available now, through tax credits and proper
investments. At the same time the donor can give more than before to charity.
Some donors look forward to achieving a kind of immortality by arranging to be
memorialized through gifts.
Such requests are best made to people who have long since been among your best
donors. Those who have been supporting your group for years, or who have given
unusually large donations, will be the most interested in these complex arrangements. It is
less productive to contact a prospect for the first time and try to move directly to a
discussion of planned giving.
Action: Research
Research planned giving.
It is beyond the scope of this manual to explain how to set up these planned giving
techniques. However, some familiarization will be helpful at this stage.
Churches and universities have produced a variety of excellent material on planned giving.
Contact one or two for samples of the brochures they send to interested people.
Insurance companies will also provide background on their own products for planned
giving. Not all agents are experts in this unusual field; be sure you talk to someone who
fully understands the area. Some insurance agents will suggest that you provide your
donor list to them and they will do the rest, contacting prospects on your behalf. This is
seldom a good idea. It is far better for you to initiate contact, and to have an insurance
expert available to explain the technical details.69
Arrange donations of goods or services. Some donors may prefer to make contributions
with goods or services instead of cash.
A business owner, for example, may find it easier to give you building materials,
a computer, or merchandise to use or resell.
For a discussion of this, refer to Ken Wyman, Planning Successful Fundraising Programs, (Toronto:
The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 2nd Floor, 1329 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario M5R 2C4, tel (416)
515-0764, fax (416) 515-0773), 1991. See also Aubrey Barfoot, Establishing a Planned Giving Program:
What You Need to Know to Get Started (Toronto: The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 1990); Michael
Mears, Fundraising with Life Insurance (Ottawa: Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada), 1991.
78 • Face to Face
An art-lover may wish to give you a work of art.
A landowner may offer property.
A skilled person may offer services, from accounting to photography to painting
A manager may have staff do your printing, repair your organization's roof, or
create an advertising campaign.
A prospect concerned about capital gains taxes may be able to make a larger
donation by giving your group stocks, bonds or property directly instead of
selling them and giving you the cash.70
All these are referred to as `gifts in kind'. The goods may be brand-new, or well used but
Gifts in kind are sometimes a great boon to a nonprofit. You may well receive quality
goods and services that you could not otherwise afford to buy. Some rare items may not be
on the market at all.
In addition, a donor may develop a stronger bond with your organization by providing
goods and services than by donating mere money.
Action: Develop a shopping list of gifts in kind.
Review your organization's needs with an eye to in-kind donations. What goods and
services are you paying for now that could be donated? What might you need in future?
For each item, list what you would normally have to pay. Depending on the value, you may
find it more economical to buy some items rather than spend time arranging donations.
Later on, this list can be matched to potential donors to see what opportunities you may
Action: Review
Review the limits of in-kind gifts.
Gifts in kind can present problems as well as opportunities.
Are you being offered services you can't use? If you have no immediate use for goods
donated in kind, will the donor be offended if you resell them? This problem can arise
when a donor gives artwork or land, but what you need is cash flow.
If you are not going to resell them, can you store them adequately to prevent damage?
Will you have to pay large fees for insurance, transportation, or legal work for an item you
don't really want?
Specific rules also apply affecting which in-kind donations can be considered for a tax
credit. The following summary provides general information only. The author is not a
lawyer or an accountant, and is not a representative of the government. Please consult
Revenue Canada for complete and up-to-date regulations.
In 1989, “the Chalmers family made a $10 million gift to 16 Ontario arts groups and universities in the
form of Maclean-Hunter shares. `This man — this family — really is very important,' said Richard Monette,
actor and artistic director designate of the Stratford Festival. `They are in the tradition of the Medicis, the
Mellons, the Pierpont Morgans, the Rockefellers. In this country, there are very, very few of them. They have
set an example that is so important now when it is up to people like him to support the arts.'” Susan Walker,
“Arts patron Floyd Chalmers, 94” (obituary), The Toronto Star, 27 April 1993.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 79
You Have More Freedom
Freedom if No Tax
Tax Credit Is Issued
Donors can contribute in any way they wish, if no tax credit is issued.
Some individuals and businesses do not require a tax receipt. They may deduct their
support as a promotional expense, instead of as a charitable donation. They may be
donating goods that have already been written off for maximum tax deductions. They may
have used up their maximum allowable charitable tax credit. Or they may be among those
who believe that donations should be made to do good work, not to get tax incentives.
Many nonprofits are not registered charities, and therefore cannot issue official tax
receipts at all. The following rules do not apply to them.
Whatever the reason, if no tax receipt is issued, Revenue Canada's charitable rules do not
Charities Can Give a Tax
Tax Credit if Given Gifts of Goods
A donation of goods is eligible for a charitable tax receipt, just as if it were cash.
However, a few rules apply. These are the rules that are in effect as of the time of
publication, but they may change. For the latest regulations, please consult Revenue
Canada or a lawyer who specializes in charity tax law.
Gifts of goods of no real market value, such as used clothes, are not eligible for receipts.
Gifts of goods can be receipted at fair market value, regardless of the price originally
paid. A donor who bought supplies at wholesale prices can receive a tax receipt for them at
full retail value. If the goods are worth more than when purchased, the donor may claim
the current value. However, capital gains taxes may apply. On the other hand, if the goods
are now worth less than when purchased, the donor is only eligible for a tax receipt at the
current market value.
Gifts of goods cannot be double-deducted. If a donor has already deducted the cost of the
goods for business purposes, a second deduction cannot be claimed for donating them to
charity. However, it is not the responsibility of the charity to determine if the donor has
already claimed the goods. The charity may issue a tax receipt in good faith. It is the
responsibility of the donor to follow the tax laws.
Gifts of art, antiques and other unusual goods may be hard to evaluate for fair market
value. The services of one or more licensed appraisers should be employed to determine
the real current value. Rare cultural artifacts may also have restrictions on resale outside
How to Handle Gifts of Services
Services are never eligible for a tax receipt, according to Revenue Canada. However, it is
legal to arrange a cheque exchange. In an exchange, the charity pays the donor for services
rendered, and the donor then donates the money back to the charity for a tax receipt.
While this is legal, it is seldom worth the trouble. The donor, having been paid for a
service, legally must declare the payment as taxable income. In most cases, the taxes paid
on the income wipe out the benefits of the tax credit.
There is sometimes difficulty in determining what are services and what are goods.
Computer programming, for example, is a service, according to Revenue Canada, and
therefore not eligible for a tax credit. However, a gift of a computer programme that is sold
in stores comes under the heading of goods and is eligible.
Information on Revenue Canada regulations concerning gifts in kind:
Canadian Taxation of Charities, Arthur Drache.
80 • Face to Face
Carswell, Thomson Publishers, Ltd
2075 Kennedy Road
Scarborough, ON
M1T 3V4
(416) 609-8000
Revenue Canada
(800) 267-2384
Ask for the following free publications:
NGifts in Kind (P113)
NGifts in Kind to Charity (IT-297R2)
NDeductible Gifts and Official Donation Receipts (IT-11OR2)
How can you arrange matching grants?
Many companies will match their employees' donations to charities and nonprofit
groups. Usually the company gives a dollar for each dollar the employee donates, up to a
fixed limit.
This is most commonly done for universities and other schools, and sometimes for arts
groups or other nonprofits. It may not apply to you.
For a list of companies that provide matching grants, ask any university fundraising or
alumni department.
Even easier, ask your prospects to contact their employers directly to see if they will
match the donations. This is usually handled by the personnel department or the payroll
office. If in doubt, ask the chief executive officer of the company (or his or her secretary).
How to Get Bigger Donations • 81
6 With
With all this information, how do you decide?
You have now done everything possible to make it easy for a sympathetic prospect to be
exceptionally generous. You have also acquired a great deal of useful information to help
you make a decision about the prospect's likely gift.
But how much should the amount be? The rule of thumb is: If in doubt, ask big.
Decide on the appropriate range based on the prospect's level of interest, ability to give,
and giving history.
A sophisticated and effective system to rate the potential gift has been spelled out by
Kent Dove. He recommends a confidential meeting to discuss each prospect's potential to
give. If that's not possible, he suggests having individuals rate the prospects. The ratings
should be done by knowledgeable volunteers, such as “bankers, lawyers, investment
counselors, insurance executives, the socially prominent, and those actively involved in
organized philanthropy…”
The rating includes the prospects' potential to give (what they would
give if the institution were their number one philanthropic cause and
they wanted to make the biggest gift of their lives) and a probable gift
size (a gift they could pledge over the next eighteen months, without
much solicitation, that would be payable over the next three to five
For an individual, figure the potential gift as 3-5% of the person's
total assets outside of personal real estate and life insurance.
To determine the probable gift, look at the prospect's giving history
(including the largest previous gift), other obligations, financial health,
type of investments, rate of return, family obligations (parents,
children), attitude toward giving, the strength of ties to the institutions,
and `conspicuous consumption' — the visible signs of wealth: private
schools, estates, vacation homes, and so forth.71
This may be too complex for a grassroots group.
Realistically, if the donor gave you double the largest donation he or she had previously
given you, you would probably be satisfied — even if they were actually capable of giving
you far more. Tripling it would be really impressive. (Unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime
fundraising campaign, you can always ask the donor for more next year or the year after.)
If the prospects haven't given to you before, base the proposed gift on the amount your
research shows they've given to a similar nonprofit.
On this basis, if their last gift was $500 a year, the challenge might be $1000 to $1500.
Ask them to pledge over a 3- to 5-year period. Thus, if the person's last gift was $500,
you could ask for a gift in the range of $3000 to $5000 ($1000 a year) or $4500 to $7500
($1500 a year). Start with the larger amount.
Emphasize that this can be paid monthly, so you're really only asking $125 a month (or
less than $30 a week).
Don't be overly limited by the prospect's last gift. Adapt the range you suggest according
to what you know of the person's situation.
Kent E Dove, Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, pp 94-95 and 101.
82 • Face to Face
If you have reason to believe they really like your work, ask for 10% of their annual
income (the biblical tithe). But put it in terms of a specific dollar range, based on your best
estimate of their income.72
If the amount you name is too much, they'll let you know. If you ask for too little,
however, they are unlikely to try to talk you into accepting more.
People are often flattered rather than offended at a request for a substantial gift. They
may make light of the amount initially. Do not be discouraged or embarrassed. Don't
immediately name a lower amount. You have effectively established the level of giving
they will consider. Give them time to think it through.
Naturally, some people will fall back to a lesser amount. These people may make a larger
gift in future, however.
How you present this to the prospect is important, of course. More on this will be present
in the chapter on the right approach.
Assess Capability,
Capability, Not Probability
Consider what a prospect is capable of giving and ask appropriately. Don't ask for a low
amount that you think they may end up giving. That is their decision to make.
Ask big. Your cause is important. The people you help are worth it.
Here is another form to help you record your decisions:
Some groups, such as churches, hope that donors will give in proportion to their income. They talk of
tithing 10%. This may be a laudable goal. It is certainly achievable, as many donors have proven. The
problem is that most people don't budget their money, and they don't think in terms of percentages. Mention
giving in proportion to income, and people will ask if you mean pre-tax or after-tax income. They will need to
get out pay-stubs and a calculator to figure it out. And of course it doesn't apply in the same way to people
who don't have incomes because they are students, retirees or full-time homemakers. By all means, encourage
proportional giving, but remember however, that it is more effective fundraising (at least in the short term)
to specify the amount you hope they will give.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 83
Prospect Information Form
Part V Possible Gift
Prospect*s Name:
What is the hoped-for gift this time?
(If there are more details than will fit here, attach them.)
Cash: range from $
to $
Goods in kind, or services of:
Terms of payment to suggest:
0 One immediate donation
0 Pledge of $
payable: 0 Monthly
0 Quarterly
D Yearly
o Other
Why was this target gift chosen?
Is a matching grant possible from the company where the prospect works?
0 Yes
0 No
0 Prospect
will check
0 We
should check
Spouse*s business/personal interests:
Other related business/personal interests:
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturahsm & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa KiA 1K5
84 • Face to Face
- Ken
Wyman 1993
The Right Time
The right volunteer asks the right donor for the right amount at the
right time to support the right project with the right approach.
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
When is the right time to ask?
In fund raising, as in comedy and dance, timing is important.
People's generosity changes with the seasons. Alterations in their lives may make them more or
less open to giving, or to your cause. Developments in your organization could influence their
decisions, too.
Even if they want to give you a large donation, many people do not have the financial freedom
to simply give you all the money at once. They may be on tight budgets. They may live in an
expensive house and drive a fancy car, but have all their money committed to mortgage and
finance payments. They may have money tied up in investments that can't be liquidated right
away. Major expenses may be coming soon.
These and many other barriers many prevent them from being as generous as they truly want
to be.
You must arrange to take all these limitations into account. This is an essential part of the precampaign preparation.
Choose the moment to ask. This may be the least important of the six secrets of big gifts, but it
still counts.
Ask before Christmas and Easter.
Most people give most generously in the pre-Christmas season. While this is far from an ironclad rule, it is surprisingly common.
It may be because Christians and Jews are in a holiday mood just then. However, all of Canada
seems to focus on gift-giving, no matter what religion or lack thereof.
It may be because it is the last chance to arrange contributions to reduce taxes.
Whatever the psychology, September through November is the best time to ask. By December,
people tend to be busier, and many have already spent their charitable dollars.
Spring is the second-best time. Perhaps it is the combination of Lent, Passover, Ramadan, spring
flowers, new fiscal years, or tax-filing and tax rebates.
Summer is generally the hardest time to gather volunteers, to reach prospects and to talk
seriously about donations.
Ask at the anniversary of the donor's last contributions.
As noted earlier, some donors give at the same time each year. You may never know why.
The timing may relate to a personal milestone being memorialized (such as birthdays, weddings,
or the anniversary of the death of a loved one).
It may have to do with their financial planning and the timing of their annuity cheques or
If you detect a pattern, that's the time of year to ask again.
Ask at the moment your organization is at a high point.
Too many campaigns for major gifts are launched in a rush because the organization is
desperate for funds to survive. Success is more likely if you pick your moment.
Ask when you have had good publicity.
If the prospect has heard good things about you recently, you are more likely to get a gift. Even
How to Get Bigger Donations • 85
if you have a well oiled publicity machine, it may take time before stories run in the media.
Ask when you have had a success.
If you can tell the prospect about a major achievement, you will gain respect. Spread good news.
Be upbeat. Special anniversaries are sometimes used, but they are not as effective. If all you can
say is that your group is 10, 50, 100, or 150 years old, the absence of other achievements is a
subtle condemnation.
The occasion could be:
The successful conclusion of a programme
A graduating class
A good show
A winning team
A research breakthrough
A milestone such as the 1000th client served
A new person hired
New volunteers enrolled
Any other victory
Ask when your board is strong.
Right after a messy organizational split is not a good time. Neither can you give this proper
attention when key people are distracted by a reorganization or the launching of a new
endeavour. If the group's financial needs are pressing, you may not be able to wait for a better
moment, but you should at least be aware that results might be greater at another time.
Ask at the time the prospect has or will have funds available.
People do not always have easy access to money — particularly larger sums.
For people paid weekly, your timing may make little difference. For people paid monthly, it is
much easier to give when the cheque comes in than three or four weeks after.
People who depend on investments for the money they give to charity may require even longer
planning. They may receive payments only four times a year, or once a year when dividends are
declared. It may be less often than that if their investments are not doing well.
“More than 50% of gifts of stock are made in the last quarter of the year, and 35% are made in
December. Although you want to cultivate your best prospects all year long, if you are asking
for a gift of stock, be sure you have asked for the stock by October.”73
Farmers find it easier to give in the fall when the harvest is in, than in the spring when they're
investing in seed, fertilizer and fuel.
During the forum on major gifts74, philanthropists Lyman Henderson and Nancy Jackman talked
about what had motivated them to make the largest donation they ever gave. The audience
expected to hear about good causes, persuasive appeals, and influential solicitors. Lyman
Henderson began with an answer that caught people by surprise.
What prompted me to give the biggest gift I ever made? I have to say honestly it was a windfall
profit. I happened to have the money.
Nancy Jackman agreed. Then she speculated on how a nonprofit could know when that moment
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 164.
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 1989.
86 • Face to Face
I would pick up on what Lyman said. In my case there was a transfer from one corporation
to anothe
r . The money was liquid for a time before it got reinvested. It was at that point that I
made the largest gift I ever made. That's information I suspect you'll probably not know.
Two guys came by my house this morning at 7:30 and said “Come on Nance, let's go out
running.” I talked to one of them on the phone last night and said “Ooh, not me.” But I'm
thinking about it. This morning I said yes to them.
One of the reasons I said yes to them is that I, like you, also have to go raise money, and they
have information I need. They both work in the financial district. Now I may have to walk and
run with them for several months before [I get the information]. It'll do me good anyhow.
So find someone in your network who has access to that stuff and get it… The movement of
capital and when it's liquid is really important. A lot of us who are deemed as millionaires may
be millionaires but it's all tied up. It's not liquid. You have to watch where the shifts are. Have
someone track it. A retired broker or someone who loves reading the financial papers … get
them to do that research for you.
If you can get the information, and if you can wait, carefully time your approach to promising
prospects. Ask at the time when:
a couple with grown children are selling their house and moving into something smaller;
a business-owner is selling the firm;
someone has inherited money;
they have just received a large severance package;
they have won the lottery — or a lawsuit;
they have “made a fortune by inventing a better mousetrap”, Joan Flanagan adds.
But remembe
r , the key factor is not that they have a lot of money. Don't try to ask everyone you
can find who wins a lottery, or sells a house or business. The primary consideration is that they
support you — and secondarily, that this happens to be a good time to ask.
When NOT to Ask
“Never ask for money at a party. It is awkward for your prospect, embarrassing for your host,
and guaranteed to make you look gauche and greedy. Time magazine reported that Joan Kroc,
owner of the San Diego
P adres baseball team, widow of the founder of Mcdonald's Corporation,
and legendary philanthropist, was invited to a party at the home of Dr. Jonas Salk. What
happened? `So many other guests accosted her with solicitations for money that she excused
herself and left.'”75
What should you do if you are lucky enough to meet such a person? Here's what Joan Flanagan
Make polite party conversation, trying to listen and learn as much as possible about the
prospect. The next da
y , send your prospect a brief letter — one paragraph on how much you
enjoyed meeting him or her and one paragraph on how you would like to have an opportunity
to tell more about your project. Include one recent clipping and one brochure. Send a copy of
your letter to the host or hostess with your thanks for making the introduction.
Joan Flanagan, Successful Fundraising, p 163. See Jordan Bonfante, “Lady Power in the Sunbelt”,
Time, 19 March 1990, pp 48-90.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 87
Do you really need all the money now?
An immediate contribution sounds wonderful. Whether it is in cash, or by cheque, money order,
or credit card, it makes an organization feel secure to know the money is in the bank.
Sometimes, however, suggesting an immediate donation may be counter-productive. Depending
on the prospect's financial situation, it may easier to give a larger amount later. The prospect
might prefer to spread a gift over multiple payments.
If you can be flexible, the prospect may be able to give you much more money in the long run.
It may not even be necessary for your organization to have the money immediately. If the
programme will not begin for a few weeks, months, or even years, it may be just as convenient
to have the donation arrive when it is needed.
If the programme will proceed in phases, it may be sufficient to have the money arrive as
payments are required. If the money is to fund salary, monthly donations are good enough (as
long as they are reliable). In the case of equipment or buildings, periodic payments are required,
and the full amount is not essential at the start.
There are, of course, obvious advantages to having the money right away. The organization can
invest it and earn interest. There is security in knowing that donors will not change their minds,
fail to pay in full, or die without a will.
On the other hand, these advantages may all be more than offset by problems.
The first is that holding onto a substantial amount of money can create bookkeeping problems.
Revenue Canada, for example, restricts the ability of registered charities to accumulate funds
over several years, except under special circumstances. Prospects, too, may be put off to see the
organization carrying a surplus forward.
In addition, many organizations have demonstrated their inability to leave capital untouched
in the bank. In the event of an emergency or changing priorities, they may give in to the
temptation to reassign the money, at least on a temporary basis. This can lead to a shortfall, and
may also constitute moral and legal misappropriation of funds.
Which prospects should be asked first?
Who you ask is the most important consideration.
The right person is predisposed to giving. The wrong person will require a great deal of
preparation and persuasion — and still may not give at all.
This topic was covered in great detail in the chapter on how to identify potential donors. In this
section, we'll just prioritize who to ask first.
With limited energy (and it's always limited), you can't ask everyone at once. Where do you
start? There are three main factors to consider:
How much will they give?
Will their decision influence others?
How easy will it be to obtain the gift?
How much will they give?
The ideal is to start with those who can make the largest donations, then move down to people
who would give smaller amounts.
The larger donors appreciate the honour of being asked first, as leaders. Often their gifts will
influence others. If they are not asked first, there is a risk that they may be insulted, or that
smaller gifts will become the `pace-setters'.
Will their decision influence others?
Choose people who are well respected. Their decision to give (or not to!) will influence others.
88 • Face to Face
These are the people who are more public about their donations — although even an
anonymous gift will have an impact if it is large enough. In some cases, a moderate gift from
a much-loved person will have more effect than a larger amount from a wealthier person.
Imagine the reactions of other prospects.
“Father Timothy gave $1500!? Why, he's poor as a church mouse. That must be a fortune to
him”, they mutter. “And that old skinflint Beelzebub gave $5000, did he? He bets twice that on
the horses. What a cheapskate!”
Also, choose people who may be willing to ask others to give. If you are short of good volunteers
(as many nonprofit groups are), the first prospects can be recruited to expand the team. This
is much like pyramid selling.
How easy will it be to get the gift?
Finally, comes the question of how easy it will be. It's a good idea to start off with some easy
wins. Get a victory under your belt. Practice on people who are already really sympathetic. Save
the hard cases until your volunteers have more experience.
To make it easy to decide who to ask first, Kent Dove suggests giving each prospect:
…not one but two rating codes: the prospect's giving capacity and the prospect's interest in the
organization… By adding the two numerical ratings (capacity and interest), an institution can
determine each prospect's priority rating. The higher the rating, the higher the priority the
prospect is. The higher the priority the prospect is, the more `cultivation moves' (structured
contacts designed to bring a prospect closer to making a major gift) an institution will want to
make on the prospect in a given period of time, usually a calendar year.
To help guide an institution in determining how much cultivation a prospect gets, it is
recommended that it use a cultivation quotient — the sum of the two numerical ratings
multiplied by two. This represents the minimum number of cultivation moves an institution
should hope to make on a prospect each year.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 89
Codes for Giving Capacity
Code Giving Capacity
50,000 and up
Codes for Interest Level
Code Description of Interest Level
Clearly turned off; no record of interest
Minimal interest; occasional donor, attends meetings infrequently
Moderately active or formerly very active
Very active; major donor, club member, committee person
Member of governing board, other boards or executive groups
For example, one prospect is rated 3/1 and another is rated 1/3, so both have cultivation
quotients of eight (obtained by adding the two rating codes and multiplying by two). One is a
rather unlikely prospect for a $10,000 gift at the moment, while the other one is a pretty likely
prospect for a $2500 gift. Their cultivation quotients tell the organization to plan for eight
cultivation moves on each of these prospects in a year.76
You'll find more about how to cultivate prospects in chapter 6 of this manual.
