August 31, 2015

I first wrote this back in 2008. Wow. 7 years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much change.

Do you solicit charitable gifts – personally – as part of your annual fundraising for programs, services, operations?

If not, start now! If you already do personal, face-to-face solicitation every year, then expand it.

When I left my job as chief development officer for Trinity Repertory Company in January 1988, a major component of our annual fundraising effort was face-to-face, personal solicitation. We solicited 500 individual and corporate prospects by using 75 volunteers to help with the work.

Face-to-face personal solicitation should be the foundation of your annual fundraising program. We all know that this is the least expensive, most productive way to raise charitable gifts.

With key volunteers, I analyzed our donor and prospect database and segment the market. Which donors and prospects would we solicit via mail? Which ones would we solicit face-to-face?

This annual fundraising campaign required approximately 3 months of work.

I recruited team captains who, in turn, recruited volunteer solicitors. My team captains helped me follow-up with and graciously nag the solicitors.

I used the annual report (which I wrote) and a case statement (about our annual programs and services) as resource materials for solicitors. (The Tom Ahern guy we all know and respect now, didn’t exist then. I mean he existed. But he and I weren’t together most of my Trinity Rep days. Most importantly for fundraising, he wasn’t the great Tom Ahern of donor communications.)

The campaign began with a kick-off, mini training, and selection of prospects. Solicitors signed personalized letters requesting a meeting. And off they went, the theatre’s wonderful solicitors. They contacted their prospects personally. Often they had personal face-to-face meetings. Sometimes they solicited over the telephone.

The solicitors secured pledges and reported those pledges to my office. The office sent thank-you letters and reminder notices for pledge payment.

And we repeated this process every year that I worked there. Over and over.

Do it. Do it now!

For a detailed description and materials to use with your solicitors, visit the Free Download Library on this website.

Also look at these useful books: Andrea Kihlstedt’s Asking Styles: Harness Your Personal Fundraising Power. Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops by Amy Eisenstein. And The Ask by Laura Fredricks.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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