coffee and chat

Major gifts fundraising and informal, agenda free conversation

Last week’s article pondered how ‘simple’ major gifts fundraising really is and wrestled with the idea that the title of our new Major Gift training course is perhaps at risk of dumbing down or minimising what is a highly sophisticated profession.


It is my dream to make Major Gifts fundraising accessible to as many charities as possible and to help those new to it to distill it, as far as possible, into some easy starting principles.


The importance of informal, agenda free conversation is one of these principles.

Possibly THE most important principle.

I’ve worked in major gifts fundraising for small, medium and large charities.  I’ve worked on national and regional projects and there is one activity which I believe supersedes all others in great major gifts practice and it’s this:


The power of conversation


The CEO of a charity I’m working with reflected on this very principle recently, just a few weeks after we started to initiate conversations with existing and potential major donors.

He saw the value of:


  • asking strategic questions,
  • being genuinely interested in someone,
  • finding out what makes them tick,
  • recognising that they might be willing and able to help.


It is the same sentiment as was described to me, many years ago, when the charity I was working with started to make baby steps into the world of major gifts fundraising.

We were being led by a new Head of Fundraising who was experienced in this area.

As we went through our (very short) list of potential major donors, her instructions were consistent and seemingly simple:


  • give them a call to say thank you
  • take them for lunch
  • get the CEO to take them for lunch
  • see if they want to meet for a coffee


Although lunches and coffees are tricky at the moment (October 2020 for anyone reading this in the future, I know, I know, I should update my blog more regularly), phone calls are not.


Give it a try:


  • identify supporters whom you believe might be capable of a bigger gift (consistent, long term donors are a good place to start)
  • call them to say thank you
  • ask them how they’re doing
  • talk about your organisation, what you’re working on and how things have been


Can you do this with one supporter, every morning before you open your emails?

Can you do this consistently for two weeks (that’s 10 conversations)?

Don’t get too caught up in the need for an agenda.  A call to check in and say thank you is fine for now.  Your next action can easily be ‘I’ll call you again in a month or so to see how you’re doing’.

At some point, a gem of information / inspiration will strike, and you’ll know exactly how to move the relationship to the next level.

Chances are, it will come from them and not from you.

Informal, agenda free conversation really can be the beginning of something.

Start talking, see where it leads.


major gifts made simple

Our new course Major Gifts Made Simple will be available in Summer 2021.

Click here for more information and to sign up to be the first to hear all about our next launch.


Posted in Fundraising, Major gift fundraising.