On the next page you'll see another method to rate the prospect's potential, based on the profile
of top prospects mentioned earlier.
Total the scores of all your top prospects. The people with the highest score are the ones to
approach first. Rank their priority based on their numerical scores.
Dove, Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, pp 110-111.
90 • Face to Face
Major Gift Prospects:
Who to Ask First
© 1993 Ken Wyman
Prospect's name:
Prospect gave to us previously
Prospect is rated to give a very large gift
Prospect's decision will influence others by example
Prospect's gift will be easy to get
Prospect is or was on our board
Prospect is known to make big gifts to other non-profits
Prospect is or was a volunteer with us
Prospect is or was a participant
and we have stayed in touch
Prospect was a participant
and we have not stayed in touch
Prospect is on the board
of one or more other nonprofit groups
We have a personal contact
Prospect knows about and is interested in us
Prospect is religious
Prospect apparently has money to give
Prospect is interested in our issue
but apparently doesn't know about us
Prospect has been given awards for community service
Prospect is conservative (no matter how he/she votes)
Prospect has a high profile in the community
Prospect is over 55 years of age
Prospect is in a professional or managerial occupation
Prospect is an active volunteer with other groups
Prospect is university educated
Prospect is still married to first spouse
Prospect has children
Total Score (maximum 400 points)
On the next page is a form to use for your planning.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 91
Prospect Information Form
Part VI Ranking and Timing
Prospect*s Name:
Dove Scoring System
Giving Capacity Code:
Estimated Giving Capacity: $
Interest Code:
Cultivation Quotient:
Wyman Scoring System
Total Score:
Priority Rank (based on other prospects* scores):
Timing Factors to Consider
Time most likely to have funds available:
Prospect anniversary dates to consider:
Dates when the prospect will be away:
Dates when our organization will be at a high point:
Proposed date to contact the prospect:
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K 1 A 1 K5
92 • Face to Face
The Right Project
The right volunteer asks the right donor for the right amount at the right time to
support the right project with the right approach.
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
What's the money for?
Making a large donation requires more than average commitment. How can you get prospects
sufficiently interested to part with several hundred or thousand dollars? One of your first steps
is to have clear answers to the question, “What's the money for?”
Look into this before you start talking to prospects. It is tempting to skip ahead in your
eagerness to begin. Please don't make this mistake.
Don't ask the prospect to give you money for your general budget — it's not exciting or
motivating. Avoid asking for support to cover core costs or deficits.
Major donors are more likely to give to achieve something specific than to support an
organization's overall budget. They want to feel the satisfaction of knowing what their money
accomplishes. They do not want to feel that their hard-earned cash merely helped to bail out
one bucketful (however large) from a sinking ship.
The question you must constantly ask is this: What part of our work might inspire this particular
donor to give more?
Fundraiser Gordon Cressy provides this example from the University of Toronto capital
They approached Helen Gardiner Phelan for a donation, after careful preparation. Mrs. Phelan is
a U of T graduate who has led an active life. She has been chair of Toronto Arts Productions,
now called the Canadian Stage Company. She was on the board of Women's College Hospital
for over 20 years (four of them as chair of the board), and on the Lyndhurst Hospital board as
well. She has also served on business boards, including Confederation Life and Scott's
Hospitality, which operates the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, where her brother was
chairperson. Her husband, Paul J Phelan, is Honorary Chairman and Director of Cara Operations
Limited, the food service company that provides many airline meals, and operates restaurants,
including Swiss Chalet and Harvey's Restaurants, as well as Grand and Toy, the office supply
Mrs Phelan gave U of T $200,000. That is a lot of money. But Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster,
the TV comedians, were on the fundraising committee at the time. They remembered her from
the days when all three had gone to University College (a division of the University of Toronto)
together. She had been in the UC Follies in 1938, '39 and '40. They decided to go back to her
again, for help renovating the UC Playhouse.
They arranged a lunch with Mrs Phelan to ask her to help renovate the playhouse. As she later
said in a telephone conversation, “There were a lot of top people there, which helps… They gave
me lots of `outs' and said they felt embarrassed to be coming back to me. But I wanted to do it.
I believed in these people; I'm interested in acting; and the theatre was in terrible condition.”
She and her husband together donated another $1.2 million. “It felt extremely good. I had just
recently made out my will leaving money to a very few charities I support, and I had been
How to Get Bigger Donations • 93
thinking it would be nicer to do it in my lifetime. Nothing as major as that ever occurred to me.”
U of T had a dinner in her honour, of course. At the dinner they gave her a seven-foot-high photo
of herself from the 1938 Follies.
Since then, the Helen and Paul Phelan Foundation has also contributed $1 million for a Chair
in Dermatology at Women's College Hospital.
Before you rush to put her on your list, you should know that Mrs Phelan stressed the
importance of knowing the people involved, and having a long personal association with the
group. She also said that “the money's exhausted now. People assume that if you give a large
gift you can afford the world. You can't.”
The lesson? Knowing the right project transformed a $200,000 gift into a $1.2 million gift. While
you may have to knock a few zeros off, the principle remains the same.
This is donor-centred philanthropy. It focuses on the donor's interests and needs far more than
the organization's. Lyman Henderson would agree:
What gets to us? First of all, it has to be something we are or could be interested in. That
means you've got to do a little research. If you're going to go after me for five hundred, a
thousand, or more dollars, it's worthwhile spending a little time and not giving me the `Dear
Friend' kind of approach, but knowing what I'm interested in. They're not going to get very far,
for instance, in trying to interest us in supporting a jazz concert, but if it were a ballet
performance, that's sort of our cup of tea, and you might just find something in that.
Funds for Buildings, Equipment, and Direct Services Are Relatively
Relatively Easy to Find
Campaigns for buildings are by no means all that major donors support, but they are familiar
to most people, so let's begin there.
At the largest level, you may be familiar with campaigns where donors gave a school a science
lab or athletic centre. They might give a hospital an intensive-care room for newborns, or even
a whole new wing. It could be a theatre, or the lobby of a building.
In grassroots building campaigns, the same principle applies. For a community centre, for
example, larger donors might like to contribute by giving something specific and durable, like
a daycare centre, a kitchen, a shelf of books for the reading room, or the bench for the home
All these are tangible and visible. Their value to the people who will use them is unquestionable.
Equipment campaigns are also common. Donors provide CAT scanners, wheelchairs, or vans.
They may buy a painting for a gallery, a piano for a musical group, or toys for a daycare centre.
Programs for people are also very easy to fund. Donors may give the money to provide food for
the hungry for one month, a week of summer camp for a needy child, or one performance of a
concert for an artist on tour.
Some Needs are Harder to Fund
Fund — Overhead, Endowments and Other Tricky
Tricky Problems
Unfortunately, it is very difficult — almost impossible — to get money for core costs. Few
prospects want to pay an organization's rent or telephone bill. Salary and overhead are equally
hard to fund.
The first step is to clarify that overhead is only a hidden cost in providing a direct service. For
example, insurance and maintenance are the hidden costs in buying a van. Without them, the
van can't operate. If there is no van, there is no need to pay for auto insurance or maintenance.
In reality, both the hidden cost and the capital cost are integrated. Don't separate them in the
fundraising campaign.
Similarly, there are a variety of other hidden and indirect implementation costs involved in
94 • Face to Face
running a van. Passengers have to be able to arrange rides. This may require someone to answer
the phone — as well as a phone to be answered, a desk and chair, office rent and so on. Even
then, there are still more costs. A publicity campaign may be needed to let potential passengers
know a van is available. This may require a brochure. A brochure, in turn, costs more than the
price of printing. People may have to be paid to write, edit, design and distribute it — and these
people, too, carry overhead costs. All these so-called core costs are required to make use of the
In fact, the van itself may be only a small portion of the costs of offering a transportation
Similarly, unglamorous equipment behind the scenes, such as office computers, copiers, and
furnaces are also difficult. Leaky roofs, improvements to insulation and all the rest are seldom
popular. Yet they are necessary to providing programs and services.
Endowment funds are usually unpopular as well, with some exceptions. It is a fantasy to expect
to go overnight from poverty to having large investments and living on the interest. Many
donors will support an endowment fund. However, it is often done by leaving money to the
group in their will. While they are living, they generally (but not always) prefer to see their
money spent on short-term needs.
While campaigns for buildings are usually popular, this is not always the case. Office space, for
example, is essential, but it seldom excites donors.
How do you solve the problem? You can't eliminate the need just because prospects don't find
it appealing. Often the answer is in the phrasing. Here's how Frank Whitley, president of a major
community fundraising firm in the US, describes the solution:
In one case, one of the needs was described as “Renovation of second floor of 3000 square
feet, with activity rooms, offices and toilets, new lighting and furnishings for childcare
facilities.” We revised the description, to reflect the public's needs: “to provide additional
childcare space to double our present facilities, so that 75 welfare mothers secure taxpaying
Solution: Include Core Costs in Programs
The solution is to include the costs of all the unpopular necessities within the more exciting
Note that this does not mean always starting new projects to interest prospects, while you
struggle for funds for your central mission. Instead, present all aspects of your work as related
to programs. This is an honest and accurate way to motivate donors to care about core costs.
You may also be able to redefine some administrative work as a public service. For example, if
you spend time talking to the public or answering letters about your work, can you legitimately
call this a “Public Awareness Program”? If so, include not only the salary of the person who
talks to the public, but related overhead expenses.
The same thing applies to capital expenses. Even a cause as popular as a children's hospital, for
example, might find it difficult to get a sponsor for the furnace room — even if they offer to
hang a big plaque on the door. Instead, the cost of the furnace is included in the costs for other
A senior citizens' or a disabled persons' group might campaign for a `Mobility Program', instead
Frank V Whitley, “The 15 Worst Errors in Community Capital Campaigns”, Fundraising
Management, September 1992, page 44. Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 95
of just the van mentioned in the earlier example. The Mobility Program budget would include
all the related costs as well. These include direct costs, on-going costs, and implementation
Direct costs would include:
the van
special equipment for the van
Ongoing costs include:
drivers' salaries and benefits
supervisor's salary and benefits
gas and oil
regular maintenance
Implementation costs include a fair portion of salary, benefits and overhead for:
a receptionist to answer the phone and book rides
a brochure writer
a brochure designer
a brochure distributor
an executive director
a bookkeeper
It is legitimate to include all these real costs in calculating the value of a program. Nothing
should be left over to be labelled `core costs'. Although some government funders insist on the
artificial separation of so-called `direct costs' from overhead, most donors understand the
Ultimately an organization's budget should have a column for each specific program. Each of
these should show a fair share of all costs.
Long-term repair and replacement costs should also be included. All equipment, from a van to a
roof, has a limited life-span. It is relatively easy to predict how long it will be before they will
require major repairs or replacement. A portion of these costs should be included in each year's
budget, in advance. The alternative is an emergency situation that could easily have been
Action: Break the budget into bite-sized pieces.
The result of including the full, real costs of the program may be that the total needed seems
to be too large. It often helps to interpret this in terms of the number of people who will be
helped over the lifetime of the program.
Sponsoring a concert at $2500 is a lot — until it is clear that 500 people will see it performed.
The cost per person is only $5. A new display in the gallery or museum may cost $100,000 and
be seen by 25,000 children on school tours, at $4 each.
A mobility program may cost $50,000. But it might carry 1000 passengers on trips over the
course of a year. Some may travel just once; others, more frequently. This brings the cost down
to $50 per passenger per trip.
Still too high? Since the $50,000 includes a van that will last five years or more, the full five-year
costs should be pro-rated against total passengers. This may display the true cost of $10 per
passenger per trip.
96 • Face to Face
This, too, may be further reduced by noting that the average round trip totals 50km. The actual
cost is 20cents per passenger kilometre.
This is referred to as the unit cost. Calculate a unit cost by taking the following steps:
Full cost of program, including all expenses
(direct, hidden overhead, indirect and
Number of participants:
Cost per participant
(a ÷ b):
No. of times each participant
uses the service:
Cost per use (c ÷ d):
Average duration of each use
Cost per unit (e ÷ f):
Take `Market Value'
Value' into Account
Because you have determined the true cost per unit, it does not necessarily mean that each
prospect should be asked to contribute only to the limit of that amount.
In every programme, some parts are more popular than others. People contributing to the more
popular elements might happily give more than the actual cost. This will be used to cover the
costs of other, less glamorous aspects.
For example, a hospital may need funding to construct a new wing containing four areas. Each
area is about the same size. If the cost of the building were simply divided by square meters,
each area might be worth $15,000.
However, one of these areas will be a furnace room in the basement. Although people's lives will
depend on the smooth operation of the furnace throughout the winter, this is probably not a
need that will excite any prospect. As a result, the $15,000 cost must be divided among the three
remaining areas. They will effectively cost $20,000 each.
Two of the areas will be side-by-side. One will be used for a critical care unit for newborn
babies, and requires expensive equipment. The other will be used for long-term care of the
terminally ill. While some prospects might be interested in funding each area, it will probably
be easier to find prospective donors who are interested in the babies. It is reasonable that the
donor sponsoring this area be asked to give $25,000 or more, even though the raw cost will be
only $15,000 and the adjusted cost (including the furnace room) will be $20,000. The difference
will help subsidize the long-term unit.
The core cost is not the determining factor. People will give more if something appeals to them.
Making the area cheaper does not make it more fundable.
The third area will be a front lobby. No one will actually receive care in this area; however,
everyone will pass through it. Some prospects will be attracted to it because of the added
recognition their donation could bring them. It may be the prestige or the publicity that they
like. Because of the added value in the prospect's mind, the area may be `worth' more money.
The prospect may be asked to give $50,000 or $100,000 for the right to be sponsor of the lobby,
even though the adjusted cost is only $20,000. The extra money will subsidize other aspects of
the hospital's work.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 97
The same example could be applied to a theatre, an educational facility, or most other buildings.
It also applies to non-capital programs.
Churches, for example, know that parishioners will pay for a new furnace, for instance, if the
old one breaks down. Getting the funds for maintenance before it breaks down is harder,
though. Overhead expenses also seem unappealing. If, instead, the focus is placed on their
ministries, each including a portion of the overhead costs, fundraising then becomes much
A 17-page booklet that will be useful to all groups struggling with this problem, whether they
are religious in nature or not, is A Declaration for Mission: Your Congregation's Budget, by Lynne
Geddes (produced by the Canadian Inter-Church Stewardship Committee, 1987). It is available
The Anglican Church of Canada
Stewardship/Financial Development
600 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ontario
M4Y 2J6
(416) 924-9192
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
Board of Congregational Life
50 Wynford Drive
Don Mills, Ontario
M3C 1J7
(416) 441-1111
The United Church of Canada
Department of Stewardship Services
85 Saint Clair Avenue East
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 1M8
(416) 925-5931
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
1512 Saint James Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3H 0L2
(204) 786-6707
Here's how to calculate your figures:
The amount you ask a prospect to give should include the full costs of the program or item.
But don't stop at the immediate out-of-pocket costs. Overhead and hidden core costs are
legitimate expenses, too.
Then, consider whether a particular program or item might be exciting or prestigious enough
to be worth a donation of more (or less) than the actual costs. This is the `market value'.
It is difficult to assess the market value of a portion of a program. Prospect research is the best
way to determine the answer to this.
Some nonprofits are concerned that asking more than the actual cost is unethical. They are
concerned that prospects will feel abused.
Honesty is important. A donor who gives $50,000 to a hospital lobby should not be misled into
believing the lobby costs more than it does. A donor who gives $250 to have a brochure printed
should be told the money is not only going to pay the printer's bill. If you explain fully and
98 • Face to Face
properly, the donor will likely appreciate the reality.
A large part of market value depends on the recognition you can offer. While not all donors
want their names in lights, many do. Those people are willing to give more, if you give them
The right to name a program, for example, almost always goes to the single largest donor.
However, that person may have given comparatively little. Roy Thompson Hall, the major
concert venue in downtown Toronto, was named in honour of the single largest donor — a man
who gave 10% of the total cost of the building. Similar decisions have been made in naming
major buildings all across Canada. The same principle applies to small programs.
It is essential that organizations move beyond simple mathematics in calculating how much to
ask for a given program. This leads to undervaluing a potential contribution.
Divide the Campaign to Reflect
Reflect Different Interests
The campaign should also be divided into many different aspects that might appeal to different
prospects. Research will help determine the prospects' most likely interests.
For an arts group:
One prospect's donation may depend on knowing how many schoolchildren come to
Another might be primarily interested in the number of pieces you will perform by
Italian (or German or French) composers.
Still another, equally committed to the arts, will want to know if you are encouraging
Canadian performers, or playing outside the major cities.
For a hockey rink:
One contributor may want to know about the championship games and the potential
that his donation might support the next Wayne Gretzky.
Others might want to know how many girls will be playing.
Some might wonder whether time will be available for figure skating, families, or
oldtimers' games.
Others, who love technology, might want to purchase the ice-surfacing machine or the
scoreboard, and have their names right on it.
If you can find out who will care about which aspects, you will raise more. Be prepared to
answer all of these questions, and to attach dollar figures to each of the program areas.
Some of these overlap. Schoolchildren outside a major city may hear a piece, composed by an
Italian musician, performed by Canadian artists. Four different contributors may each feel they
`own' that event — and happily donate to it. Give each a piece of the action.
Add Human-Interest Stories
One of the oldest and truest sayings in fundraising is “People Give to People”. No matter what
their field of interest, the prospects will be more excited if they understand more about the
people who will ultimately benefit from the program.
This is as true in the arts as it is in human services. It even applies, to some extent, in campaigns
to save trees or animals.
Human interest stories, of the sort that frequently appear in the media, will help make it clear
how the prospect's gift will help people. Statistics are also important, such as how many will be
helped, and what it costs to help each one. However, even more important is who will be helped.
Gather stories. If necessary, change names to protect people, or compile a composite — but if
you do, be sure to say you have done so. Testimonials from people being helped have a very
How to Get Bigger Donations • 99
strong impact.
Outline the consequences of not funding the work. Who will be hurt? What difference will it
make to their lives? How many people who needed you will be left out?
For example, an arts group might say:
Without the Gallery in The Schools program, the Gallery will have to turn down requests from
25 teachers a year. These 25 teachers represent 750 students. While it is hard to know for
certain what impact this has on young lives, one Grade 4 student named Jennifer recently wrote
to say, “I never saw anything as beautiful as the painting you brought to our class. I want to be
an artist, and my mom is giving me lessons for my birthday.”78
Action: Prepare a `Shopping List'
You will require a `shopping list' of programs that will excite prospects. Show what can be done
with various amounts. Give options to reflect different prospect interests.
Choose amounts that mirror how much your prospects have to contribute. For example, a major
capital campaign for a hospital or school might well display items ranging from $10,000 to
$1,000,000. A mid-size program, such as a hockey rink for a community centre, might range
from $1000 to $10,000. A grassroots program, such as a daycare centre or a small arts group,
might range from $100 to $1000.
The Shopping List is an internal document. Never show it to prospects. It is tempting to take the
Shopping List to prospects and allow them to select their own level of giving. However, this
usually results in lower donations.
Prospect research will help you determine which item on the Shopping List you should present
to the potential donor. If that is refused, it may be appropriate to then present others. More
about this later.
Now, prepare your Shopping List.
Cover several different aspects of your work.
Include human interest stories that make the programs exciting.
Calculate the full and complete costs of each program.
Determine the “bite-sized” unit costs for various portions of each.
Estimate the market value of each.
Match the Project with the Prospect
For truly large gifts, it is not appropriate to talk about donations for general purposes. Different
prospects will have different interests. Based on what you know about them, choose items from
the Shopping List that might interest each particular prospect.
Avoid the Tail
Tail Wagging
Wagging the Dog
Care must be taken to avoid `the tail wagging the dog'. If the prospect's interests will require
your organization to add major new projects that are not on your priority list, don't do it.
Much more could be said. To avoid repeating myself, however, I recommend you see my earlier
book, Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Direct Mail Fundraising, pages 33 to 40.
It's available free from the same government department that provides this manual.
If you have time to explore the relatively complex process of matching projects to prospects based on
personality types, see Judith E Nichols, Changing Demographics: Fundraising in the 1990s, (Chicago:
Bonus Books Inc, division of Precept Press Inc, 1990), pp 167)174.
100 • Face to Face
Decide if Designated Gifts Will
Will Be Allowed
Some prospects will want their contributions to be used only for their favourite projects. Or they
may want them used for anything except programs they hate. Will you allow this donor-directed
option? Will `ear-marked' gifts be considered as an addition to the project's budget, or as a
component part?
For example, let's assume the Shoes for the Sasquatch Society (SSS) gets a $1000 donation from
a donor who wants to provide sandals (size 25EEEEEEEEEEE), but not running shoes or boots,
which he considers anti-free-toe.
Scenario #1: SSS had already planned to spend $5000 on sandals. Does this $1000 go into that budget, so
there is only $4000 left to raise? Or is it additional, so the budget is now $6000?
Scenario #2: SSS hadn't planned to buy sandals, because it gets cold up there in the mountains. Do they
turn the donor down? Accept the money and buy $1000 worth of sandals? What if sandals that
big cost $1500 a pair — is SSS now forced to find another $500?
Scenario #3: The donor is persuaded to let the money be used for any kind of footwear the experts
recommend. However, he wants the shoes to be for a Yeti he met in climbing the Himalayas in
Nepal. SSS has never worked outside the Rockies. Should they set up a branch operation?
Scenario #4: The donor agrees the money can be used any way and anywhere the SSS wants — except he
wants the shoes to be built in his factory. He'll give you a good price, but this is definitely tied
These examples may be silly, but the dilemmas they illustrate are not. The time to think about
them is before a donor offers this money, and a volunteer has to figure out what to do.
I can't tell you the correct answers. You must decide what is right for your organization.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 101
II How do you find out what interests the prospect?
Some people new to this type of fundraising want to solve the problem by making a list of all
their projects and programs and showing it to the prospect. This is a bad idea. A long list can
overwhelm and confuse a prospect. In addition, the prospective donor may focus on an item in
a price range far below what you hoped she or he would give.
It's much better to choose one project, based on your best guess of what would interest that
prospect. Have one or two others ready as your back-up, in case your first choice does not click.
But how can you know which to offer?
Some of this information may be revealed by the person's past gifts to you and other charities.
Were they motivated by appeals that emphasized particular types of work?
People who know the prospect may also be able to comment on his or her interests.
Stories in the media also provide useful tidbits. In addition to popular media, fundraising
magazines and newsletters are particularly good sources. For example:
Actor Paul Newman has a food company called Newman's Own which donates 100% of aftertax profits to charity. “Newman's Own donated more than $7 million to 460 charitable groups
in 1992”, said company spokesperson Linda Rohr. Causes supported include medical, children,
education, help for the needy, substance abuse, environment and emergency relief…
In 1988, Newman founded The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with cancer and other
serious blood-related illnesses.
“[Newman] is very involved”, Rohr explained. “These recipes were his own recipes. He
personally selects the charities and reviews all grants. He signs the checks.”79
See if you provide services for the prospect. If so, that can be revealing. This may be confidential
for social service and health groups, but not necessarily for all. For example:
Schools, sports groups and religious institutions might note the interests the prospect
shows (or showed) while attending — or the interests of the prospect's children who
Art groups, theatre companies or musical groups might note which productions the
prospect attends.
Information services might note what questions the prospect asks.
You can even gather information by asking the prospect directly. Surveys and interviews can
provide a wealth of information. Frank Whitely, president of consulting firm Brakeley
Community Venture, explains:
When the Venture does a study, we ask respondents: “What do you think is the most
important about the case? Why do you think someone would consider a major gift?”
Invariably, the answer are entirely different from what the organization suspects. For
example, one client saw the empowerment of women as the case for support. But major donors
were more moved by the organization's role in the economic redevelopment of the downtown
area. In the campaign process and with the funds raised, women would be empowered. But the
original case would not have created a basis for major gifts, according to the study respondents.
Greg Gattuso, “Newman Swamped with Solicitations”, Fundraising Management, March 1993, p 12.
Reprinted with permission.
102 • Face to Face
Instead it would have divided the donor base.
It is also important that the case not be misrepresented by the organization. Often an
organization is too close to its programs and services to perceive their principal value in the
eyes of the potential supporters.80
Even when you have no direct information, you might make an educated guess based on the
individual's personal history. It can be useful to know if the prospect (or someone in his or her
family) was an athlete, politically active, religious, or in a particular business. It's dangerous to
assume too much about their interests based on limited information, of course, but this can be
a useful starting place.
In the next few pages is a form you can adapt that may help you determine the prospect's
Not all the following information is essential. The more details you know, however, the easier
it will be to prepare for a discussion relevant to the prospect's interests.
Knowing the names of the prospect's children, for example, is entirely appropriate where the
kids are involved. This might include fundraising for a school, a camp, a religious group, sports,
arts, cultural societies and so on. In those cases, it is reasonable to know not only the children's
names, but also ages and special interests.
If the organization has no direct involvement with the children or the prospect's family life, that
information might be irrelevant. However, it could still be useful in casual conversation.
In some situations, of course, it would be highly inappropriate to acquire that information. Use
your best judgement.
Whitley, “The 15 Worst Errors in Community Capital Campaigns”, Fundraising Management,
September 1992, p 44. Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 103
Prospect Information Form
Part VII Personal Preferences
Prospect*s Name:
Personal Preferences
(If there are more details than will fit here, attach them.)
What aspect of our work might the prospect like best? Why?
What (if any) aspect of our work might the prospect dislike? Why?
Prospect*s age:
Spouse*s name:
Special interests:
Child(ren)*s name(s), age(s), connection(s) with us (if any), dates involved with us (if any), special interests; any other
applicable information:
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K1A 1K5
104 • Face to Face
Personal Profile
Interests, hobbies, travels, active sports, or known sporting interests:
Other groups or clubs the prospect is active in (list any known positions held):
Schools attended/degrees/dates:
Any awards received for service, etc:
Political leanings:
Religion (specify the degree of observance as well as the denomination, since someone who goes weekly may
have different attitudes than someone who is ‘lapsed*):
Prospect Information Form
Part VII — Personal Preferences
How to Get Bigger Donations • 105
Should you offer incentives to give?
It would be nice if donors gave support for purely altruistic reasons. Clearly, they must believe
in your work. But that alone is not enough to motivate some people to make exceptionally
generous contributions.
A fundraiser for a theological seminary put it this way:
Think of the four R's: research, romance, request and recognition. Ernest W Wood, vicepresident of the Russ Reid Company, suggests that “major gift solicitation is about 25%
research, 60% romance, 5% request and 10% recognition.”81
This section will focus on that important 10%, recognition. There are a variety of types of
recognition you can offer as incentives. Before launching your major donor campaign, select the
appropriate incentives for your organization.
Offer Public Recognition
All across Canada — indeed, all over the world — there are hospitals, theatres, schools, art
galleries, recreation centres, houses of worship and many other buildings named after major
donors. Inside, lesser donors are honoured with plaques and memorial scrolls.
Governor General Lord Stanley is immortalized in the Stanley Cup. Tobacco and alcohol
companies have their names prominently displayed as sponsors of sporting events and artistic
performances. Universities name research chairs after donors.
Equipment, too, may bear the name of the donor. Virtually everyone has seen a van rolling
down the street with the name of a sponsor on the side.
These opportunities are not limited to organizations raising funds for buildings and equipment,
though it is admittedly easier for groups with such goals to take advantage of them.
Trophies and printed materials can carry the donor's name. Testimonial dinners can be held to
thank major donors.
Few people will come right out and admit that they want such recognition. However, you ignore
this rule at your peril, as Jerry Panas points out:
…The donor, hand held high in protest, may deny any inclination for special recognition.
But when one of the country's major zoos somehow managed to forget to invite its largest
benefactor to an opening of a new section in the zoo — an addition the benefactor made
possible — the zoo sealed its future for further gifts.82
Our panel of donors had revealing comments on this, too.
Nancy Jackman: What is my reaction to recognition opportunities? I didn't give a darn about
them, until something happened in my life that changed [my opinion]. I found them
absolutely irrelevant. In fact as an old Methodist, I found them offensive. Then I ran for
political nomination and I needed recognition…
Some people like it; some people hate it. Find out what they like. I don't want six pieces of
David W. Heetland, “How To Build A Major Gifts Program”, Fundraising Management, September
1992, p 35, citing Ernest W Wood, “The Four R's of Major Gift Solicitation”, Reid Report, issue no 141, p 1.
Reprinted with permission.
Jerold Panas, Mega Gifts, p 56.
106 • Face to Face
mail coming in every day, but I wouldn't mind a bouquet of flowers. Find out what people like.
That's part of your research. I like balloons, too.
Lyman Henderson: Above all, recognition and thanks. Particularly thanks. It depends on the
kind of donor. Some people like to get their name in lights. We have various rooms and halls
named after people… Ann and I are hoping to get our immortality some other way, but
nevertheless we do like to be thanked. The thanks should be a continuous effort, not just a
“wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am” kind of thing.
Linda Bronfman: I don't always choose to do things anonymously. What I'm trying to do is not
just say yes to a request; it's to make a change, to help an organization meet its goals — which
are the goals that I share, or I wouldn't fund it. If I feel that [having] my name attached to it
will assist you, I will do that. While initially I wasn't so keen on it, [now it appears that] to
some people, if they know that Linda Bronfman is funding this, it must be a good cause.
Fortunately my name still has some good associations to it — maybe not to all of you — and
so I use it.83
Some of the largest donations in the country have come from people who did not want their
names released. Some have even gone to elaborate lengths to use intermediaries, so that even the
recipient organization does not know who gave the money.
Why do they want to be anonymous? Perhaps it's modesty. Perhaps they are fulfilling a deeply
held dream or belief. For the most part, they don't want to encourage others to approach them.
Then too, in some cases, they are atoning privately for some real or imagined guilt.
These people may well respond to the approaches suggested elsewhere. For the moment,
however, let's concentrate on those who do enjoy the spotlight or will at least accept it for the
good of the campaign.
There are four main tasks here:
Create recognition opportunities.
Decide which types of recognition are appropriate to your organization.
Determine the worth of each recognition opportunity in the eyes of donors.
Link them to the prospects who will respond best.
Action: Create recognition opportunities.
List all the options you have — even those you may not consider worthy.
Recognition opportunities can be relatively obvious. It is easy to put plaques on buildings and
But sometimes creativity is required. Virtually every piece of equipment can become a
recognition opportunity. Here are some examples:
If a donor gives books for a library, put plaques at the door, on the shelves, or inside the
front covers of the books.
Most printed material offers recognition potential on the front or back cover, or on a list
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy workshop, Toronto, June 1989.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 107
If a donor gives a photocopier for the office, it is easy to put a plaque nearby. You may
even have the donor's name appear on the copies made — but do so selectively.
Thank the donors by putting their names on coffee cups in the cafeteria. A company that
has its own mugs may donate them (think of doughnut shops and coffee brands). Or, a
local potter could make individual cups with the donors' names in the clay or glaze.
Programs can be named in their honour, or events held.
At least one hospital has strategically placed plaques thanking the donors who
contributed each cubicle in the public toilets.
Create a Giving Club
Giving clubs are a common technique. Most symphony orchestras invite donors to become
Benefactors, Sustainers, or Patrons by giving a predetermined amount of money. University
alumni associations, art galleries and other large groups also have a variety of clubs for this
Most offer benefits to the `club members'. These may include first choice for tickets, discounts,
or even special private members' lounges.
Groups holding events may offer free passes, so the club member can bring one or more guests.
This provides the member a way to show their pride in contributing to the work done — or the
social status it conveys. It also benefits the organization by introducing new contacts. If you use
this method, ask that all guests be signed in, so you can collect names and addresses for later
Be creative in naming the giving levels. The names are part of the feeling of specialness.
The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto, which raises money for parkland, created the
following clubs, each offering these benefits:
Friend of Greenspace ($35-$98)
benefits offered:
wallet card
four issues of Focus on Greenspace newsletter
Greenspace Supporter ($99-$249)
all the above, plus:
poster suitable for framing
recognition in the annual report
Greenspace Companion ($250-$499)
108 • Face to Face
all the above, plus:
Conservation Area pass
Greenspace Pioneer ($500-$999)
all the above, plus:
recognition in Focus on Greenspace
complimentary pass to all facilities
certificate suitable for framing
Club Greenspace ($1000-$2999)
all the above, plus:
distinctive certificate
invitation for two to annual reception
invitation to three special events:
Garden Party
Maple Syrup Festival
Arbor Day Foundation
How to Get Bigger Donations • 109
lapel pin
The Greenspace Guild ($3000-$4999)
all the above, plus:
recognition on “Tree of Life” plaques
tree planted in donor's honour
framed poster with recognition plate
White Pine Society ($5000-$9999)
all the above, plus:
grove of white pines planted in the donor's honour
provision of group picnic facility
Order of the Blue Heron ($10,000-$19,999)
all the above, plus:
framed photo of unique Greenspace site with plaque
Blue Heron tie or scarf
Individual/Corporate Sponsor ($20,000 and up)
negotiated benefits:
major recognition in program
staff and/or executive passes
special official opening
110 • Face to Face
extensive on-site recognition
identification with program in corporate marketing
strategy, if desired
This list may be too long for most groups, but it shows the potential.
At the simplest level, even the smallest organization can list donors' names in the group's
annual report or newsletter. Some groups divide the lists into categories, based on the amount
given, but this is not essential.
The most common benefit of joining a giving club is the easiest for small groups to offer:
admission to a private reception. It may be in someone's home or in a public hall. It may be before
a public performance, if you hold these.
One organization invites donors to become Benefactors for a gift of $100. This entitles them to
attend a `free' reception. At the reception, they are urged to become members of the President's
Circle for $250; they can attend two free receptions. At these receptions, in turn, they are invited
to join the Chancellor's Society for $500; that entitles them to attend three free receptions — and
so on.
Donors can also be given souvenirs to take away. A certificate, a framed photo, or a piece of
artwork, can each serve as a worthwhile memento of a donor's gift. These can, in fact, be better
than recognition on the site of the nonprofit's operations, since the donor can see the memento
daily. Ideally, it will be placed in a prominent spot as a conversation piece, giving the donor an
excuse for a moment of modest glory. This serves your interests as well, since it may spark others
to consider supporting your group too.
On any souvenir, be sure to include a small plaque in a conspicuous location, so the donor and
others can easily see what group presented it. One donor, showing off her personal `Hall of
Honours', had to take one framed photo off the wall to examine the inscription on the back before
she could remember who had given it to her.
As soon as you have 10 or 15 members in your current top level, it is time to add another, even
more rarefied giving club. Few people, if any, will give more than the amount required for
admission to the most exalted club.
Start by considering all the traditional techniques used by other nonprofit groups. A quick tour
of the nearest community centre, hospital, university, artistic space, or hockey rink will reveal
tried and true techniques. Visit them with a notepad and keep an eye out for all that they have
Study the fundraising journals, as well. Review the ads in a few issues. Several companies
specialize in producing bricks and tiles embedded with donors' names for use in walkways and
walls. Others produce “Tree of Life” sculptures, where donors' names are inscribed on roots,
trunk, branches or leaves, depending on the level of donation. Custom sculpture is available in all
Now be creative. What can you do that is different and unique to your group?
Theatre London, in London, Ontario, once made poster-size photos of donors and used
How to Get Bigger Donations • 111
these as wallpaper in the main auditorium.
Harbord Collegiate Institute, a Toronto high school, raised money for scholarships by
giving donors plaques mounted with pieces of the old floor they had trodden for years.
(The floor was being ripped up for renovations anyway.)
Churches for centuries have had donors' faces painted in among the saints and cherubs
on the stained glass windows, or carved in granite gargoyles.
Action: Decide which opportunities are appropriate to your organization.
Every group must decide what it can and can't offer. Focus on what fits your own group's
Ethical restrictions must be considered. Would it cause problems to publicly recognize certain
donors? This is more often perceived as a problem with corporate donors, but must be considered
for individuals as well.
Consider if any sources could raise an ethical dilemma for you. To start the wheels turning, here
are some of the most common issues:
Fast Food
Investment in oppressed countries
Would it hurt the organization to be seen accepting a donation from someone whose income
derives from one of these sources? How distant does a donor have to be before the money is
acceptable? If a corporate donation is inappropriate, what about a personal one from the president
of the company? From a major stockholder? From an elderly person who owns a few shares? From
the janitor? From the government department that taxes the profits and then gives grants? Would
it be acceptable to take the money quietly, but not if major public recognition was required?
Certain fundraising techniques raise similar problems. Is it appropriate for a food bank or a
world hunger group to honour a major donor by throwing a lavish dinner? A nationalist group
should obviously not give out mementos made in other countries.
Clearly, there are donations that are unacceptable on moral grounds. But some people can be
heard to argue that they would take money from the devil himself if there were no strings
Charges of elitism may also be heard in egalitarian organizations opposed to special privilege
based on wealth. While this is a fair criticism of donor recognition, it can limit a group's ability
to raise funds.
Remember that recognition is offered on the basis of generosity, not wealth. It may be true that
it is easier for the rich to give more. However, it is often the ordinary person who actually does
give more. You may show your appreciation to people for giving beyond their ability. Follow the
example of some United Way agencies, which recognize corporate donors according to the size
112 • Face to Face
of the workforce or the annual income level. For example, they may give awards to the top
corporate donors in groups, such as those having fewer than 100 employees; 100)250; 251)500;
501)1000; and more than 1000 employees.
It may also help to provide recognition to extraordinary volunteers who may not have much
money to give, but are unusually generous in giving of themselves instead.
Groucho Marx is reported to have said, “I don't want to belong to any club that would accept
me as a member.” Some organizations have their own version: “We wouldn't accept money from
anybody who has enough to give us any.”84
Henri Nouwen raises concerns about attitudes toward rich people:
We sometimes have a prejudice against the rich, which is not a good thing;
that they are less good, they have more money than they deserve…
My experience is that rich people are also very poor in many other ways. Many
rich people are very lonely; suffering a lot from feelings of rejection; of being
used; depression. They all need a lot of attention and a lot of care, just like the
poor, because they are as poor as the poor.
I want you to hear that, because so often I have come in touch with people
who are totally in the prison of thinking “the only thing people see in me is
money. Everywhere I go, I'm `the rich aunt' or `the rich friend' or `the rich
woman'.” “I have these properties, etc. I stay in my own little circle because as
soon as I get out, people are there and say `He's rich.'”85
Ultimately, your organization must judge whether it serves its participants — and its donors —
better by taking the attitude that money is tainted. Ask clearly: “Who suffers, if we decide not to
take this donation?”
Action: Determine the value of recognition.
Now you should have winnowed your recognition opportunities down to the most exciting and
most appropriate. How much must a prospect give to gain a specific level of recognition?
This can be resolved by examining the actual cost of providing the recognition, the relative
value of other levels, and the market value in the eyes of the prospects.
Look at actual cost first. Obviously the cost of providing any type of recognition must be much
less than the donor contributes. If nothing else, donors are sensitive to the fact that they gave you
the money to achieve certain ends. In addition, Revenue Canada specifies that a registered charity
must spend at least 80% of receipted donations on programs within one year. That limits spending
on fundraising to a maximum of 20 cents for every dollar raised.
Revenue Canada also says that if the donor receives a benefit that has real market value (as
opposed to a low-cost token of appreciation), the full amount of the donation is not eligible for
a tax-credit receipt.
“…In a telegram to the Friar's Club, Hollywood. There are various versions of this famous one-liner, all
ostensibly authentic.” Richard Kenin and Justin Wintle, The Dictionary of Biographical Quotation, (New
York: Dorset Press, 1989), p 523.
Speech given by Henri Nouwen, 15 September 1992, Toronto.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 113
Keep Recognition Costs Low
Ideally , the cost of recognition should approach zero. Here are some suggestions to get you
thinking about low-cost to no-cost recognition opportunities.
A group that helps children can offer a donor
by a child, perhaps done
especially in the donor's honour.
• Performing arts groups offer free seats that would probably remain unsold anyway.
• A n environmental group can plant trees that it was planning on planting anyway, but do
so in the donor's name.
• The donor's name can be added to the annual report, a brochure or a newsletter, for only
minor typesetting charges.
Goods donated to the nonprofit, such as a framed poster, may be provided as recognition
to another supporter (provided you have the consent of the person who donated the
goods; otherwise, you risk offending her or him).
Copies of a photo or poster can be signed bycast
the of a performance, staff
, participants,
or an artist, making a one-of-a-kind souveni
r .
A celebrity can pose for a photo with the donor and autograph it.
A behind-the-scenes tour may make the donor feel included in the inner circle, while
giving the fundraiser a chance to point out the need for more support.
A special donor lunch or reception can be donated by a restaurant, or by a corporation
and held in the company's boardroom, or in the home of a friend.
Local media may print or broadcast special tributes to donors as a public service.
Compare Relative Value and Market Value
Each recognition opportunity should stand in relation to others that your group offers. Does the
recognition for a $250 gift feel like it is worth more than twice the recognition offered for a $100
donation? Would the added benefits induce a $200 prospect to give an extra $50 to reach the next
In addition, your recognition offers must stand in comparison to those offered by other
organizations. This may seem excessively consumerist, but it accurately reflects the state of the
nonprofit marketplace. Collect materials from other groups and compare them to yours.
Action: Link recognition opportunities to prospects who will respond best.
Not all prospects are equally interested in recognition, or in the same types of recognition. Some
would prefer to remain anonymous. Some are delighted to receive private tribute, but prefer not
to have it done in public. Others love being the centre of attention.
Recognition can be developed specially for a specific donor. If you are holding a recognition
reception for a donor who prides herself on her knowledge of wine, then a wine-tasting may be
appropriate. Someone else might prefer a beer-tasting party. A third person might be offended at
the presence of any alcohol at all.
If you know a donor appreciates a particular artist, you might ask the artist to sign a print that
you will present to the donor.
Prospect research will reveal valuable information about a prospect's interests.
Gift-Club Recognition Opportunities
Use the following chart to create your own unique list of recognition opportunities.
114 • Face to Face
Prospect Information Form
Part VIII Recognition Opportunities
Prospect*s Name:
What kind of incentives or recognition might this donor want that we can offer? Why?
What evidence is there that the prospect would be interested in this?
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bqger Donations fmni Very Generous People
- Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Muhiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa KIA 1K5
How to Get Bigger Donations • 115
For a group with few major donors, it may be best to start small — perhaps as low as the $100
level. For groups with many larger donations, gift clubs can go up to the level of hundreds of
thousands or even millions of dollars.
Whether to advertise the rewards a donor can receive from gifts at different levels is a
controversial question. While these may be listed in a general brochure, showing the whole list
is not necessarily an advantage when approaching an individual donor. A full `shopping list' is too
confusing. Instead, mention only the rewards offered for a gift at the level you hope this person
will contribute. If you think you may have underestimated the gift, mention the rewards at the
next level, too. Discuss other levels only if the donor asks.
116 • Face to Face
The Right Approach
The right volunteer asks the right donor for the right amount at
the right time to support the right project with the right
— The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
At this stage, you have the volunteers recruited. You know which prospects you will ask. You
know how much you will ask for. You know when you will ask. You know what projects they might
want to support most. One final question remains: How will you approach them?
This chapter will answer that in eight steps:
Do the final research necessary to get to know them as people.
Cultivate your relationship with prospects.
Prepare kits for the volunteer askers.
Train the askers in how to ask.
Identify any possible roadblocks and strategies that will overcome them.
Make the appointment to see the prospect.
Visit the prospect.
Follow up afterwards:
a) keep records for the future;
b) thank everyone;
c) remind donors of pledge commitments;
d) evaluate your progress.
Let's examine each of these in order.
1. Do the final research necessary to get to know your prospects as people
This is a process of systematically building relationships with people who share common interests
with you and your organization.
The goal is to become friends with the top donors, not strip-mine their assets. The research is
similar to the approach taken by members of a fan club. They want to know everything possible
about their `fave raves' — from opinions to birthdates; from family background to favourite foods.
Consider your task to be establishing miniature fan clubs for your top donors.
This is true whether you are asking for a donation of one or two hundred dollars for a
grassroots group, or building a new hockey franchise. Cyril Leeder used the same methods to
convince the National Hockey League governors to let him start the Ottawa Senators.
“See these?” he asks, hauling a dozen black-bound exercise books out of his desk drawer.
“I recorded everyone's [spouse's] names, favourite restaurants and wines, kids' careers and
so on, so the next time we saw them, we could ask about how their son was doing on the
Harvard hockey team. The more you know about people's backgrounds and families, the more
How to Get Bigger Donations • 117
you build a relationship.”86
This is the time to collect any missing information about your prospects. The more you know,
the better.
Are there any particular questions you should ask the prospect when you finally meet? Jot them
Are there positive issues you should be sure to raise — or avoid?
Are there people the prospect particularly likes and respects, who might influence the decision?
If you have friends in common, that could make a huge difference. It might be another donor, a
participant, someone who has given you advice, a religious leader you both know, a politician, or
any other influential persons. Is there anything you can or should do to strengthen this
If you will be talking to the prospect's secretary, what is her (or his) name? Are any particular
facts worth recording about that person? Treat the secretary like a doormat or a barrier to be
bypassed, and you will probably not get a donation. Treat the secretary like a person and an ally,
and your chances improve considerably.
How old are the prospects? If possible, note their birthdays. If it's appropriate, send cards.
The smallest details can be helpful, according to Tim Hamilton, who was, at the time of this
story, a fundraising consultant with Ketchum Canada. At a Brown Bag Lunch87 meeting, he told
the following story:
Research accidentally turned up the fact that one prospect, a senior bank executive, was
fond of lobster sandwiches. We weren't looking for that; someone we talked to just happened
to mention it.
When we invited him to the charity's office for a tour, we arranged lunch with several key
people in the board room. We asked the caterer to provide lobster sandwiches in the
assortment, and warned the others not to eat them. As the tray was passed, the person next
to the prospect turned it so the lobster sandwich faced him.
The expression on his face said a lot. “Was this just a coincidence?” he seemed to wonder.
“Did these nice people just share his good taste? Or if this was a result of research, they have
certainly done their homework!”
Other facts may be more important. But you can never tell what might be useful. Record it all!
Doing your research well gives the prospect proof of your competence and your ability to work
effectively in a variety of ways. Though the prospect will never see your research files, the depth
of your knowledge will be subtly displayed.
Lawyers are trained never to ask a question of a witness on the stand unless they already know
the answer. Journalists learn the same about interviews. (Now you know, too.)
The forms on the next pages may help you complete the research on the prospect.
Charlotte Gray, “Senators on Ice”, Saturday Night, May 1992, p 29.
The Brown Bag Lunch Bunch no longer meets in Toronto. However, a complete set of The Brown Bag
Papers, over 200 pages of information collected from grass-roots organizations, is sold by The Grass Roots
Network, Suite 200, 64B Shuter Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1B1. Tim Hamilton's story, told in early
1990, was not recorded verbatim and is paraphrased here from memory.
118 • Face to Face
2. Cultivate your relationship with prospects
Face-to-face solicitation may initiate a longstanding relationship if it is properly done.
Prepare your prospect with both facts and feelings. This preparation phase is called cultivation.
As gardeners know, cultivation involves preparing the soil carefully before planting the seeds.
Fertilizer must be added. In the fundraising world, the `fertilizer' used is known by two initials:
PR (not BS). Fertilizer is a tricky thing: too little results in a small harvest; too much all at once
causes burns. Learn to cultivate properly.
One classic system88 of cultivating prospects involves these steps:
Identify. Choose the person who is likely to respond generously — usually
someone already close to your organization.
Inform yourself about the prospect before you inform the prospect about
yourself. Learn about the this person, especially from friends.
Interest your prospect. Find the most appealing program for this prospect and
let him or her know about it. Discover where in your organization this person
is likely to fit.
Involve your prospect in the organization; give them a chance to find out how
important it is for them to belong to or support the organization.
Invest. Choose the best asker to approach the prospect and provide all the
information necessary to maintain and raise the interest. Listen to people
whose money you ask for, and take their advice. They are the experts. Ask the
prospects not merely to give, but to invest themselves — to make an investment
in the people you help.
Integrate donors into your organization. Make sure that the donors understand
how important their support is for your organization. People want recognition;
the solicitor should know how to thank, and you should send tokens of
appreciation. Find out how the donor could further support the organization
and what you should do to increase your donor's satisfaction with the organization.
Adapted from material by GT Smith, “Presidential and Trustee Leadership in Fundraising” (paper
presented to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, San Francisco CA, 20-22 April 1988),
cited in David Heetland, “How to Build A Major Gifts Program”, Fundraising Management, September
1992, p 36. Reprinted with permission.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 119
Prospect Information Form
Part IX Additional Details
Prospect*s Name:
Conversational Guidelines
‘Active listening* questions to draw prospect out:
Positive issues to raise:
Sensitive issues to avoid:
Who does the prospect respect, listen to, or turn to for advice?
Are those people supporters of ours? 0 Yes 0 No
Do we have contacts with them?
0 Yes 0 No
What action is needed to increase their support?
Miscellaneous details
Place of work (or if retired, former place of work):
Job title:
Secretary*s name:
Notes about secretary:
120 • Face to Face
Other Personal likes
Other Personal Dislikes
Other Comments
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
How to Get Bigger Donations • 121
There are many different ways to cultivate a prospect. How do they compare? A form letter from
a staff person is not as effective as a personal meeting with a senior volunteer.
Earlier, we used Kent Dove's rating system89 to calculate how many cultivation contact points
were required. The number varied, depending on the prospect's interest level and the potential
amount of the gift. The points required match up with the points `earned' in each of the contacts
listed below.
Dove suggests a system where “contacts are weighed according to significance, importance and
impact.” A typical weighted system looks like this:
Cultivation Contact
Contact Points
Letter from a staff member
Phone call from a staff member
Letter from a volunteer
Phone call from a volunteer
Phone call from
chief executive officer
Invitation to a major event
Visit by a staff member
Letter from chief executive officer
Attendance at an institutional
activity (off-site)
Attendance at an institutional
activity (on-site)
Visit by a volunteer
Firsthand information on
important events
Meeting with the chief
executive officer
Personal recognition
Leadership retreat
“Cultivation begins”, Kent Dove says, “when the prospective donor first hears about a particular
institution. It reaches its highest point when the donor asks, `How much will it cost?'”90
Two hospital fundraisers recommend the following process for cultivating prospects:
Give them the opportunity to set the pace — give them freedom of choice
relative to the area they wish to support, the amount of money they wish to
give and the type of giving vehicle they wish to use. By giving a donor
`breathing room', you really limit the reasons why they cannot or will not make
a gift…
Listen [and pay attention] to what your prospect is saying — both verbally
and non-verbally. Keen listening skills are essential in building relationships.
Kent Dove, Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, p 113.
Kent Dove, Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, p 114.
122 • Face to Face
It's always prudent to do your homework and learn the basic interests of your
prospect, but there will be times when you won't know anything about the
prospect beforehand. That's when carefully developed listening skills will help
you discover what it is that will tug at the prospect's heart-strings and,
hopefully, their purse-strings as well!…
Make an extra special effort to communicate with your prospects and contributors regularly by
sending them various articles and informational materials that show the positive effect your
organization is having on the community it serves — not mass mailings of generic information,
but information that addresses their specific interests. Again, it should be personalized — you are
subtly telling them that you are aware of their particular interests and concerns and that they are
not just names in your ever growing database. This type of cultivation is an ongoing process —
one that builds positive relationships over time and makes the difference between success and
Make it part of your ongoing cultivation activity to contact your prospects every six months or
so just to keep in touch. Based on past experience, quite a few of our major gifts would have been
missed if not for this kind of persistence and quiet tenacity.
The forms on the next pages may help you plan your cultivation.
3. Prepare kits for the volunteer askers
Every volunteer will require a kit to take with them when they visit prospects.
Prepare enough kits for everybody. Give them out at the session when you train the volunteer
askers. In each folder, include:
All the information you have about each prospect the volunteer will visit
Guidelines on what projects the prospect is most likely to support
Guidelines on how much to ask the prospect to contribute
A pledge commitment card for the donor to sign
Key facts about your group's work, and human interest stories
The telephone numbers of people to call (night or day) during a visit, if the prospect has
questions that the volunteer can't answer
Letterhead, envelopes and suggested wording for letters to send the prospects:
N A letter confirming the appointment
N A thank-you note after the appointment
A form to report the results of the visits, including:
N New or changed information for the prospect's file
N Action to be taken
Brochures about your work, budgets, and audited statements — to be shown to the
prospect only if the prospect asks.
copyright 1993 Ken Wyman
Prospect Information Form
How to Get Bigger Donations • 123
Prospect Information Form
Part X Preparation and Cultivation
Prospect*s Name:
Preparation Required before Asking
Additional research needed on:
Who will do it
Preparation of askers:
Who will do it
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
- Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K1A 1KE
124 • Face to Face
Number of cultivation contacts required:
Cultivation of Prospect:
Who will do it
Prospect Information Form
Part X — Preparation and Cultivation
How to Get Bigger Donations • 125
A short reminder of how to discuss this opportunity with the prospect, how to ask,
how to handle questions, and what not to say or do
A note thanking the volunteer for this effort
An evaluation form to give suggestions on how the process can be improved for next
Volunteer Fundraiser's
Fundraiser's Checklist
Be optimistic and enthusiastic.
Know the program thoroughly. Be able to describe it in your own words.
Make your own donation — as much as you can afford — as soon as possible. You'll
be surprised at the psychological lift you'll experience — and how much difference
this makes in increasing your sense of immediacy and closeness to the fundraising
Learn all you can about the individual or business you are approaching. Determine
their particular interests.
Have all the appropriate materials with you when you go.
Explain why you are volunteering and why the group is important to you.
Be sure to actually ask for a specific gift amount.
Be direct about the dollars you hope the prospect will give, but keep the emphasis on
what the money will accomplish.
Remember: you are not asking for money for yourself, but for an organization with a
good cause.
4. Train
Train the askers in how to ask
It's important to train every volunteer asker in the right approach.
In Appendix B, I've outlined a training system. Read through it now, but don't actually do the
training until you have finished going through this manual. There is additional information
you'll need in the training session contained in the pages after this.
Years of experience in training volunteers in this and other techniques has led me to
conclude that the best training method is to get people involved before telling them the “right”
way to ask.
By inviting people to play the Big Gift Game (Appendix B), you make people more receptive
to the answers. This happens for several reasons. They learn the limits of their existing
knowledge. They build on their strengths. They discover that asking is not as stilted and
complex as they might fear. And they discover the process can even be fun.
For all these reasons, I urge you to invite people to play the Big Gift Game first.
What to Say during a Visit
As the Big Gift Game ends, you should have many valuable insights from the participants.
Years of experience in running these games suggests that people will have spontaneously
discovered most of the basic principles of what to say and do. It is largely common sense, after
The points that follow should make a useful supplement to the self-discovery process. After
the game, discuss each of these points with all the people who are being trained as askers.
126 • Face to Face
Listening to the prospect is just about the most important ingredient to a successful request.
What the prospect says and how you respond will carry the day.
Listen rather than talk about half of the time. Use active listening to draw out the prospect's
latest and strongest interests in your area.
As you hear the prospect's concerns, shape your words to his or her interests. No matter how
well you know the prospect, or how thorough the research, something may have happened at
the last minute that changes everything.
Donna Hunter, who was at the time the executive director of the Women's Inter-Church
Council, tells of a visit she made. At the time, they had identified several women of substance
and faith who they hoped would help launch an endowment fund. One of the women was an
old friend of hers, who will remain nameless here.
I hadn't seen her for a long time, but had put her name forward and agreed
I would go and see her. We had agreed that we would go in twos, so I went
with another friend, a board member, who didn't know her.
My friend met us at the door as graciously as ever. She had prepared coffee
and muffins for our visit that morning. She listened patiently as the board
member told her our story. Then when the time came, I told her we had
come to ask her for $25,000.
She quietly looked at me and said, “Donna, I'm sorry that you didn't know.
My husband died two weeks ago. I'm simply not making any commitments at
this time.”
Her husband was a lawyer in a major downtown legal firm. But he had
died with no insurance.
The next time I met her, she was looking for work. Her financial situation
had changed completely, from one of wealth and privilege to one — certainly
not of poverty — but of modest income.
How heartsick we both felt. We wrote her a note afterwards acknowledging
how we felt intruding on her, and thanking her for hearing us out.
It didn't keep us from going on to visit others. But we were always much
more careful to listen to people before we talked.
Others have had similar experiences. Sometimes they were positive: news of a newly born
grandchild, of someone graduating, or reaching a milestone. Sometimes it has been
unexpected tragedies. Sometimes it has been a change in the way the prospect views the world.
Hear what they have to say before you start talking. Ask questions about them and their
interests. If necessary, abandon everything you had prepared, so you can respond
appropriately. Always put friendship first.
At the worst, a few moments of such small talk and socializing will be polite before plunging
into the matter at hand. At best, it may change everything for the better.
After you have listened, act on what you hear. Do not treat the prospect's comments lightly.
Here's a million-dollar lesson:
One lesson I have learned over time is the importance of listening. While I
was chief development officer at the University of the Pacific (UOP), the
board chairman received a call from an attorney who had a client interested
in making a major gift to a college or university by year's end. He was
contacting a half-dozen institutions requesting three one-page proposals
How to Get Bigger Donations • 127
presenting different projects at the $200,000 to $300,000 level. They were to
be submitted within two days. I wrote them and forgot about it.
A month or two later, the chairman handed me a $300,000 cashier's
cheque. When I asked where it came from, he replied, “Mrs Anonymous.
Remember the three one-page proposals? Well, she picked us.
As I was leaving, he added “By the way, the attorney told me that of the
half-dozen or so colleges contacted, UOP was the only one that followed the
instruction about one-page proposals. So she only read ours.
Wow! Was I glad we were listening to the prospect's request. By the close
of the campaign, Mrs Anonymous had given UOP more than $1 million.
Don't Try
Try to “Sell”
Use no pressure and no guilt. Don't beg. Don't push the prospect to do something he or she
doesn't want to do. Instead, offer the prospect an opportunity to fulfill his or her own good
Emphasize the people whom the prospect's gift will help, not the organization's needs. Look
for win/win results, where both parties involved feel they've gained. If the prospect isn't
genuinely pleased to contribute, his or her support will be short-lived.
Also, reinforce the prospect's personal relationship with you, as an individual volunteer who
asks — the gift may be given because you asked, not because of a deep commitment to the
organization's work. Donors may give because they trust you, or care about you — or even
because they want to do business with you.
Protect the group's long-term relationship with the prospect — and your own — over any
short-term fundraising needs.
Be Enthusiastic
The prospect may decide to give just because your own positive feelings are infectious. “We
respond to enthusiasm”, Lyman Henderson says. “I like to see someone who really believes
they're hot.”
Give the Prospect Positive
Positive Choices to Make
Invite the prospect to tell you what aspects of your work she or he likes best. The following
process is known as a decision-making tree:
Offer choices in pairs — never more. It's too complicated to make quick decisions based on
three or more options.
Never ask a question that can be answered yes or no. In particular, avoid asking “Will you
donate to this?”
Instead, ask questions with two equally good alternatives. Either answer should suit your
purposes. This is called a double-positive decision. As an example, let's use a nonprofit that
performs musical concerts in public and in schools. The fundraising volunteer, Ruth, meets the
prospect, Richard. She hopes he'll give about $2500.
Richard, now that you've heard about what we do, which would you prefer to
help: children or adults?
The adults could probably pay their own way. But you know, I have a soft
spot for the kids.
128 • Face to Face
That's great, Richard. I agree, the kids are important. Which do think is more
important: sponsoring low-price tickets for children to come to
performances, or taking the musicians on tour right into the schools?
I remember when musicians came to my school when was a kid. That made
such an impression on me.
Me too! We can send the musicians to the same school three times for an indepth experience, or we could send them to three different schools. Either
costs about the same, $2500 to $3500. What makes more sense to you?
Send them back to the same school, if you want my opinion. I don't care
much for the quick approach.
The teachers want them to go in September, November and March. We'd
prefer to have secure funds at the beginning, of course, so we can make
plans, but we could make arrangements if we knew that a pledge was
coming in. If you were sponsoring them, would you prefer to make a single
donation, or to spread it out between now and March?
I know what you're doing here, Ruth. But you can count on me. I'll give you
my cheque now.
If Richard had given the alternative answer to any of these questions, it would have been just
as positive. Every decision was a good one, as far as the musicians and the audience were
Be Sure to Ask for the Donation
Be prepared to ask for the donation directly. This is the hardest part for many people. Don't
be vague, hinting that you hope the prospect will be generous. Don't present a huge shopping
list, offering choices at every level.
“My gosh!” Lyman Henderson said. “If you don't ask, you don't get. We have had approaches
of somebody going through a whole demonstration of the kind of thing they're doing or
building or mounting, and they never ask.”
Jerry Panas recounts an excellent example:
It is probably best that he remain nameless. I think he would prefer it that
way. He is the popular minister of one of the nation's largest churches.
Recently, at a small gathering of other ministers, he related this story… Our
minister friend spoke with some emotion; he had just the day before learned
one of the greatest lessons of fundraising. The memory was still vivid.
The wealthiest member of his congregation, a widow, was in the hospital.
A long-term illness was, sadly, moving at its slow pace to end her life. The
minister made regular calls over a period of nearly three months, at least
two times a week and often more than that. “Let's be honest, gentlemen,”
said the minister to the group. “I considered it my pastoral duty to visit with
that faithful servant, one of the most active women in my congregation. I
How to Get Bigger Donations • 129
wasn't unmindful, however, that she was also of immense wealth and that
because of her long years with our church, we were certain to be the
beneficiary of her large estate. There were no children, no relatives, only her
great, abiding love for our church. She often spoke to me, even before her
illness, of all she hoped to do for the church.
“I visited her faithfully, week in and week out. I brought her spiritual
encouragement, often small gifts like stationery, and held her hand while I
prayed with her. It was a ministry of love. She was easily one of the most
popular women in the congregation and one of my long-time favourites.
“Finally, after all of that suffering, the end came and she slipped quietly
into the night. There would be no more suffering. That was about a month
ago. Yesterday, I found out from her attorney — also a member of our
congregation — about the disposition of her estate.
“While in the hospital, she had arranged her affairs. She left her entire
estate to a… university, her husband's alma mater. I was incredulous and I
must say, God help me, more than disappointed. What happened? I asked
the attorney. It turned out that the priest who was the president of the
university came by the hospital one day for a visit. He asked her! That's all he
did. He asked. It occurred to me that in all of the time I had known her and
in all my visits, I never asked for a gift. I took that for granted.
Ask the Person
Person to Give a Specific Amount
Strategically, it is important to ask individuals to give a specific amount or to give within a
range. This number is chosen on the basis of research on the person's previous gifts, ability,
and interests. If in doubt, ask big.
Talk about the “think about” figure. The phrases that follow are not meant as scripts for you
to memorize; they are guidelines only. Rephrase them in your own words. You might say:
I hope you might want to sponsor a new van to transport the seniors to the
medical centre and other special trips. That would cost in the range of
$25,000 to $30,000, depending on a few important options. You might be in
a position to give more than that — and of course the seniors would be glad
if you could. You might prefer to give less right now. What would you think
about a gift of $25,000 to $30,000?
We don't know what you might be capable of contributing and we're
sensitive to how many requests you face. I'm asking you to consider a
donation in the $250 range.
We are hoping that you will see your way clear to giving $500 to $750 to
this campaign. This will demonstrate to others your leadership and
I had the same decision to make myself and I decided that this organization
was that important to me.
Your financial donation of two or three hundred dollars, together with
other gifts, will enable us to [describe what you hope to achieve].
130 • Face to Face
If you could give $50 a month for three years, that would mean that every
month we could help someone [describe an activity you do].
After You
You Ask, Be Silent
After you have asked for the donation, keep silent until the prospect speaks. No matter how
long it takes, keep waiting quietly and patiently. Let the person think. A fundraiser had this
fundamental rule reinforced the hard way:
One helpful tip the experts taught was hardest to learn: Don't talk first after
asking for the gift. Alas, I have rushed in with a flurry of words after only a
brief moment of silence. In my discomfort, I have even provided a reason
why the prospect could not possibly make a gift in the amount suggested.
By breaking the silence I never knew if the request was in the ballpark or if
the potential donor had questions or objections that needed to be answered.
Prepare to Ask for a Donation Several Times
You may have to ask for a donation several times before the decision is made. The prospects
may ignore the request, if they aren't ready yet. They may come back to you with more
questions. They may change the subject. They may tell you they need time to think about it.
Some experts suggest asking as many as seven times. Don't worry about counting. Instead,
focus on being sensitive to the situation. Some volunteers push too hard for a decision before
the prospects are ready. Others, equally inappropriately, are so nervous that they are eager to
leave at the first hint the prospect might say no. Find a comfortable balance in between.
What If the Prospect Says Yes,
Yes, No, or Maybe?
No matter what the prospect decides, it is vital that you respond correctly. Future gifts,
possibly worth far more than you asked for this time, could be riding on your follow-up
If the Prospect Says Yes
The prospect immediately agrees to the gift. Wonderful!
Handling a positive response well can be surprisingly difficult, though.
The Case of The Running
Running Mouth
One nervous volunteer solicitor was so relieved to get a friendly hearing and a nice donation
that he contracted a sudden case of verbal diarrhea. “What a relief!” he blurted. “We were
afraid you were going to ask about the scandal when…” Too late, our inept solicitor retreated
to an embarrassed silence, as the prospect reached to take back the cheque and asked for the
Here's what you should do:
First, acknowledge and appreciate her generosity. This may sound obvious, but people often
forget to say thank you.
If this is a pledge, fill out a pledge commitment card and ask the prospect to sign it.
If she doesn't have her chequebook, return and pick up a cheque from her. Try to keep
matters in your hands. Many a donation falls by the wayside if left with a busy person.
Some fundraisers believe that the only thing to say after the gift has been committed is
How to Get Bigger Donations • 131
“Thank you!” Certainly, if you are not sure what else to say, you would be well advised to
express gratitude and shut up.
With good planning, much more can be done.
Before meeting with the prospect, consider what additional support the prospect could provide
if he or she is enthusiastic. There are many possibilities. You must judge the new donor's mood
carefully. If the gift seems to be given grudgingly, retreat with grace. However, if there is
enthusiasm, consider suggesting additional involvement right away.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how much more a donor can and will do for you. The
late Floyd and Jean Chalmers, who gave away well over $10 million to the arts, are a good
[Floyd] Chalmers…used his considerable influence to twist arms in the business community
to get them to contribute to the arts, and he felt that these contributions outweighed his own.
“The major gift I've made over the years was myself, not my money,” he said. “I've given time
and made a nuisance of myself by asking other people for money…”
“Floyd and Jean invested heavily in creativity and creative people with their time, advice and
money. They were equally generous with all three”, said a book prepared as part of a tribute to
Chalmers on his 90th birthday.
Examples include asking the prospect to:
Increase the gift by pledging the same amount over several years
Increase the gift through her or his will, insurance or other planned giving;
Arrange a matching gift from his/her company
Provide in-kind gifts of goods or services (Decide in advance: What type? How much?)
Provide his/her own contact names for other prospects
Write a letter of introduction to his/her own contacts
Phone his/her own contacts to set up meetings
Participate in solicitation meetings with his/her own contacts
Serve on a fundraising task force
Discuss public recognition of the donor's gifts, especially if he or she is a well-known or
influential person, or the gift is unusually large. Some people prefer to give anonymously. This
may be modesty, or it may be a desire to protect themselves from receiving many more
requests for contributions to other nonprofits.
If the donor seems reluctant but open, explain that it will help your nonprofit group if the
donor allows you to thank them publicly. Other donors may be more willing to give if they
know someone has already considered the issues, checked the organization, and decided to
If the donor agrees, ask about the following different types of recognition, and fill out the
form at the end of this chapter. Will the donor permit:
her or his name to be mentioned in your newsletter
public recognition at an event
sending a news release to the media
mentioning her or his donation to other prospects, if they ask
other forms of recognition
Change this list to reflect recognition options your group can and will do. Don't mention
anything you're not planning. It can cause long-term problems to suggest an event, for
example, and then fail to hold one.
132 • Face to Face
If the Prospect Gives Much Less
Less than You
You Expected
It is tempting to accept any amount offered, no matter how small. After all, money is money,
and many volunteers don't want to press too hard.
However, this can be a mistake. A token donation can have long-term negative impact on a
nonprofit group. It may trap the group in a `low-gift ghetto' from which it is hard to emerge.
This can be doubly negative. It affects that particular prospect's future giving level, but it can
also influence the gifts of other potential supporters, if a community leader is seen to give only
a small amount. Prospects often know about and carefully consider the giving level of their
peers in making their own decision.
On the other hand, you can't know all that is going on in a prospect's life. It may well be that
wrong assumptions have been made about how much the prospect can afford to give, or how
committed s/he is to the cause. If you ask for more, you could wind up with still less, or even
nothing at all. Pushing too hard can also damage your group's ability to raise future funds.
So what are you to do?
The fundraising world is full of stories like this one:
The Case of the Shredded Cheque
A wealthy donor we'll call Dan handed a cheque for $25,000 to an old friend named Irv, who
had volunteered to raise funds for a cause they both supported. Irv contemplated the $25,000
cheque. Then, looking his friend Dan in the eye, Irv tore the cheque into little pieces.
“Dan,” he said, “we both know you can afford $250,000.”
Not many people can get away with doing that! However, if you know the prospect well
enough, you might want to take that risk.
CAUTION: This tactic is not recommended for the novice. It depends on your ability to judge
people, and your confidence in the original expectations. Some people are skillful negotiators
and can effectively increase a low donation. Others, of course, are shy, and perhaps best
advised not to proceed.
By the way, Dan wrote Irv the cheque — for a quarter of a million dollars.
Remember, you are not there just to pick up a cheque. Any courier could do that. You are there
as a fund-raiser — and the emphasis is on the word `raise'.
Your actual strategy will depend on the circumstances. Let's examine different scenarios.
If the Prospect Gives a Predetermined Amount
The Case of the Little Big Shot
One asker we'll call Peter reported that the donor, Mr Bigshaught, had the cheque all made
out when he arrived for the meeting. As they sat down, Mr Bigshaught passed the folded
cheque across the table before Peter could say a word.
Peter put the donation in his pocket without looking at it, made small talk for a few minutes,
and left. Once outside, Peter examined the donation, and was disappointed to find it was much
less than hoped for.
Peter could have handled the situation differently. Here's one example. Peter could have
handed the cheque back to Mr Bigshaught without looking at the amount. “Mr B,” he should
say, “hold on to your donation for the moment. There are some pretty exciting aspects to this
campaign that you may not know about. These could affect the level of your gift. I'd like to take
How to Get Bigger Donations • 133
five or ten minutes to discuss these with you before you make a decision, if that's okay with
you. Do you mind taking the time? I don't want to put any pressure on you — I just think you'll
be interested.”
If Mr Bigshaught gives permission, Peter could then make the appeal as originally planned. It
might result in a larger cheque. Of course, Mr B could just pass back the same cheque, or even
give less! If that happens, you will at least know you tried.
If Mr B says he's too busy to talk right now, try to set another time when he is free, so you
can come back for the full discussion.
Of course, if Mr B says he's already made up his mind, there's no point in pushing harder.
Accept the donation in good grace. Then plot a cultivation strategy to allow someone
influential to go back and appeal for another, larger gift. This repeat visit could happen in as
little as six months — even sooner, with the right asker. It might take years to arrange.
If the Prospect Gives a Small Gift
The Case of Bad Feelings
Sally had a different problem. Her prospect, Dr Feelgood, listened to the whole pitch, then
promised $100.
Sally was expecting $750! The doctor had given other nonprofits in town much more, and
Sally couldn't understand what had gone wrong. Dr Feelgood had seemed so interested in the
presentation, and had looked interested to the end.
The brave approach would be for Sally to say, “Dr Feelgood, I had honestly hoped that you
would give substantially more. Could you take a moment and explain to me — is there
something that I said wrong, that discouraged you from giving? Or is there something else that
I'm not aware of?”
Dr Feelgood, at that point, might provide some useful information that could allow Sally to
either reopen the discussion immediately or approach him again at a later date.
If she learned that Dr Feelgood would indeed like to support the project more generously,
but simply didn't have the funds right then, she could suggest monthly payment plans or postdated cheques. The doctor might genuinely welcome the opportunity to be generous without
being under a financial burden.
In another approach, Sally could have encouraged the doctor to support her group in other
ways that would not require cash. They could use volunteer time, for example, arranging
introductions to medical colleagues. They could even use an in-kind donation of the doctor's
old computer.
If the Prospect Says Maybe
The Case of the Consultative Prospect
Kim had an apparently positive meeting with the judge. Clearly, there was a great deal of
interest. But at the end, instead of saying yes or no, Mrs Judge said, “I need to talk about this
with my husband. We always make our decisions together. I'll let you know.”
If you ever find yourself in Kim's shoes, say something like this: “Mrs Judge, I'm glad you're
giving this such serious consideration. A big gift is a big decision, and of course, your husband
(or, if the case is reversed, “your wife”) should be consulted. Your husband may have a lot of
134 • Face to Face
questions. Let's set a date when I can come back and talk to you both together, or if you prefer,
to him alone.”
Please note: If you had done your research well, you might have seen this coming and
arranged an appointment with the pair of them in the first place.
If the prospect refuses to allow you to meet with his or her spouse (or business partner or
colleague), your next step is make sure that they have all of the information they'll need to
present the case on your behalf. If there are presentation materials, try to leave them behind.
Ask the prospect if he or she can think of any particular questions that his or her partner might
raise that you should anticipate.
Finally, don't leave it up to the prospect to get back in touch with you. It's very important to
set a date by which the decision will be made.
You might say, “Could we talk about it on [name a date within the next two weeks]? I'll be
back in the neighbourhood on that day. Will it be convenient for me to drop in then?”
You could say, “Our team is having a report meeting soon, and I'd love to let them know your
decision. The meeting is on [such-and-such a date]. Could I check in with you the day before?
If these strategies fail, simply ask the prospect to name a date that would be most convenient
for him or her.
If the Prospect Wants
Wants More Information
The Case of the Answer that Was
Was Too
Too Good
Jean had a problem — Mr Levesque asked a question that she couldn't answer.
Jean hadn't been very keen on making this fundraising call in the first place. So at the very
first hint of a question, Jean promised to research the answer, packed her briefcase and left.
Mr Levesque, who was just asking an idle question, was startled. Jean, however, took the
question very seriously and went off to do two weeks of in-depth research, preparing a
detailed report for Mr Levesque. The research was so much more fun than fundraising — at
least, in Jean's mind.
When they finally got back together after a great many calls and juggling of busy calendars,
Mr Levesque was half pleased to receive such a detailed answer to his question but a little
concerned that the organization would squander its resources in this manner.
The result? The donation Mr Levesque made was much smaller than expected. Jean was
angry that all her research work was valued so little. The nonprofit was disappointed.
Before showing what Jean should have done, let's look at a similar situation.
The Case of the Professor who Knew Too
Too Much
Another fundraiser we'll call Ricardo tried a completely different approach when he
approached a potential donor. The prospect, Professor Parker, asked a few questions. Ricardo
wasn't quite sure of the correct answers. He did vaguely remember that somebody had
mentioned something about this to him once before, so he gave his best approximation of the
answer. In other words, he made up the facts.
Unfortunately for Ricardo and the nonprofit group, Professor Suzanne Parker was a worldrenowned expert on this subject. She knew the real answer — she'd just been testing.
No donation at all that day! Or for years to come.
So what should Jean and Ricardo have done?
How to Get Bigger Donations • 135
Never lie, make up answers or obfuscate. If you don't know, say so. Most prospects will
appreciate your honesty.
Write the question down and repeat it back to the prospect. They'll appreciate that you're
taking it seriously. Say something like, “If I understand correctly, what you want to know is…”
Then ask, “Do you need to have this information immediately, or should we continue our
Chances are good that the prospect will respond, “Let's continue.”
If that's the response, continue on and try to get the donation on the spot. You can certainly
get back with the answer later, but it's entirely possible that the prospect does not need that
information in order to make a decision right away.
The prospect may say, “I really do need to know that. It's a critical point.” You have two
The most impressive is to ask if you can borrow a telephone and call one of your
contacts (at home if necessary), ask the question and report the answer back
If that isn't possible, note the question. Check again whether you should cut the
discussion short at that point, or whether you can continue the conversation, “so I
can discover if you might have any other questions I should research at the same
time.” If the conversation continues, the prospect may very well decide to donate
without an answer. If not, arrange a date to come back with the information.
If the Prospect Says No
When a prospect says no outright, it very tempting to give up. Don't do it.
Before exploring them in detail, let's list your options:
a) Be polite
b) Ask why
c) Be pleasantly persistent
d) Offer a donor-directed gift option
e) Suggest a later gift
f) Offer alternative ways to help
g) Ask for advice
a) Be polite.
If the prospect is hostile, in a hurry, or otherwise indicating that you really must leave right
now, then that, of course, is the time to take your leave. Be extremely polite. Thank the person
graciously for having taken the time to contact you, and leave the door open for another visit.
Remember that the long-term relationship with the prospect is far more important than any
single request.
Never, under any circumstances, be rude. Don't tell the prospect off. Don't let them know that
you think that they failed to understand the situation fully. Don't suggest that they are
politically incorrect.
This point may seem obvious, but many prospects have had unhappy solicitors literally
swear at them.
b) Ask why.
The ideal is to continue the discussion with the prospect. Ask for more information. Is there
something about the project that the prospect doesn't like? If so, additional information might
136 • Face to Face
win them over.
Of course, if they actually disagree with what you're doing, additional information will
seldom make a difference.
Invite them to discuss it further if they wish. Be careful not to push too hard. People have a
legitimate right to say no. In fact, everyone must say no far more often than they say yes.
Sometimes the reasons are private. Sometimes the prospect doesn't even know what the
reasons are.
Nancy Jackman is quite clear about the difficulty she has with people who want to ask why,
particularly when it is done in a belligerent way:
If I don't give… don't ask me why. I feel guilty. I feel harassed, and I don't
want to have tears in my eyes because I have to say no to you. I say no to
thousands of charities every year.
I know that there are going to be many groups that are going to go under, I
reckon in the next ten years. The smaller donations I have been making, at
around a thousand dollars, I have decided to cut… I'm getting out of the
business of small annual gifts.
c) Be pleasantly persistent.
Some donors never say yes the first time they're asked. They like to test the commitment of
the volunteer.
Here is a true story from the life of Joe Tanenbaum, one of Canada's most generous donors.
JT, as he is known to his many friends, made a fortune with his bridge-building company,
Runnymede Steel, and later in property development.
JT has an array of… carefully calculated strategies for helping the
deserving. One of the most common, but least understood, Tanenbaum
tactics for tzedakah (Yiddish for an act of giving to charity; literally, `doing
justice') is the hard bargain he drives with institutions seeking his support.
Solicitors for the finest causes are often shocked at their initial meeting with
JT: “Is this the famous philanthropist renowned for enthusiastically parting
with millions?”
One fund solicitor naively presumed himself to be a perfect partner for a
shidduch (marriage) with JT. “After all,” he thought, “Tanenbaum wants to
give and the deserving institution that I represent wants to receive. What
could be more logical? In fact, I'm doing the elderly gentleman a favour!”
The hard bargaining and barrage of tough questions he was subjected to
were not exactly the meshulach's (fundraiser; literally, an emissary) idea of
As the crestfallen young man emerged from JT's inner sanctum in the
Runnymede building, the first thing he saw was the smiling face of Joe's
secretary, the unflappable Terry Ryan. Blinking back the tears, he let out a
sigh as long as the boom on Joe's favourite crane.
Terry tried to commiserate. “You look a little pale. Would you care for a
cup of coffee?”
Unable to concentrate on the question, the fellow blurted out, “If he
doesn't want to give any of his money away, what does he have a foundation
“Did he tell you he wasn't going to give you any money?” she asked, astonHow to Get Bigger Donations • 137
“No, he didn't come out and say he wouldn't give me any money. He didn't
have to say it. I couldn't answer half of his questions, and he made me feel
like an absolute fool.”
“No, you poor boy. You just don't understand. JT — I mean, Mr
Tanenbaum — treats all the meshulachim that way; the first time, that is. Did
you think raising money would be easy? You'll never meet an old softy like
JT again, and Mr Tanenbaum knows that. That's why he puts all the people
who come to ask for money through their paces. He wants to see if you know
your stuff, if you're committed, if you really care about what you represent, if
you've got enough chutzpah (bravery, nerve, guts, gall, spunk).”
“So what do I do now?” he moaned.
“You'll have to come back again.”
“Oh no! I could never do that!”
“Sure you can. And you have to, because if you can't get a contribution
from JT, you can't get a contribution from anyone. Let's see, I have an
opening in Mr Tanenbaum's schedule next Tuesday at eight o'clock in the
morning. You'll be his first appointment of the day. It always makes a good
impression on him when someone is willing to get up as early as he does. Go
home now, and do your homework. Try to remember all the questions he
asked you, and be prepared to answer every one and more. You'll see — he's
really a teddy bear with a big, soft heart. If you prove to him you're really
committed, you'll get a big contribution. I know you will.”
And he did.
d) Offer a donor-directed gift option.
Sometimes prospects will refuse to give because they don't like one particular aspect of your
work. They may consider it too controversial. They may think the money is wasted.
Offer them the option of directing their donation to a different part of your group's work.
First, validate the prospect's right to feel that way. Ask: “Would you like me to tell the board
about your view? It's important that they know how supporters like you feel.”
Don't promise they will change the policy — just that you will convey the prospect's ideas.
Pause for an answer. Discuss this course of action seriously.
Next, ask for the prospect's validation about part of your group's work. Ask: “Would you agree
that other parts of our work are worthwhile? For example, we also… [briefly give examples of
exciting projects].”
Even in a small organization, there is usually some other aspect of your work you can
emphasize. It may be work with children or seniors, men or women, information instead of
action. Again, pause for an answer. If the prospect thinks your entire project is inappropriate,
you won't get a donation. However, if the prospect considers some part of your work
acceptable, you can move on.
Ask for more information. Let the prospects talk themselves into positive feelings. Ask: “Which
aspects of the work do you support most? Why is that?”
Now you can begin to ask for a directed donation. “Would you be willing to give exclusively
to the part you like? I'll make it clear that not one cent of your donation is to be spent on other
This donor-directed option must be cleared in advance with the organization. Will the board
138 • Face to Face
accept `ear-marked' gifts? Will this be used as part of the regular funding for that project, or
will it be additional funding? The prospect may ask — and the solicitor must be clear on the
e) Suggest a later gift.
Do the prospects want to help, but feel limited by their current financial situation? That's
good news. That's not “no” — that's “later”. You should immediately discuss options such as
smaller monthly payments, postdated cheques, or a return visit at a future date determined by
the prospect.
f) Offer alternative ways to help.
The prospect may say, “I'd genuinely like to help. There are just so many good causes and I
can't help them all.”
Here's what you should do. First, agree with the prospect there are great many good causes.
Note that you, too, feel frustrated by that dilemma. Suggest to the prospect that she or she may
have ways of helping that won't put any strain on their pocketbook. Examples include in-kind
donations, asking for a donation from the company where she works, or taking advantage of a
matching grant program.
g) Ask for advice.
If all else fails, ask the prospect for advice. Say, “I like to see something positive in every
situation, even when somebody's said no to me. That can be a learning situation for me, so
would you just take a moment and tell me how I might have improved my presentation to
you?” The prospect may well respond positively and give you useful insight. In several cases,
prospects have even talked themselves into a donation.
5. Identify possible roadblocks and strategies to overcome them
Before you approach the prospects, anticipate tough questions that they might ask. Make a list
of ten or more. Brainstorm on these with a group of your colleagues.
This stage should be completed before you train the volunteer askers. You'll need to be able
to share these roadblocks, and the `block-busters' with them.
Some objections are standard. These might apply to any organization. Others only fit
particular groups. Examples of roadblocks include:
Tell me more about… [a topic not familiar to you].
Why did (or didn't) your group take action on…?
What's the money for?
What recognition can I get?
How much did you give?
How much did So-and-so give?
Why didn't I get a tax receipt/proper recognition/etc for my gift back in 19 ?
How did you get to know so much about me?
How did you decide how much to ask me to give?
Why does you organization have a deficit/surplus?
Didn't your organization have a board split/fire someone/have a key person arrested
I'll give, but only if I can get the following recognition…
How to Get Bigger Donations • 139
I'll give, but only if you spend the money on… [and the prospect names something
that you are not raising money for, or that would raise problems].
I'll give, but only if you provide me with… [personal benefits, such as granting me a
degree at your university, hiring a relative for a job, getting me a backstage pass,
getting me free tickets for an event].
I already support the United Way. Why should I give to you?
I already support other similar groups.
How can you ask me to give when the economy is in the state it is now?
Doesn't the government provide all of your funding? or, The government should
provide all of your funding, and if I give you money it only lets the government off the
You may well be able to add others to this frightening list.
You may be asked to state your stance on abortion, animal rights, gambling, alcohol,
bilingualism, tithing, or any of a number of other controversial issues. Even if your
organization doesn't officially have a policy, the prospect may want to know the unofficial
position, or your personal position.
There's a standard four-part process to handle almost any tough roadblock. Here's the magic
a) Validate
Agree with or at least acknowledge the person's point. Say something like, “I think I can
understand how you'd feel that way.”
b) Ask Questions and Listen Actively
Ask for more information before you begin to answer. If you jump too soon, you may create
new problems.
When one prospect said, “I think your organization is too political”, the fundraiser
responded, “Well, you must be referring to our position on South Africa”, but the prospect
interrupted. “No,” the prospect said, “I meant your position on something else entirely. Now
do tell me about this South Africa position.” The fundraiser had accidentally created a whole
new set of problems.
Give the prospect lots of `air time'. Ask more questions for the prospect to answer. That way
you can find out exactly what they think and how much detail they need. You may even
discover that you actually agree on the issue.
c) Respond Briefly
Answer very briefly. Before you take a second breath, ask the prospect if she or he wants
more information. It's easy for an answer to turn into a long-winded explanation, that bores
the prospect and raises new controversies.
Never argue with or criticize the prospect. Protect your organization's long-term relationship
with the prospect over any short-term fundraising needs or desire to `educate' the prospect.
Return to the appeal as quickly as possible.
d) Ask for the Donation
Bring the discussion back to the needs of the people you serve (never emphasize the needs of
the organization). Ask the prospect again to support them.
Let's tackle some of the roadblocks to show how this model works.
140 • Face to Face
Q: “I already support the United Way. Why should I give to you?”
A: Validate the prospect first: “I'm glad to hear you support the United Way. I do, too. They do
a lot of good work.”
Inquire further and listen.
OPTION A. If your organization is a member of the United Way:
“Did you know that our organization is a member of the United Way?” (Pause for an answer.)
“Do you know what portion of our work is covered by the United Way?” (Pause for an
answer; and if the prospect wants further information, by all means share it.)
“Did you know that United Way allocations to all the member agencies only went up (or
per cent, while the need increased by
per cent. Do you think that
actually went down) by
we should only increase (or should decrease) our services by the amount of the United Way
allocation?” (Pause for an answer.)
OPTION B. If your agency is not a United Way member and is eligible for membership:
“Did you know that the United Way only takes on [number] of new agencies every year?
(Pause for an answer.) Unfortunately, their fundraising simply can't meet all the needs.”
OPTION C. If your agency is not a United Way member and is not entitled to be:
“Did you know that the United Way is restricted to providing funds for social services?
Agencies like ours are not eligible.”
Ask for the donation:
“As you can see, there are many people who need help, and the United Way can't cover all
their needs. Would you consider a gift in the range of [amount] to help those people?”
Q. “Doesn't the government provide all of your funding?”
“The government should provide your funding, and if I give you money it just lets the
government off the hook.”
A. Validate:
“I wish we did receive 100% of our funding from the government. That would solve so many
Respond briefly:
“In the current economy, even if the government agreed to provide 100% funding, it's too
risky for an organization to have all its eggs in one basket. The government's policies and
priorities can change very quickly.” (Pause for a response.)
Ask for the donation:
“We'll continue to try to persuade them that they should provide more funding, but in the
meantime, people still need services. How would you feel about donating $X for Y services?”
(Pause for answer.)
Q. “How much did So-and-so give?”
A. “I think that's a reasonable question. A lot of people like to compare their donations to
OPTION A. If `So-and-so' has given you permission to reveal the amount, answer:
”So-and-so and I anticipated that you might want to know that, so he gave me permission to
tell you in confidence that he gave $
. With that in mind, how much do you think would be
appropriate for you to give?” (Pause for an answer.)
How to Get Bigger Donations • 141
“By the way, other people I talk to might ask what you've given. Can we have your
permission to reveal the amount of your gift? We'd ask them not to tell others. And if there's
anyone you don't want us to tell, that's fine, of course.”
OPTION B. If you don't have permission from So-and-so:
“I don't have permission from So-and-so to reveal his/her donation. It's important to respect
confidentiality.” (Pause for a response.)
“Would you like me to contact So-and-so and ask for permission? (Pause for an answer.) Can
I tell him it was you who asked? (Pause for an answer. If the donor seems keen, add the
following:) Would you like to challenge So-and-so to give extra to match your donation?”
OPTION C. If So-and-so hasn't given yet:
“So-and-so hasn't made a contribution yet. Do you think your donation might influence
his/her gift?”
Q. “How much have you given?”
(This is why you were warned at the beginning of this book that it is important for all
solicitors to also be donors.)
Tell them, but not in dollars — put it as so many days of pay or a percentage of your income.
Then the prospect, who may well be wealthier than you, will get the idea that he or she should
give proportionately.
Q. “How can you ask me to give when the economy is in the state it is now?”
A. ”I understand. It is hard to be as generous as one would like to be in the current economy,
isn't it? Has the economy affected you personally?” (Pause for an answer; sympathize, and
discuss the situation.)
“What effect do you think the economy has had on the people that we're trying to help?” (Ask
the prospect if he/she would like more details. Keep your answer brief and talk about your
organization's participants.)
If the prospect responds that he/she really would like to help, but simply can't afford to right
now, go back to the `later' strategy. “Would you find it easier to give small monthly donations
or a post-dated cheque?” (Pause for an answer.) “Would you prefer talking about this at a
future date? (Remember to set the date for the next visit now.)
142 • Face to Face
What Advice Did The Biggest Donor Ever Offer on Asking for Big Gifts?
You may admire the legacy of the Rockefeller Foundation. You may not care for the politics or
commercial practices of the man who started it all. You may find the language in this document,
which is over a century old, a little dated (or worse). Nonetheless, you may find the advice is still
valid today.
Ten Principles of Soliciting
by John D Rockefeller, Sr
First published in 1891
1. When making a solicitation, dress well with costly clothes, immaculate linen, and well
brushed shoes. See also that your hands are clean.
2. Hunt in pairs. A call by two persons makes more impact than one, but only one should talk.
This has greater dignity.
3. Both people should have an elegant personal card to present at the door.
4. At the outset, ask only for a few minutes of the person's time, and by plunging into the
subject, create the impression that the call will be short.
5. Enter the room in genial and radiant good nature. Allow no provocation to disturb this good
humour. Keep your victim also good natured, and this throughout!
6. If you find him big with gift, do not rush too eagerly to the birth.
7. Let him feel he is giving it, not that it is being taken from him with violence.
8. Appeal only to the nobler motives. His own mind will suggest to him the lower and selfish
ones. He would not wish you to think that he has thought of them.
9. Let the victim talk freely, especially in the early part of the interview, while you take the
opportunity to study his peculiarities.
10. Never argue or contradict him. Let him talk, talk, talk. Give the fish the reel and listen with
deep interest.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 143
What Advice Does the Church have on Asking for Big Gifts?
You may not be a religious Christian. You may not be conducting an Every Member Visit. You
may find nevertheless that this advice can be adapted for your group.
Ten Commandments of Visitation
by Walter Murray
1. Thou shalt not let fear,
fear, nor horror stories stay thy steps. Face the fears and talk about
them; unsurfaced fears may sabotage any visitation program.
2. Thou shalt not visit without vision. Each visitor must feel ownership of carefully worked
out goals and objectives regarding the mission of the church in the community and world.
3. Thou shalt not visit with thy head in the clouds. It is nice to be spiritual, but go to all
training meetings so you will know what you are talking about when you make your visits.
4. Thou shalt not put off making thy calls to a more convenient season. Make your calls on
the day or days assigned, and be assured that a more convenient time will never come.
5. Thou shalt not lose count on each visit that God gavest thee one mouth and two ears —
to be used in like proportions. Listen to the verbal and nonverbal messages of pain, joy, fear
[and] hope, because …feelings… must be expressed before one can hear.
6. Thou shalt not visit with thy tail between thy legs. Without apology, tell the Church's story
of love for the world and let the people in the home know it is a privilege for you and them to
give time, talent and money to the work of Jesus.
7. Thou shalt not clear the children away when entering a home to talk about the love and
work of Jesus. Make it clear that each family member is important and that no one is too
young or too old to learn from Jesus, who continues to place a child in our midst.
8. Thou shalt not do unto others what thou has not done unto thyself.
thyself. Make your own
commitment of time, talent and money before you ask others to do so.
9. Thou shalt not forget to follow up. Turn in all information, suggestions and commitments
given to you; and make sure all offers of help don't end up in the dead-end file.
10. Thou shalt pray without ceasing. When we pray, God opens doors, hearts, hands and
sometimes banks of resources that we didn't even know were thee.
144 • Face to Face
6. Make the appointment to see the prospect
You're now nearly ready to ask. You've recruited the right volunteers, put them in pairs, trained
them, and assigned them to the right prospective donors. You've decided on the right amount,
time, project and approach. Now it's time to make an appointment to see the prospect.
Prepare before you telephone.
The phone call should be made by one of the two people who will meet the prospect, not by
a secretary.
Gather all the information about the prospect.
Have your appointment calendar handy. Select several dates to propose that are suitable for
both volunteers on your team.
Think ahead about issues like the following:
Have a reason to ask.
Before you call, identify at least one reason why that person (or couple or family) may be
interested in giving a significant contribution. This forms your rationale for the approach to
them. Reasons may be:
She has proved a supporter of your group over the years and you are hoping that she
will extend support to a new and specific program.
He may be a prominent person in the community and his involvement and leadership
will be valued by your group as an example to others.
They may be personally concerned about your issues because of their own interests,
or those of family or friends.
He may have business or professional interest in the issues your group is concerned
She may see that public identification with your group is good for business, thanks to
positive publicity or services to employees.
Decide where you want to meet the prospect.
• Your Site
If possible, meet the person where your nonprofit group works, especially if the prospect can
see interesting activities, meet people, or view new developments.
Lyman Henderson likes “being asked to a demonstration of some kind”, he says. “I think those
are particularly good. Like a backstage tour, or attendance at a rehearsal in the arts forum. Or
going through a medical centre.”
• The Prospect's Premises
The prospect's home, office or workplace can also be excellent. Some experts advise against
this, because it puts you at the disadvantage. They are in their `home court', as it were. I
disagree. They are comfortable in their home or office, and that's important. You may also be
able to pick up clues from the photos, souvenirs, hobbies or trophies on display. Linda
Bronfman had this to add, from her viewpoint as a donor:
If you're willing to come to my office, it's more likely that I'll have time to
meet with you… I've been asked to trek [a long way] out to places for causes
when I don't know [yet] if I'm going to be interested.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 145
• Neutral Territory
Although some consultants recommend them, I suggest you avoid meeting in public places
such as restaurants. Marga Callender agrees:
I tried that — and hated it. Not only did I have to focus on listening and
making a presentation, but I also had to look at the menu, talk to a waiter
who interrupted at strategic moments, and eat. Often the call was finished
long before the meal was. After a few afternoons with indigestion, I ignored
the experts' advice.
In addition, you may find it awkward to handle the moment when the bill is presented.
Should the donor pay, on top of agreeing to a generous contribution? Should the organization
pay, demonstrating that the donor's gift would be squandered on high-priced meals? Should
the volunteer pay, elegantly sidestepping the problem, but adding to the volunteer's burden?
Some people resolve this by going to a club where the bill is never brought to the table. Others
arrange payment in advance. Both these solutions obscure the problem, but still leave the
donor wondering.
In addition, there is the danger of many social errors. Spills, food stuck in teeth, bad meals,
annoying people at the next table, deciding whether it's acceptable to order alcohol or to
smoke — all these things make it more complicated than necessary.
Avoid restaurants unless the prospect suggests it and there is no other choice.
Phone for an appointment.
Phone the prospect and ask for a time when you can all get together.
Avoid giving much information on the appeal over the telephone. Otherwise the person may
make a decision at that time. This is very important.
When making an appointment:
Ask if you can meet and talk to them about what you are doing for your community.
Tell them you believe they may be interested. Say you'd like to explain more to them
in person. The discussion will last about half an hour.
Don't be drawn in by questions at this point. Communicate a sense of urgency by
being brief and to the point. Keep the call short and not social.
The prospect may say, “This isn't about my making a donation, is it?” Respond
honestly. Don't hide the fact that you are calling about a donation. Don't deny it or try
to surprise the prospect; in most cases he or she will resent this approach. Say, “Yes,
you can choose to contribute, but this is an unusual program and we need your
advice as well as your support. I'd like to tell you more about the program. Can we set
up a time when I can fill you in?”
If the prospect can't meet with you to talk about a donation, suggest alternative dates.
If the prospect completely refuses to meet you to discuss a donation, this is a warning
sign. Either you have not done enough cultivation yet, or this person is not really a
In either case, meeting the prospect at this stage would be a waste of time — for
both the nonprofit and the prospect. Find out if this person should be politely
dropped from your major prospect list. Perhaps the money isn't available right now,
or is committed elsewhere. Perhaps there is no real interest. Whatever the reason, if
this is a dead end, send a friendly letter; make a note in the file for the future; and put
your energy elsewhere.
146 • Face to Face
If the prospect might still become a donor, try to use the phone call to explore further. Are
there any special interests you might use in your ongoing approach? Ask the reluctant
prospects if they have any particular concerns that need to be addressed. Then continue the
cultivation process.
Send a letter to confirm the appointment.
Once you have agreed on a date, time and place, send the prospect a brief note to confirm
the details.
Add enough interesting materials to complete the cultivation process, and have the prospect
excited about seeing you. Your letter might have a few phrases about the organization's work,
or you might attach a news clipping or a brochure.
Avoid turning this into a direct mail appeal. You do not want the prospect to make a decision
based on the letter. It is merely an appetizer to put him or her into the right frame of mind
when you arrive.
Fundraising expert Charles Mai has excellent suggestions on how to make this letter
When I ask a prospect, “Did you receive my letter?” and get the reply,
“Maybe, I'm not sure”, the letter was a failure. Even worse, prospects have
claimed they never received my letters.
The beginning of your letter, proposal or brochure is enormously
important. Lois Duncan, in her famous book on writing personal experience,
How to Write and Sell Your Personal Experience, calls it “a hook that snags
the reader and won't let him go until he has read through the entire article.”
She favours an anecdote as an opening, “with characterization, colour and
action”, such as “The student faced his assailant quietly.” In a few sentences
we are fascinated how a young blind man defends himself with karate
against a vicious attack.
She also likes a `startle statement' such as “The day I died, it was raining.”
One of William Zinsser's favourite leads is, “I've often wondered what goes
into a hot dog. Now I know and I wish I didn't.”
Marjorie Holmes, in Writing the Creative Article, gives an example of a
`straight opening' which you might adapt: “There is a wonderful afterglow of
pleasure that accompanies every act of tactful giving.”
For a powerful message, you decide on an angle and bring it into focus.
Marjorie Holmes urges us to use every incident, description or anecdote to
“lighten, shade, enhance or clarify” the one subject.
If I were trying to get a big gift for cancer research, what would you think
of this: “My daughter is alive and enjoying life to the full because of
laboratory work which began ten years ago in a distant city. This lifesaving
work originated from a single grant by one person.”
That would be followed by a portrait of the attractive and vibrant daughter
who will do much good in the world, but who almost died of cancer.
Dialogue and description would make this a living person to the reader.
Then follows an equally graphic portrait of the donor, how his gifts
inspired others and a simple, understandable description of the research
which saved many lives.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 147
If following these suggestions seems too complex, settle for a simple note confirming time
and place. Have it signed by the volunteer who will visit.
Before the visit, make sure each volunteer knows clearly what she or he is responsible for
doing. A central coordinator may be essential with large groups. It can be frustrating to have
one team member saying to the other, “But I thought you were sending the letter!”
These forms may help you track your contacts with the prospect, and make sure each step
was actually done:
148 • Face to Face
Prospect Information Form
Part XI Schedule
Prospect*s Name:
First Phone Call to Arrange Appointment
Date and time call should be made:
Date actually done:
By whom:
0 same day, or:
0 Appointment set for (date and time):
0 Call back on:
0 other:
Letter to Confirm Arrangements
Particular points to mention in letter:
Other notes for use in conversation or for file:
Date letter should be sent:
By whom:
Date actually done:
0 same, or:
0 Copy of letter attached
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
From face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K 1 A 1 K5
How to Get Bigger Donations • 149
7. Visit
Visit the prospect
You're as ready as you'll ever be. You know what to say — and if you forget, you've got a team
member to help you remember.
Go visit the prospective donors.
Remember to be a friend to the prospects. Don't manipulate or trick them into doing
anything they'll regret later. Don't do anything that you'll regret later.
The donors must genuinely want to support your good work. They must be able to afford their
donation. If they do, they'll end up feeling positive about you, the group, and themselves.
8. Follow
Follow up afterwards
The work is not quite finished once you say good-bye to the donor. Whether or not you got a
contribution, there are still a few details left. They are not too onerous, but if they are not done
they can cause problems in future.
Keep records for the future.
The first things the volunteer should do after leaving the donor are:
a) Get out of sight. Go around the corner. Head for the office. Go to a doughnut shop. You've
got a few minutes of work to do, and you don't want the donor to see you sitting in your car
parked out front, making notes.
b) Breathe a sigh of relief. Yell out a big yahoo! Say a prayer, if you wish.
c) Make notes on the visit. Don't talk to anyone else until you have done this — you might
forget important details. (What should you record? See below.)
d) Write a thank-you note to the donor and mail it the same day as the visit.
Record anything and everything. You will almost certainly need this again in the future. It
may be that you won't need to do any more fundraising for decades — but chances are you will
be asking for money again much sooner than that.
Don't trust to anyone's memory. The most unforgettable facts aren't. People can forget their
own anniversaries. They call loved ones by the wrong names. As fundraiser Warren Steen says,
“The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.”
What were the results of your request?
Do you have to make a second visit? When? Where?
Do you have to get answers to the donor's questions?
Did you learn anything about the donor that is not in the files?
N personal interests, opinions or hobbies
N concerns, objections, questions asked
N the names of the children or other family members
N what the donor or family members do for a living
what do you know now that you didn't know before the visit?
if you were making this visit again right now, what would you want to know?
Forms that may help you follow:
150 • Face to Face
Prospect Information Form
Part XII Visit and Results
Prospect*s Name:
Visit (Complete additional forms if more than one visit is made.)
Visitors* Names:
Other people present in addition to prospect:
0 Yes
0 Donation of $
0 Pledge of $
per 0 Month 0 Quarter 0
Starting date:
Ending date:
0 In-kind donation of:
Public Recognition:
The donor will permit:
0 his/her name to be mentioned in our newsletter
0 public recognition in the media
0 public recognition at an event
0 mentioning his/her donation to other prospects if they ask
0 other:
Active involvement:
The donor will:
0 provide his or her name to be mentioned in our newsletter
0 public recognition in the media
0 public recognition at an event
0 mentioning his/her donation to other prospects if they ask
0 serve on a fundraising task force
0 other:
How to Get Bigger Donations • 151
Research done by (name):
Updated by (name):
Updated by (name):
Front face to face: How to Get Bigger Donations from Very Generous People
~ Ken Wyman 1993
published by Voluntary Action Directorate, Multiculturalism & Citizenship Canada, Ottawa K1A 1KB
0 Additional Support or 0 Alternative Support
The donor wants information about:
0 giving through his or her will, insurance or other planned giving
arranging a matching gift from his/her company
The donor does not want information, but will arrange
0 a gift through his or her will, insurance or other planned giving
0 a matching gift from his/her company
0 other:
0 Maybe
Wants information on:
Additional visits required:
Date and time:
Date and time:
Date and time:
0 No
Refused because:
Prospect Information Form
Part XII — Visits and Results
152 • Face to Face
Thank-You sent (date):
Other action required:
Suggestions for future visits to this prospect:
Prospect Information Form
Part XII — Visits and Results
How to Get Bigger Donations • 153
Thank everyone.
Thanking people is important. Many donors have complained that they only way they knew
their donation was received was the cancelled cheque.
It does no harm to thank too many people, or to thank people too often. According to David
The key is to thank people immediately for their commitment and regularly for their
gifts. One fundraiser suggests that when persons make a gift, they should be thanked until
they make the next one. Certainly the possibility for future gifts is greater when one is
appropriately thanked. Chuck Allen tells the true story of visiting a retired woman and
thanking her for her two-dollar gift. She was so impressed that she later gave $39,000.
Thank everyone.
Thank the people who gave.
Thank the people who didn't give, but who met with you.
Thank the people who didn't have time to meet with you.
Thank the people who you talked to on the telephone who weren't home when you
went to visit them.
Thank the people you wrote to saying you would phone or visit and never connected.
Thank the people who volunteered.
Jerry Panas learned a lot about thanking thoroughly from Mary G Roebling, who
…was on the board of our college in Princeton, New Jersey, and was heading a special
campaign. We were talking about strategy and the mechanics of the campaign and she
said: “Now, Jerry, one thing you must remember. People like to be thanked; they want to
know that what they have done is appreciated, really appreciated. When we get a gift that
we think is special, let's find a way to thank the person at least seven times before we ever
ask them again for another gift.”
…We followed this “seven times” admonishment. There was a letter from the president.
A letter from the chairman of the board. A handwritten note from the vice president. And a
letter from the treasurer with the official receipt. Several months later, a note from a
student who had received some scholarship assistance. A letter from the head of the
department whose discipline had been particularly affected by the special campaign. A
very brief personal note attached to the announcement of the groundbreaking ceremony,
reminding the donor of how important their gift had been in making this day possible.
Count them, seven times, and it was easy.
When the next campaign was announced, these people averaged gifts three times the
amount of their original donation… If I could guarantee you a continuing gift, not of the
same amount, not double the amount, but three times the amount — wouldn't you work,
work creatively, to plan for seven opportunities to show appreciation? Do it! …This “Rule
of Sevens” really works.
Have thanks come from several people.
Ask the volunteers who visited the prospect to write a short note to the person,
thanking the donor (no longer a “prospect” after the approach) for their time,
consideration, and donation! Send this note immediately — within 24 hours of the
Have the campaign chair, and your top volunteers, and your top staff people write
154 • Face to Face
separate letters to everyone who made a major gift, to announce the results at the
conclusion of the campaign.
Have one of your participants (remember, that means clients, or audience members,
or students, etc) send a note. Make it hand-written. Send art they created. Send
signed photos or posters.
Send plaques, framed certificates, or any other goodies you dreamed up for
Invite donors to events, especially the opening of a new facility.
Send tax receipts on time.
If the donor will allow public recognition, use this as an opportunity to set an example for
others to follow. (If you're not sure, ask first.)
Mention the donors in your newsletter.
Arrange coverage in other newsletters, such as company newsletters where people
work, bulletins where they pray, clubs where they play, and so on.
If the donation is big enough, ask a politician such as the mayor or a member of the
provincial legislature to send a note.
Send news releases and photos to your local newspaper or radio station. In case they
don't use them, send copies to the donors.
Present a plaque or other memento at an event.
Remind donors of pledge commitments.
If the donor has made a commitment to pay the donation over time, arrange to send
reminders. Make the arrangements now, before anyone forgets who pledged, how much, and
when. It may seem like it will be easy to go through the files later, but it won't be. If you don't
arrange to send pledge reminders, you'll lose money.
“The way we have more money to give to outsiders,” Lyman Henderson says, “is because
people don't come back and ask for the pledge we have given. It's so easy to mount your
campaign …and then the campaign department folds, and nobody goes back and asks for the
pledges. That's just lost money that's out there.”
Send the pledge reminders before the due date. Don't wait until after to see if the donor
Include lots of good news with the pledge reminder. Lots of other nonprofit groups have
approached the donor in the meantime. Each pledge reminder has to do a large part of the
sales job over again.
If the donor has not sent in the payment within a month, send a second reminder. If that
doesn't work, telephone. Your job at this stage is not to nag the donor, or demand payment,
but to find out if there is a problem. Open up communication. Renegotiate the payment
schedule if necessary. Just don't let the relationship with the donor die of neglect.
Evaluate your progress.
All through the campaign, at regular intervals, check to see how well everyone is doing. At
the end, get everyone to suggest how it could be done better in future.
Hold campaign report meetings frequently — perhaps every two weeks or so. Make these
report meetings a joy. Use them to uplift people's spirits. Even if things are going badly, find
some good news. Give lots of small rewards. Answer questions. Solve problems.
At the end, gather as many of the volunteers as possible. You may even wish to invite some
How to Get Bigger Donations • 155
of the donors.
Celebrate! Declaring an end is important. Even if there isn't much good news, rejoice
that it is over.
Analyze the results.
N What could be done better?
N Which volunteers would you like to involve again? Which would it be better to quietly
N Which techniques need polishing? Which were good the way they were? Were any too
N What additional research would reveal useful facts?
N “One question may be especially helpful,” Warren Steen writes: “`Which five
prospects who gave little or nothing may be able to make a lead gift in our next
You're now part of the hottest trend in fundraising — the major individual donor campaign.
I hope the advice in this book will make your work easier and more productive. Please let me
know what works for you, and what doesn't. Your success stories, questions and concerns are
very much wanted.
Good luck!
Ken Wyman
19 May 1993
156 • Face to Face
Appendix A: The Webbing
Webbing Exercise
The following process, The Webbing Exercise, was developed by Ken Wyman and Associates,
Inc. Its purpose is to reveal the hidden network of contacts and connections in an
organization: “the people you know that you didn't know you knew.”
Board members, volunteers, staff and administration, each have their own lives away from
your organization and they all know lots of people — more people, in fact, than they ever
thought they knew.
By holding a Webbing Exercise, you can discover who they know. This session gives everyone
a chance to delve into themselves for the names of people they've come in contact with over
the years.
They may start off thinking they know no-one, but names will occur to them during the
course of the exercise that will seem `obvious' in hindsight. People they knew long ago or in
circumstances completely unrelated to your organization may now be in a position to help,
whether as donors or as future volunteers or board members.
Preparing for The Webbing
Webbing Exercise
Who should be invited to a Webbing Exercise?
Select a group of people who care about your organization. You might include present and
past board members, volunteers, staff, participants and people from other nonprofits who are
Ten to fifteen people is ideal. Fewer, and you may lose the `critical mass' to generate
excitement; more, and it can become too big to handle.
How should they be asked?
When deciding whom to invite to a Webbing Exercise, think about who in your organization
should ask that person to participate. People always respond best to being asked to help when
they are asked by the `right' person.
Contact prospective participants in person or by phone.
Invite them to get together (formally or informally) for two to three hours on an evening or a
weekend. Tell them you want them to take part in a fun exercise to help them recall people
who might be able to play a role with your organization. Offer a `reward' of light refreshments
(or a sit-down dinner, if appropriate).
How should they prepare?
Ask participants to look for possible prospects in advance. This is more than just thinking
about names. Encourage them to go through their personal address books, their database or
the rotating card file from their office. They might check old school yearbooks, membership
lists in the congregation where they worship, club membership rosters, and so on.
It would be helpful if they could bring these items with them to the Webbing Exercise. As
new ideas are generated, they may want to refer to these sources. Their notes listing names
will do, however.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 157
Where should a Webbing Exercise be held?
The venue should be familiar and appropriate to your organization and the people you're
inviting to take part. In most cases, it could be done on-site in your group's meeting room (if
you have one). You may want to go to another location:
if you don't have a big enough space; or
for the convenience (and status) of your invited guests.
You may be able to get some space free or at low cost from a community centre, house of
worship, service club, corporation with a boardroom, union hall, restaurant or hotel.
What is the right set-up for the room?
Sitting at tables is better than a relaxed living room arrangement or rows of chairs. It makes
it easier to take notes and interact, while setting a business-like style. If convenient, start with
a U-shaped grouping of tables and chairs.
Ideally, you want to be able to break your group into `working pairs' during the course of the
Webbing Exercise. Once you change to working in pairs, people can simply turn their chairs so
that they are facing each other.
Predetermine who would pair up well, and arrange seating for them. Match people for their
ability to spark ideas in each other, or their similar social or business worlds.
Who should lead a Webbing Exercise?
It's better to have two people as leaders than one. This leaves each free to concentrate on a
distinctive role.
The facilitator actively leads the session, explaining how the exercise is done, and keeping
the participants involved. This person may need to suggest examples, solve problems, and add
energy. You may need to hire a consultant experienced with networking to perform this
important task.
The recorder tracks all the information that is generated. In a large or energetic group, two
or more recorders may be needed to keep up.
The recorders write down the name of every potential donor suggested, and the person who
made the suggestion. Note any other information, too, such as a corporate connection, or a
useful piece of personal information mentioned in passing. (Examples include, “His mother
had a successful kidney transplant”, “Her daughter went to our day care”, “He always
considered himself an actor when he was in school.”)
Later, the recorder will type this neatly, check spellings, and distribute copies to all
Use flipcharts to capture the information during the Webbing Exercise, so everyone in the
room can see the names and refer to the notes. Chalkboards or whiteboards are not as good
because they can get too full, and then key information may be erased. It's also harder to use
them when typing notes.
What supplies are needed?
Provide participants with:
A pen or pencil (perhaps donated, with the supplier's logo on it)
Work sheets for recording suggested names and linkages
A personal Webbing form to be filled out before leaving (see samples at the end of
this section)
158 • Face to Face
A surface to write on (table, desk, clipboard, notepad)
Refreshments (during a break in the proceedings)
Memory joggers:
donor or membership lists from your group
phone books (white and Yellow Pages, perhaps including some from other
Who's Who, The Directory of Directors and other listings of prominent people
concert programs, annual reports and other documents from nonprofits which list
their donors (it is preferable to get them from organizations like yours, but this is not
a random list of well known people from all circles.
Provide the facilitator with flipcharts and marking pens. You should also make up small signs
or flyers identifying areas where names of people can be found, such as Friends, Neighbours,
Place of Worship, Service Clubs, Professions, Associates, Businesses, etc. (see the list at the
end of this section).
Provide the recorder with the materials to record suggested names and the names of the
persons who suggested them in an orderly manner. This is usually done on flipcharts, in group
How to Spin the Web
The facilitator should introduce her/himself and the recorder, as well as any other
participants who should be known to the group. If the facilitator is from outside the
organization, he or she should be introduced by someone appropriate.
With a small number of people, have everybody introduce themselves to the whole group.
With a larger group, have them introduce themselves to the person on both their right and
their left. Have them identify their connection to your organization and their `other' life, ie,
job, clubs. If everybody already knows each other, have them reveal a new fact about their
personal connections, such as where they grew up, went to school, or previously worked. Keep
introductions short, but remember that they are important to the interaction.
The facilitator then explains the purpose of the evening and the format.
Using Preliminary Exercises to Build the Group's Openness
If the group is not ready for comfortable communication, the facilitator can lead an opening
warm-up exercise. This is optional.
Be careful that warm-up exercises don't take too long or distract people from the main
Ice-breaking exercises include:
Celebration: Ask people to complete this phrase: “One of the wonderful things about our group
which might make someone want to donate is…”
Ask the participants to speak their thoughts out loud. This will stimulate others and loosen
up everyone for the next stage of the process.
Be sure to record the best comments and most interesting thoughts for possible use in a
future document, such as a Case for Support.
Connections: Ask people to identify themselves based on common connections. For example,
you might group them based on length of involvement in the organization (perhaps arrayed as
less than a year, 1 to 3 years, 3 to 5 years, 5 to 10 years, longer than 10 years), or on people's
How to Get Bigger Donations • 159
outside interests (particular sports, types of art or music, hobbies). Keep it relevant to your
organization. Don't risk sensitive subjects, at least not at first.
Ask people to physically move into groups, in different parts of the room. When people are in
their groups, they should introduce themselves to others and share relevant information.
Stimulating Ideas by Suggesting Possible Connections
Once everyone is ready to proceed, the facilitator should ask the group to come up with the
names of people they know who might be able to contribute to the organization, as either a
donor or a volunteer (preferably both).
Use a list of categories (such as the ones at the end of this section) to spark ideas. You may
wish to add new categories or remove some to make this fit your unique situation.
Remind everyone to name people with whom they have direct connections, not just names
that participants have heard in the news. It may also be necessary to remind people to focus on
individuals who could give — not corporations, foundations or other institutions.
Ask people to note their connections out loud, to spark ideas in others.
Remind everyone to write down any names that occur. Don't trust anyone's memory.
Call out the first category, and ask if that suggests any possible donors. Move on to the next.
If most people have thought of one or two names after the first category, move directly to the
working pairs. If people need more help, the facilitator should take the group through more
The list of categories at the end of this section is designed to spark connections in the minds
of the people doing the Webbing Exercise.
You may find it helpful to print each category separately on its own sheet of paper or
cardboard. This will help keep people's attention focused on that category. Print in letters large
enough to be read easily across the room.
Working in Pairs
Ask people to arrange their seating into working pairs. Give the duos approximately half an
hour to work together drawing out each other's connections/ contacts.
Each person records the other person's suggested names on the working forms provided.
Encourage them to stimulate their memories with the categories listed at the end of this
Ask them to share the 30 minutes equally if possible. Call for roles to switch at 15 minutes.
The facilitator should move around the room helping those duos who are not doing as well
as the others.
At the conclusion of the half-hour, have a break before resuming the group session.
Group Webbing
After the break, ask participants to share the names the working pairs have identified. The
recorder(s) track both the suggested names and the name of the suggester (for future followup) on the flipcharts so it's easy to preserve the notes.
In addition, track the nature and extent of the actual link. Is the prospect one of the
volunteer's closest friends, or have they barely met? If more than one person suggests the same
name, note both suggesters. Ask which one knows the prospect better. Should they go
Encourage people to interrupt by calling out any additional names they may recall as the
process continues. Tell them not to wait politely, or it might be forgotten. Make sure, however,
160 • Face to Face
that a few people don't dominate, shutting out valuable contributions from quieter people.
If not enough quality names are coming forward, offer additional memory aids, such as
phone books or a random list of prominent individuals. These may spark ideas. For example,
scanning the listings for accountants, doctors or dentists (and so on) may reveal potential
donors. Lateral thinking may draw connections from seemingly unrelated ideas.
The Hook-and-Ladder Squad
If the group has few direct connections with prospective major donors, they may be able to
build them indirectly.
This is called the Hook-and-Ladder Squad because it looks first for a hook — why might
someone be interested? — and then builds a ladder up to them. The connections may be
remote at first, but often one person knows another who knows a third.
Ask who has the best reputation for generosity in your community? Who is known to give to
other causes? Do you know anyone who knows them?
Ask if anyone knows a self-employed accountant who might be supportive of your work.
Research shows self-employed accountants to be the most generous single professional group.
They “give a higher percentage (of their income) than any of medical doctors, dentists or
lawyers although the average income of accountants is lower than that in any of the three
other professions mentioned.”
Ask if anyone knows a farmer. “Farmers, with an average income just under the national
average of all taxpayers, averaged 1.83% (of their income given to charities) compared with a
national average of 0.66%,” according to the same report. By comparison, “employees of
business, who had an average income of $25,167, very close to the national average, gave an
average of only 0.44% compared with the national average donation percentage of 0.66%.”
Ask if anyone knows someone in the insurance business. Every person in the room should
raise a hand. If not, ask how many have insurance. Ask if any feel their insurance agents could
give, volunteer, or lead to other prospects.
Ask if anyone knows a banker. Again, every one should put up a hand. If not ask “How many
of you have bank accounts, mortgages or loans? Now, how many know a banker?” Could their
bankers be helpful?
Ask if anyone knows someone in the auto industry or the gasoline and oil industry. How
many own cars and buy gas? Do they know the name of the person who owns the service
station they use most often? Could they strike up a conversation next time they fill up? Who
sold them their cars? Do they know anyone who is a bit more influential in this industry
because they own a fleet (even a small one) of cars, taxis, or trucks? HINT: In small
communities, consider the city works department as a lead.
Do they know anyone in the restaurant and hospitality industry? If not, could they get to
know the person who owns or manages some of the nearby fast-food franchises, taverns or
Could their doctor, dentist, pharmacist, lawyer or accountant help them meet others?
Where do they work now? Where did they work previously? Could they help make a
connection to people in the company, its customers, suppliers, owners, employees, union
members and so on?
Who are the richest people in town? They may not be millionaires — just richer than others.
Do you know anyone who knows them? Caution: just because someone is rich does not mean
they give to charity. Still, if you have contacts with wealthy people, you should note them.
Be careful that this Hook-and-Ladder Squad exercise doesn't sidetrack the discussion.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 161
Remember to stay focused on major individual prospects. It's easy to start slipping into talk of
businesses, foundations and other institutional donors. While that information may be
valuable, the grant applications and other techniques required to succeed with them are
different, and are a subject for another book.
Identifying Each Person's Five Best Prospects
Before the time runs out, ask if they can each identify at least five people they personally feel
best about approaching. Then ask the group as a whole to identify the five overall top-priority
people for follow-up.
Remind them not to make contacts yet. Further research is required, as well as a training
session on how to ask.
Wrapping Up
Collect everyone's Webbing Exercise forms.
Promise to circulate a copy of the notes from the session to everyone for corrections and
Ask for an evaluation of the session. Then thank everyone, and remind them how valuable
this list will be.
As soon as possible, type up the notes for the evening. Capture as much information as
possible, including the connections between the suggesters and the people suggested.
This list will be used in the prospect research phase, which comes up soon. Record all names,
both suggested names and suggester names. Record them with the surnames first, so that a
computer can sort them alphabetically. Track the links to your contacts as well as the names
stimulated by your Webbing.
Send everyone a note of thanks for participating and encourage them to continue to feed in
names that come to mind after the actual session.
Consider the results of the Webbing Exercise to be an important resource, and make sure it is
The next step is to compile the list of the prospects' names. If you have enough for now, you
can skip the next step.
Forms for The Webbing Exercise
The following pages provide several forms that you may find useful in running your own
Webbing Exercise.
Ask people to fill them out in the group. Don't mail them out and ask people to fill them in
and send them back. Without the group stimulus, people at home may have trouble coming up
with the connections. They also may not get around to it.
For the same reasons, don't have people take them home and mail them back to you later.
They may never do it, despite good intentions.
162 • Face to Face
The Webbing Exercise
Categories of Potential Donors (to Spark Ideas)
Participants may have met prospective donors through…
Accountants (Self-Employed)
Association Members
Automotive Industry
Beverage Industry
Big Companies
Clients or Customers of:
• This nonprofit
• Companies I know
• Others in this field of interest
(e.g. Women, Arts, Health)
Community Leaders
Donors to This Group
Donors to Other Groups
Employers (Past/Present)
Entertainment Industry
Food Distributors/Producers
Hospitality Industry
Land Developers
Local Businesses
Oil and Gas
Older People
People You Met:
• Recently
• Long Ago
Places of Worship
Real Estate
Religious People
Service Clubs
School Friends
Social Circles
Suppliers to:
• Companies I know
• This nonprofit
• This field of interest
Trust Companies
Boldface indicates categories of people whom research shows to be particularly generous.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 163
Key Questions Reveal
Reveal Connections
To jog your memory, here are some categories of people you know who might be potential
donors. This isn't a complete list — just a memory aid.
Fill in names in as many of these categories as possible. Look for one or more names in each
group. Write the names down — don't trust your memory! Say them out loud — you might
spark an idea for someone else!
copyright 1993 by Ken Wyman & Associates Inc.
The Webbing Exercise Possible Prospects
Your Name:
I/my spouse/kids/parents/siblings/in-laws/friends know someone who might donate
generously who…
Type of Contact
G is a millionaire*
G earns $50,000 a year or more
G is very generous to charity
G bought nonprofit tickets from me/us
G was supported by me/us in a fundraising “thon”
G asked me/us to donate to a nonprofit
(and I/we did)
G is very religious
G belongs to associations or social,
sport or service clubs
G is an active volunteer
G went to university with me/us/family/ friends
G went to school (any level) with me/us /family/friends
G lives (or used to live) near me/us
G works with or near me/us
G is a business customer
G is a supplier
G exchanges baby-sitting
G car pool
G had a meal with me/us
G play sports with me/us
G go on vacation with or near to me/us
G is a friend
G did a favour for someone
G received a favour from me/us
G I/we met (on a plane, at a party, in a meeting, shopping)
G is an accountant
G is a doctor
G is a dentist
G is a farmer
G is a lawyer
164 • Face to Face
Type of Contact
G is a real estate agent
G is a pharmacist
G is a restaurateur
G owns a business
G is a corporate executive
G is a retired owner, executive or
G is new in our community
G Others:
How to Get Bigger Donations • 165
copyright 1993 by Ken Wyman & Associates Inc.
The Webbing Exercise Information Form
Use this form to jog your mind about potential contacts. This helps us find out where there are
Please share information about yourself, also. As opportunities emerge, this will make it
possible to match you with prospects based on interests, work, clubs, school, and even religion
and politics.
Because some of this information is personal, we pledge to abide by the following rules of
confidentiality and privacy.
No one you name will be contacted without your knowledge and permission.
No names or information will be shared outside this group, either with other
nonprofit groups or with businesses.
No lists of prospects will be distributed inside this group, beyond those who need to
know. This will only include selected members of the Fundraising Task Force, the
relevant staff person, and the consultant (if appropriate).
No information about you will be shared with anyone who does not need to know.
This will include only selected members of the Fundraising Task Force and the
relevant staff person.
If you still do not wish to include certain information, please skip that question, but
complete the rest of the form. If you wish to share information, but only under additional
conditions, please let us know.
Thank you for your cooperation!
Your name:
Have you ever helped any nonprofit group get a gift of over $500? GYes GNo If yes, please
Please list five or more people, companies or organizations you think can afford to make a
large gift to your organization. These could be new ideas, or names from the master prospect
People I/someone
Comments about who they are
How much
could ask:
or what would interest them:
to ask for:
166 • Face to Face
Community Groups and Clubs
To what community groups, service clubs or social clubs do you belong?
This is confidential information which I am not prepared to reveal now.
I don't belong to any.
I belong to:
Active Connection?
What schools/universities did you attend? What years? Are you active in their alumni
Active Connection?
Where do you work now? Where have you worked in the past, and in what years?
Job Title
Business Connections
Are you, your spouse, family or friends connected to any corporations or other organizations,
particularly those that support nonprofit groups? Which ones? How are you connected?
No connections.
This is confidential information which I am not prepared to reveal now.
I have the following connections:
How to Get Bigger Donations • 167
Are you religious? Do you belong to a particular congregation? Which one? (This may be
useful if we need to match prospects with people of the same religion, denomination or place
of worship.)
This is confidential information which I am not prepared to reveal now.
Not religious.
My religion is:
I worship at:
Other religious connections (spouse, family, etc.):
Are you active in politics? (This may be useful if we need to match prospects with people of the
same politics.)
G This is confidential information which I am not prepared to reveal now.
G Not politically active.
G My political involvement(s):
Which levels?
Additional Comments:
Thank you for this information. It will be kept confidential.
copyright Ken Wyman 1993
168 • Face to Face
Appendix B: The Big Gift Game
A role-playing educational exercise for two or more people
Why play a game?
Each and every person who asks a prospect for a gift should play this game before they
The idea is to have one person practice asking for a donation with another who is pretending
to be a prospect. The asker has an opportunity to experiment with approaches and get direct
feedback on words, body language and procedures.
For people who have never asked for a big gift before, this is an opportunity to shape their
words and test phrases. They can check a real person's reactions without endangering the
relationship with an actual prospect. It is an inoculation to prevent “hoof-in-mouth disease”.
NOTE: This game involves role-playing which is always done in small groups, not in front of
everyone. It is a private process, not a theatrical performance.
Having people watch is too embarrassing and intimidating for many people. Nor does
watching a performance provide as much education as participating. At best, people can see
what someone else is doing wrong. At worst they will try to memorize the good parts of what
they see as if it were a script. Even if that were possible, there is no one right way to approach
a prospective donor.
Each asker must develop his or her own unique style — and that requires practice. A new
orchestra can't perform without rehearsing, no matter how experienced the musicians.
Athletes, even Olympic medal winners and professionals, require a practice session before
playing as a team. Volunteers who will ask for money deserve the same consideration —
especially since the reputation of your organization depends on the words they use.
People who are experienced should take part in the training, too. They will have an
opportunity to further refine what they will say. If they've solicited donations for another
nonprofit, they can learn about the unique aspects of yours and polish their approach. They
can also share their wisdom with those who are new: ask them to play the role of the prospect
and give responses based on real-life experience.
You may encounter busy people who are unwilling to make time to come to the training
session because they feel they already know what they're doing. Often they will attend if you
point out how valuable they can be as co-trainers. This is not just idle flattery — it's true. In the
process, they may also learn (or relearn) important skills for their own approaches.
It is even more important to role-play in preparation for your most important prospects —
the ones who you hope will make truly significant donations. This practice session can make
the difference between a mediocre response and one that is spectacular. Have someone who
knows the prospect play him or her. Have the team that will actually make the appeal practice
their prepared approach. You may even wish to have one or more observers add their critique.
How to Play the Big Gift Game
1. Divide the group into Askers and Prospects. If there are some people who hate role-playing
and refuse to take one of these roles, ask them to be Observers. Play the game in small groups.
Each group usually includes only the Asker (or a pair of Askers), the Prospect (or two
Prospects, if a couple is portrayed), and an optional Observer.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 169
2. Choose characters for the Prospects to portray, based on your real-life donors. If that is not
possible, there are models offered here.
3. Give each Asker, Prospect and Observer an instruction sheet (see following).
Then allow them 5 minutes to prepare. Although this is much less than usually
required, it is sufficient for training.
Make sure the Askers write down the amount they will ask for. Have the Prospects
write down how much they think they would give before being asked. You'll need this
for scoring — and it is good practice.
4. You may wish to begin with a mock phone call to set up the appointment, if your group
requires practice on this. Otherwise start at the beginning of the meeting to ask the prospect
for a gift.
5. Allow about 20 minutes to role-play the appeal meeting. If your training time is limited,
shorten this to 10 minutes. However, make sure everyone knows that a real approach might
take 20 to 30 minutes.
6. After the role-playing, have the Prospects complete their score-cards (see following also).
Then give the Askers, Prospects and any Observers two or three minutes to share their
reactions privately.
7. Then reconvene the plenary session. Ask people to share their scores and their comments
with the whole group.
Begin by having the Askers share what felt good to say or do.
Then allow the Prospects and Observers to note whether they think these overtures
were actually good, and to add any other positive feedback. Discuss these as a group.
c) Then encourage Askers to share problems they encountered, phrases they learned not to
use, or approaches that didn't work.
d) Ask the Prospects and Observers to comment on what didn't work and how to resolve it.
e) Finally, bring up any issues that did not emerge during the discussion.
170 • Face to Face
Instructions to ASKERS
Before you start:
Take five minutes to plan your approach. (You'll need more time in real life, of course.)
Write down how much you will ask for. (This is important in any appeal. In today's
game you'll also need it for scoring.)
Think of several reasons why this person might want to write a large cheque to help
the people you help. This might include personal experience, benefits you can offer,
recognition, your influence as a contact, etc.
Consider any questions, concerns or objections the Prospect might have and how you
could respond.
Jot down any particular points you want to make, phrases to use, or controversial
issues to avoid.
Plan the pacing of your conversation: what you will say first, how you can draw out
the Prospect's opinions, how you will close.
Reflect on any other factors that could help influence the Prospect to give generously
and happily, such as body language, other people involved in the approach,
documentation to share, presentation materials, and so on.
While you are asking:
Note the Prospect's responses — the words he or she uses, what body language reveals. To
get the most educational value out of the role-playing, you may want to stop the action for a
moment from time to time to make notes. Be prepared to share your observations afterwards
about what seemed good to say or do, and what seemed negative.
After the role-play:
Share your observations. Start with a private chat with your partner. Find out whether your
partner agrees with you about what worked and didn't. Encourage your partner to give you an
honest and complete critique. Discuss these points:
How much did the Prospect plan to give before being asked?
Was this more or less than the actual donation?
What did you think was good enough to be repeated in a real-life situation?
What would you avoid saying in future?
Does the Prospect agree with your observations — or did she or he react in a manner
opposite to what you thought?
What tips would your role-playing partner give you? (This includes private advice
that might not be appropriate to share with the whole group.)
Then move to sharing comments with the whole group. This may bring up important points
that others did not consider — or uncover disagreements that deserve debate.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 171
Instructions to PROSPECTS
Before you start:
Take five minutes to prepare.
Write down how much you think your Prospect character might be willing to donate
before the face-to-face request. (This is important — you'll need it for scoring.)
Think of questions, concerns and objections your character might have, or reasons
why “you” might decide not to give.
Consider typical responses for your character — attitude, style, phrases, body
While you are being asked:
Note the Asker's approach and your responses. How do you react to the words used, the body
language, the pacing, and other factors? Prepare to share these reactions at the end.
To get maximum educational value out of the role-playing, you may wish to stop the action
for a moment from time to time to make notes.
At the end of the role-play:
Decide how much your character will give the organization based on this appeal. It may be
zero — or less than zero, if you decide the approach was so offensive you would cancel
previous commitments. It could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars, based on what you
know about the character and the excitement of the approach. (You may even be inspired to
make an actual donation with your own money!) Write down the amount you decide on.
After the role-play:
Share your observations. Start with a private chat with your partner.
How much did you plan to give before being asked?
How much did you actually give?
What did you react well to?
What turned you off?
How did your reactions compare to what the Asker thought went well or badly?
Are there confidential suggestions you need to make, regarding problems with
grooming, hygiene or behaviour? If so, make them now. Remember, this person is
about to become an ambassador representing your organization to some very
important people.
Then move to sharing comments with the whole group. This may bring up important points
that others did not consider — or uncover disagreements that deserve debate.
172 • Face to Face
Instructions to OBSERVERS
Before the appeal:
Take five minutes to plan your approach to this observation exercise. Consider what you will
watch for, such as nuances of language, reactions, body language, things that are not said, and
so on.
During the appeal:
Make notes on the Asker's approach and the Prospect's responses: what words they use, what
their body language reveals. Be prepared to share your observations afterwards about what
seemed good to say or do, and what seemed negative.
After the appeal:
Share your observations with the Prospect and Asker while they share their thoughts with
each other.
You may wish to have a private interview with the Prospect (without the Asker present) to
uncover any additional reactions.
You may also wish to have a private word with the Asker without the Prospect hearing. If
there are confidential suggestions you need to make to the Asker, do it now — such as
problems with grooming, hygiene or behaviour. Remember, this person is about to become an
ambassador representing your organization to some very important people.
Then move to sharing comments with the whole group; this may bring up important points
that others did not consider — or uncover disagreements that deserve debate.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 173
Score Card
To be completed by the Prospect.
Step #1. Points for getting a donation
Give the Asker 1 point for every dollar given.
Step #2. Compare the amount the Asker got to what he or she asked for:
G Less than the amount asked for Deduct 1 point for every dollar under target.
G Exactly the amount asked for Add 1 point for every dollar.
G More than the amount asked for Add 1 point for every dollar over the target.
Step #3. Compare the amount the Asker obtained to what the Prospect was
planning to give before being asked (call this the Hidden Gift Potential or HGP):
G Less than I planned to give before being asked Deduct 1 point for every
dollar under the HGP.
G Exactly what I planned to give before being asked Add 1 point for every dollar.
G More than I planned to give before being asked Add 1 point for every
dollar over the HGP.
Step #4. Give the Asker up to 100 additional points for presentation style,
based on good approach, clever ideas, good answers to questions, etc.
Total Points:
Discuss the score with the Asker.
174 • Face to Face
Characters to Use in Your
Your Role
Role Play
Before you start: Decide together on just one character to try. Take no more than two minutes
to choose!
If possible, role-play a real prospect whom you plan to ask. Use the prospect profile sheets in
this book to give the details. If that is not possible, you may not be ready for role-playing yet.
However, if you are really pushed for time, you can make up descriptions like the ones that
follow on slips of paper and give these to participants.
If that isn't possible, use one of the following fictional characters. Choose the ones most like
your real prospects.
If you are using these fictional characters, facilitators may want to speed up the process of
choosing who to role-play. Instead of showing people the whole cast of characters that follows,
assign roles to specific people. Alternatively, you can photocopy this list, cut the character
cards apart, and let people draw a role out of a hat.
Here are fictional characters for major prospects:
Mary Widow In her sixties; her husband died recently, leaving her well-off. Her kids are
professionals. She's volunteered for various nonprofits over the years. She's re-examining her
life and may go back to university.
Joe College In his late twenties, Joe comes from a well-to-do-but-not-rich family. Mom and Dad
are both doctors. He has displayed real interest in your cause.
Mr. Seymour Bigshaught Owner of the successful company he founded; proud of the way he
overcame his poverty-stricken youth. Mr. B. is married, and has grown kids. He hasn't given to
your organization before, but you often read in the newspaper about his support for highprofile causes. The local hotel and beer hall, The Queen's Arms, is his place. Lately he's fixed
up the rooms and gets a fair crowd during the tourist season. Also owns the truck-stop diner
by the highway. He's probably a millionaire. He's president of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Lots of folks can't stand him — or the cigars he smokes.
Loyolla Donner A supporter of your group for years. Usually gives $125 once or twice a year.
Last year, she didn't give at all, and this year gave only $50. No one knows why.
Mr. and Mrs. Mumanpop Parents of a participant. They care deeply about what you do for their
only child. Mr. M. has a middle-management job at IBM. Mrs. M. used to be a nurse, and now
works part-time in a day care centre.
Dr. Jean Lariviere Child psychiatrist. Sings in the choir, never slows down — always on a
committee, giving a paper, going to the theatre, travelling, or entertaining twenty for dinner.
Yuri Crank, PhD. A member of your board. He has never given financially but “gives his time.”
He's a tenured university professor. You think he's capable of a gift of $500 or more.
Laura Upancomer Fast-rising executive in the marketing department of a major consumerproduct manufacturer. She volunteered to help you publicize your last 10 K Run, but hasn't
given money. She's a member of an elite women's club.
Molly Chung and Chu Wei Chung Moved to town recently and bought the Kentucky Fried
Chicken franchise. Their kids go to the local school, where they work hard and get good marks.
Although you buy chicken from them every couple of weeks, you've never really talked to
them. Nobody you know knows much about them.
R. Max LePage Star real-estate broker in town. Sells more houses than anyone else — sold
yours. Drives a flashy car with a car phone. Works long hours. Type A personality.
Joe Hill and Roseanne Bread He's a union leader, and gives token donations to almost
everything. She also gives small amounts of money and is an active volunteer, well-respected
How to Get Bigger Donations • 175
for her shrewd insights. He may have political ambitions; nobody knows for sure. His union is
a major supporter. We want them to set a personal example in this new area of individual
Chip Silicon He's a businessman, and apparently sympathetic to your group, because he's given
before. Little is known about him. His company is large, and not unionized. Most of his money
is tied up in the business and his mortgage.
Kim Headstrong All you know is that Kim gives you $300 or more pretty regularly.
The Rev. Barbara Philpott Inherited big money from supercapitalist Dad, but turned to
socialism early. Strong views on many subjects. A little too outspoken for the church to give
her a regular posting. Suspicious of people who befriend her just to get at the bucks. Gives
Ralph and Alice Kramden Ralph is a bus driver (and staunch union member). Alice is a
housewife and the smarter of the two. No kids. Although their income is not high, they are not
poor. They have been active supporters of your cause for 10 years.
Ms. Sue Emall A well-known progressive lawyer. She and her partners could give generously,
but seldom actually contribute more than $150. She has been a leader in many causes. One of
her partners is a city council member. Last year Sue made up your will for you, in which you
personally left 10% of your worldly wealth (such as it is) to your nonprofit group. (There'll be
an explosion if she catches the chair of your board telling another one of his “cute” stories to
“the ladies”.)
Ken Adian Owner-manager of the local Canadian Tire. Gave $200 to your group. Also supports
minor hockey, Heart and Stroke, Salvation Army, his own religious group, and numerous other
causes — everybody is after him. He also volunteers at the Lion's Bingo and puts on a clown
suit and make-up for Canada Day picnics. Has a daughter with a learning disability who lives
away, and two older children in high school. His wife Karen is a teacher, and you and she grew
up next door to each other. Any time you ask about a donation, she says “I leave all that to
Hugh G. Ego An intellectual who has held important posts in major institutions. Cares deeply
about your cause. His past gifts have been about one-third of what you'd like to see him give;
but if he joins the President's Circle, it will be influential for others who look up to him.
Meg A. Bucks One of the elite super-rich. She made a fortune with her franchised chain of
stores, where campaigns for various causes are often given a high profile. She's in her late 30s,
very fit and unmarried. To your amazement, the husband of one of your board members can
get you in to see her. She may even be sympathetic. Could give a mega-gift!
Mrs. Daddy Warbucks Aging widow of a wealthy industrialist. Has views of her own —
including support for your group. Bought a ticket and attended a special event you ran, but has
had no other contact.
Old McDonald She has a farm. Chickens here and there, cows everywhere. In her 60s, and can't
keep up with the workload much longer. Has two kids who moved to the city and don't want to
take over the farm. Very religious. Active in conservative politics.
Pete Marwalk-Deltush, CA A self-employed accountant. Treasurer of your board. A real beancounter — always wants to know the numbers.
Polly Scribe Author and media celebrity: magazines, TV, radio. Cultivates air of genial
eccentricity. Passionate about whatever cause she wrote her latest best-seller on. Shows up on
your mailing list with donations of $25 and $50.
“Doc” Johansen Pharmacist in your town for 35 years. Knows everybody — and all their secret
pains. Her store is part of the Shoppers Drug Mart chain, but she owns it independently. She
176 • Face to Face
sponsors a Little League team. She's over 60.
Joe Jaworsky Owns Joe's Esso. Smokes like a chimney. You buy gas from him frequently — and
you know that Frank T. Rucker fuels up his whole truck fleet at Joe's. Joe raises money for the
Easter Seals with Esso's Thankful Tankful campaign each year.
Mary Williams Has a gift shop full of trinkets and collectibles. Does most of her business at
Christmas. Her shop is festooned with plaques and letters of appreciation from every charity in
town! The list says she contributes $25 to the mail campaign every year. Her daughter goes to
school with your children.
Jimmy “The Greek” Fundopolis Owns Jimmy's Restaurant, a friendly family spot where
everybody goes for coffee and lunches. Jimmy also runs the volunteer fire department. He has
quietly bought up a number of small buildings around town. Not rich; lives simply, but is
saving up to retire to a Greek island someday.
Kay Anne Gallagher Proprietor of Kay Anne's Coiffures, the local beauty shop. Does your (or
your spouse's) hair. Friendly, outgoing, a bit of a gossip. Husband is long gone, but she gets
by. Has a window full of stuffed animals.
Edith and Roger Tileman Their factory makes tiles; they've built it up themselves over 20 years.
It now employs 120 people — one of the larger employers in town. All the dust in the air
worries the employees and some get too sick to work, from time to time, but Tileman says they
can't afford to install better ventilation. Roger's not a bad guy; belongs to Kiwanis, plays golf.
He used to be friends with your father. Edith does the books for the company; plays bridge; is
past president of a large religious women's group.
Winsome James Moved here from the Caribbean 10years ago. Runs her own accounting
company, which is prospering. Despite her name — or perhaps because of it — she is one
tough businessperson. Knows a lot about other people's finances. Recently renovated her
house. Very religious, and belongs to a tithing church.
Penny Fountain Penny is always spending on things non-essential. “Why save it for a rainy
day,” she says. “I might not live that long. She reacts spontaneously -- if she likes their looks,
she'll give money to people on the street or to door-to-door canvassers (which is how she
contributed to your group). However, she doesn't always answer her mail, and she can't get
organized. She works for the government lottery corporation giving out prizes. She thinks your
group has a “really neat” poster. Her boyfriend's sister works for your organization.
Phyllis Stein Great patron of the arts, in her own mind. Her husband made a fortune in
property development. She was a lawyer, but now devotes herself full-time to her projects. She
has a membership in your [theatre? gallery? concert series?] and never misses an opening
night. Her largest gifts include $100,000 to a performing arts group, $25,000 to her university,
and $10,000 to the hospital.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 177
Glossary of Terms
active listening The process of making a conscious effort to hear clearly what a person is
saying. It requires the listener to silence the `little voices' in his or her head that prepare
answers to the speaker's comments, or distract attention with stray thoughts. It may require
asking open-ended questions (that is, questions that can't be answered yes or no) to draw out
a person's opinions. Show that you do hear by paraphrasing the speaker's words and asking if
you understood correctly.
BRE business reply envelope, an envelope which the donor can mail without putting on a
postage stamp. Postage is paid by the recipient organization, which has the envelope printed
with a special permit number. Permits are available from Canada Post. The recipient pays firstclass postage plus a small service charge for every envelope returned (except if the donor puts
a stamp on it). There is no payment to Canada Post for envelopes not used; of course, you do
pay the cost of printing the envelopes. These envelopes make it very easy for people to send
costs, direct Obvious project-related expenditures, usually accounted for by cheques, cash
payments, credit card slips, or invoices.
costs, hidden overhead Expenditures usually thought of as core costs and too often separated
from project costs in a category called `administration' or `overhead'. Examples include rent or
mortgage payments, utilities, office equipment, office supplies, telephone, maintenance and
repairs, board travel costs, and so on.
costs, implementation Expenditures that are essential but often forgotten in planning a
budget. For a transportation program, this might include additional insurance for a vehicle,
gas and oil, or maintenance; for a brochure, costs other than printing, such as editing, layout,
proofs, typesetting, envelopes for mailing it, postage, reply mail costs, and so on.
costs, indirect Expenditures often overlooked in budgeting a project, such as a portion of staff
time (particularly for staff not focused primarily on the project, such as a receptionist, support
staff, managers of volunteers, finance, and supervisors).
costs, unit The cost of providing a service to one participant on a particular occasion. It is
small enough to enable a prospective donor to understand how the amount of money they can
give will have an impact, rather than being a drop in the ocean. You can calculate unit costs by
adding hidden overhead, implementation and indirect costs, then dividing by the number of
participants. Divide again by the number of times each participant uses the service. Divide
again by the duration of each use (measured in time or kilometres, for example).
cultivation The process of nurturing the relationship between an organization and a
supporter, by providing information about what the group does, and by showing interest in the
supporter's life.
donor-directed gift A donation made to a specific portion of a non-profit organization's work,
and not to be used for other purposes.
earmarked gift See donor-directed gift.
electronic funds transfer (EFT): See pre-authorized chequing.
every-member canvass or every-member visit A stewardship approach used by many
churches, in which every member of the congregation is visited at home for a personal
discussion, ideally with two other members.
giving clubs Designations (with names such as Benefactor, Sustainer, President's Club,
Chancellor's Circle, and so on) used to encourage donors to upgrade gifts to a specific size.
178 • Face to Face
They may or may not convey any benefits or incentives to give.
in kind Property, goods, services or valuables exchanged or given instead of money. A cattle
rancher who pays his accountant in sirloin steaks is giving payment in kind. This manual
discusses in-kind gifts.
non-profits Non-profit or not-for-profit groups are organizations established to provide a
social service or benefit to clients or the public. They differ from businesses in two respects:
they are not owned by anyone; and individuals associated with them are not permitted to
divide up any share of the money they raise — it must all be ploughed back into furthering the
organization's objectives. (This latter category can cover a reasonable salary or honorarium for
actual work performed.)
Non-profits may also be registered charities, entitled to issue tax credit receipts, but subject to
special Revenue Canada regulations.
participants People who use your group's services. You may call them alumni, audience,
clients, customers, drop-ins, fans, learners, members, parents, performers, players, recipients,
spectators, street-people, students, subscribers, telephone callers, viewers, and so on. For
brevity's sake, I refer to them all as `participants'.
planned giving Donations through wills, bequests, life insurance, annuities, and unusual gifts
of property. They have tax advantages for donors, and may make it possible for people to give
far more that they can when limited by cash on hand.
pre-authorized chequing (PAC), pre-authorized payment (PAP), or electronic funds transfer
(EFT) A system in which money is automatically withdrawn from a donor's account and
deposited in yours without the donor having to write out each cheque. This makes monthly
payments much easier.
prospect A potential donor who has not yet given, or has given smaller amounts but hasn't yet
given a big gift.
recognition An expression of the gratitude of the organization for a big gift, such as a plaque,
a photo, a dinner in the donor's honour, naming a building after the donor, listing the donor's
name in the annual report, and so on.
solicitor The person who asks for a donation. (Not to be confused in this context with
suspect Someone who may become a prospect once research reveals their potential interest in
your work or their ability to give a big gift.
tied aid A donation `with strings attached'. For example, a donor may contribute the funds to
purchase goods on the condition that they be obtained from his or her company.
upgrading The process of asking a donor to give more.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 179
Additional Resources
Arlett, Allan, Bell, Phelps and Thompson, Robert W., Canada Gives: Trends and Attitudes
Towards Charitable Giving and Voluntarism, 1988, The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy,
1329 Bay St, Toronto ON M5R 2C4 Telephone (416) 515-0764 Fax (416) 515-0773
Barfoot, Aubrey, Establishing a Planned Giving Program: What You Need to Know to get
Started, Toronto: The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, 1990. See address above.
Bergan, Helen, Where the Money Is: A Fundraiser's Guide to the Rich, Alexandria, VA:
BioGuide Press, 1992
Conrad, Daniel Lynn, How to Solicit Big Gifts, 1985, Public Management Institute, 358
Brannan St., San Francisco CA 94107 Telephone (415) 896-1900.
Dove, Kent E., Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign, 1988, Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers,
350 Sansome St. San Francisco, CA 94104 Telephone (415) 433-1767 Fax (415) 433-0499.
Available in Canada from Maxwell Macmillan International Publishing Group, 1200 Eglinton
Avenue East, Suite 200, Don Mills, ON M3C 3N1 Telephone (416) 449-6030 Fax (416) 4490068
Flanagan, Joan, Successful Fundraising, 1991 (revised soft cover 1993). Contemporary Books
Inc., 180 North Stetson, Two Prudential Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago IL 60601. Telephone (312)
782-9181 Fax (312) 782-3987. Available in Canada from: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Little, Brown,
195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, ON L3R 4T8. Telephone (416) 477-9700 Fax (416) 477-9179
[note: area code changes to 905 in October 1993]
Flanagan, Joan, The Grass Roots Fundraising Book, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1982. See
address above.
Flanagan, Joan, The Successful Volunteer Organization: Getting Started and Getting Results in
Nonprofit, Charitable, Grass Roots, and Community Groups, Chicago: Contemporary Books,
1981. See address above.
Gurin, Maurice, What Volunteers Should Know for Successful Fundraising, 1981, McGraw-Hill
Ryerson, 300 Water St., Whitby, ON L1N9B6, Telephone (416) 430-5000 [note: area code
changes to 905 in October 1993]
Heetland, David L., Fundamentals of Fundraising: A Primer for Church Leaders, 1989,
Discipleship Resources, P.O. Box 189, Nashville TN 37202 Telephone (615) 340-7284 Fax
(615) 340-7006
Henderson, Lyman, The Ten Lost Commandments of Fundraising, Davis + Henderson's
Bicentennial booklet, Toronto: The Council for Business and The Arts in Canada, 1984
Hunt, Susan and Strand, Bobbie J. Prospect Research: A How-To Guide, Washington DC:
180 • Face to Face
Council for Advancement and Support of Education, 1986
McIvor, Christine, Knowing Your Community and Identifying Your Constituency, Etobicoke ON:
Arts Etobicoke, 1981
Mears, Michael, Fundraising with Life Insurance, Ottawa: Multiculturalism and Citizenship
Canada, 1991
Mirkin, Howard R., The Complete Fundraising Guide, New York: Public Service Material
Centre, 1972
Mogil, Christopher and Slepian, Anne with Woodrow, Peter, We Gave Away a Fortune, 1992,
New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Ave., Philadelphia PA 19143. Published in
cooperation with The Funding Exchange, 666 Broadway, #500, New York NY 10012. Available
in Canada from P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, B.C. V0R 1X0
Nichols, Judith E,. Changing Demographics: Fundraising in the 1990s, 1990, Bonus Books, Inc.
division of Precept Press, 160 East Illinois, Chicago, Il 60611 Telephone (312) 467-0424 Fax
(312) 467-9271
Olive, David, Just Rewards: The Case for Ethical Reform in Business, Toronto: Key Porter
Books, 1987
Panas, Jerold, Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them, Precept Press, 160 East Illinois,
Chicago, Il 60611 Telephone (800) 467-9271 in the US or (312) 467-0424 Fax (312) 4679271). Also available from Hoke Communications, 224 Seventh St., Garden City NY 115305771
Pray, Francis C., Handbook for Educational Fundraising, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Publishers, 1981. See address above.
Quigg, Gerald, The Successful Capital Campaign: From Planning to Victory Celebration,
Washington, DC: Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, 1986
Rosso, Henry A. and Associates, Achieving Excellence in Fundraising: A Comprehensive Guide
to Principles, Strategies, and Methods, 1991, Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers. See address above
under Dove.
Teller, Hanoch, Bridges of Steel, Ladders of Gold, 1990, Philipp Feldheim Inc., 200 Airport
Executive Park, Spring Valley, NY 10977
Williams, M. Jane, Capital Ideas: Step by Step: How to Solicit Major Gifts from Private
Sources, 1979, Fundraising Institute, The Taft Group, 835 Penobscot Building, Detroit,
Michigan 48226 Telephone (800) 877-8238
Wyman, Ken, Planning Successful Fundraising Programs, Toronto: The Canadian Centre for
Philanthropy. See addresses above under Arlett.
How to Get Bigger Donations • 181
Wyman, Ken, The GuideBook to Fundraising for Disabled People's Groups, (available free
from the Disabled Persons' Participation Program, The Secretary of State of Canada, 25 Eddy
St., Room 13A5, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M5. Telephone (819) 953-2680. Specify print or audiotape,
English or French)
Young, Joyce, Fundraising for Non-Profit Groups, 1991, Self-Counsel Press, 1481 Charlotte Rd.,
North Vancouver, BC V7J1H1
Results: The Audio-Visual Learning System That Shows How The Most Successful Volunteers
Raise Money, Third Sector Press, 2000 Euclid Avenue, P.O. Box 18044, Cleveland OH 44118
The Brown Bag Papers, The Grass Roots Network, 64B Shuter St., Suite 200, Toronto, ON
M5B1B1 Telephone (416) 362-2926 Fax (416) 362-8519
The Directory of Directors, Toronto: The Financial Post Company, published annually
The Effective Nonprofit Executive Handbook, Public Management Institute. Distributed by
Third Sector Press, 2000 Euclid Avenue, P.O. Box 18044, Cleveland OH 44118
The Register of Canadian Honours, Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing
Company, 1991
Visiting in the Home: A Handbook for Stewardship Visitors, undated, The United Church of
Canada Department of Stewardship Services, 85 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto, ON M4T1M8,
Telephone (416) 925-5931
Volunteers: How to Find, Select and Train, 1978, the Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and
Recreation, Community Information Services, Toronto, 32 pages (out of print, but copies were
sent to every Ontario library)
Who's Who in Canada, Toronto: Global Press, published annually
Journal Articles
Callender, Marga, Solicitation Calls: A Personal Reflection, (The Nonprofit Times, March 1993,
page28) For a sample copy of The NonProfit Times write them at 190 Tamarack Circle,
Skillman NJ 08558. Telephone (609) 921-1251 Fax: (609) 921-6226
Gattuso, Greg, Newman Swamped with Solicitations, (Fundraising Management, March 1993,
Heetland, David W. How To Build A Major Gifts Program, (Fundraising Management,
September 1992, page35)
Henderson, Emily P., Proactive Prospecting, (Currents, Vol.XIII, No.3, March 1987, page28)
McCuaig, Ian, Fundraising in the Recession, (The Prospect, April 1991, page 4). The Prospect is
182 • Face to Face
the newsletter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives, Greater Toronto Chapter,
15Clarence Square, Toronto ON M5V 1H1, telephone (416) 596)6742.
Jatz, Lee, Motivating the Major Gift, (Fundraising Management, Vol.19, No.6, August 1987,
Klein, Kim, Getting Started in Planned Giving, (Grassroots Fundraising Journal, August 1991,
page1) P.O. Box 11607, Berkeley, CA 94701 Telephone (718) 768-3403
Klein, Kim, How to Establish Voluntary Fees for Service, (Grassroots Fundraising Journal,
August 1992, page3)
Klein, Kim, Keeping in Touch with Major Donors, (Grassroots Fundraising Journal, Vol.6, No.5,
October 1987, page3)
Klein, Kim, Profile of a Major Fundraiser, (Grassroots Fundraising Journal, Vol.6, No.5,
October 1987, page6)
Luck, Michael F. and Evans, Gail A., Making Major Gifts Happen, (Fundraising Management,
September 1992, page29)
Mai, Charles F., Cultivating Major Gifts, (Fundraising Management, August 1991, page56)
Mai, Charles F., Development Success and a Writing Course, (Fundraising Management, August
Marks, Linda, Improving Our Prospects, (Currents, Vol.XIII, No.10, November/December 1987,
Moore, H. Martin, Face to Face Solicitations Yield Dollar for 2.3 Cent Cost, (Fundraising
Management, Vol.14, No.11, January 1984, page50)
Nesher, Aryeh, The Skills Required for Face-to-Face Solicitation, (Fundraising Management,
Vol.15, No.8, November 1984, page18)
Robbins, H. Perk, Eyeball to Eyeball: The Whys and Hows of Personal Solicitation, (CASE
Currents, Vol.VIII, No.9, November/December 1982, page20)
Ryan, Don and Murdock, Richard, Identifying and Nurturing Core Donors, (Fundraising
Management, Vol.16, No.2, February 1986, page21)
Steen, J. Warren, 14 Fallacies of Capital Campaigns, (Fundraising Management, September
1992, page22)
Walker, Robert L., Major Gift: Building an Effective Program, (Nonprofit World, Vol.6, No.4,
July/August 1988, page15)
How to Get Bigger Donations • 183
Whitely, Frank V. and Freeman, Gail L., Raising Big Gifts for Small Organizations, (NSFRE
Journal, Vol 16, No. 1, Spring 1991, page 36)
Whitley, Frank V., The 15 Worst Errors in Community Capital Campaigns, (Fundraising
Management, September 1992, page44)
184 • Face to Face
Evaluation and Suggestions
Your comments on this book will help make future projects better. Please copy this form or
write a note with your thoughts to:
Ken Wyman
64B Shuter Street, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M5B 1B1
(416) 362-2926
What I liked best about this book:
What I liked least about this book:
What I learned from this book:
Ideas in this book led to the following success story:
I/We had trouble implementing the following ideas, because:
How to Get Bigger Donations • 185
If there is a new edition of this book, I'd like Ken to include:
This book would have been better if:
In future educational material, I'd like to see information about (any topics of your choice):
I'd like to have:
G Audiotapes on (topics):
G Videotapes on (topics):
Other comments, suggestions, ideas:
Optional Information (Be sure to send Ken Wyman and Associates your name and address, if
you want to hear of new funding information as it becomes available.)
186 • Face to Face
Postal Code:
How to Get Bigger Donations • 187
About the Author
Ken Wyman has been called one of Canada's foremost consultants and trainers in fundraising,
volunteerism and communication. Dedicated to helping non-profit groups gain access to the
secrets of growth, Wyman has spent more than 20 years adapting proven techniques and
inventing new ones.
Ken Wyman has tested the techniques in this book as a consultant for grass-roots groups with
no staff or office, and for multi-million dollar agencies. The methods work for non-profits that
are controversial or conventional, well connected or seemingly powerless. They work, with
minor adaptations, in the areas of health, social service, culture, sports, environment, religion,
politics, women's issues, and more.
Based in Toronto, Ken has worked from Newfoundland to British Columbia, from the
Northwest Territories to Texas, and overseas: in Switzerland, where he worked with
international non-government organizations preparing for the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development, and in Austria, where he led a seminar at the World Congress
on Business and the Arts.
This is Ken Wyman's fifth book on fundraising. Three others are available free, in English or
French, from the federal government. The Voluntary Action Program of Multiculturalism and
Citizenship Canada publishes the Guide to Special Events Fundraising and Everything You Need
to Know to Get Started in Direct Mail Fundraising. The Disabled Peoples' Participation Program
of the Department of the Secretary of State offers a Guidebook to Fundraising for Disabled
Persons' Groups — a book that has proven extremely useful for many other types of
organizations as well. Planning Successful Fund Raising Programs, Wyman's manual on longterm strategy, is sold by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy.
Wyman has also served on the Board of the Canadian Society of Fund Raising Executives. He
earned their professional designation, Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), based on life
service and written examination.
188 • Face to Face

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