Are You Soliciting Gifts Personally, Face-to-Face?

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Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.


Face-to-face solicitation is the cheapest and most effective way to raise money. Face-to-face solicitation is also a marvelous cultivation strategy.

When I was a chief development officer, the theatre company conducted 500 face-to-face solicitations every year to support its annual operations. About seventy-five volunteers took prospects. Maybe 10 of these solicitors were board members. The rest were theatre goers.

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So what are you doing?

Start small: for example, recruit two solicitors and personally approach 5 – 10 prospects total. But do make sure that at least one of those two solicitors is a volunteer.

You, of course, can be the other solicitor. And, of course, your executive director should be one solicitor. So you could actually start with three solicitors and 7 – 15 prospects. The solicitors are you, your executive director and one volunteer. And you each take 3 – 5 prospects.

Make sure this first personal face-to-face solicitation “campaign” is successful. Ask current donors only. Celebrate the success. Then grow the number of solicitors and prospects each year thereafter.

Who are your prospects for personal, face-to-face solicitation?

Start with your donors.

Review their gift history. Explore what you know about them. Decide which ones might have greater capacity than their current gift level. Maybe a personal meeting will generate increased interest. Typically, the personal, face-to-face conversation and request produces a larger gift.

Look at your most loyal donors.

Focus on donors who’ve given for multiple years. I’d start with donors who’ve given for five consecutive years or more. Explore what you know about them.

I don’t care how much they give each year. It’s loyalty that matters. These individuals deserve a personal, face-to-face conversation with representatives from your organization.

Contact them to schedule a personal meeting

Your first job is to get an appointment. This is not as hard as you think. Donors actually do want to meet with you. Donors want to know how you’re spending their money. Donor’s have ideas and opinions and insights and concerns. And they want to share them with you.

Call the donor to schedule a personal, face-to-face meeting. Explain why you want to meet.

For example: “Hello, Simone. Thank you so much for your investment in our organization. Your gift makes a big difference. I would very much like to meet with you and tell you how we’ve spent your money. I want to share with you the impact of your investment. And, I would also like to talk with you about your next gift.”

Say something like that. You want to report. You want to ask for a gift.

You can also tell the prospect that you want to pick their brain and get their opinion. But you always must saythat you want to ask for another gift.

Prepare for the meeting.

Decide who is meeting with the prospect. Is this a team solicitation, e.g., two people will meet with the prospect? Is this a solitary solicitation, just one staff person or one volunteer?

What are the interests and disinterests of the prospect? Which emotional triggers work best with her? What are key topics to talk about? What will you report? What will you ask? What stories will you tell?

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How will you manage the conversation? If there’s more than one solicitor, who will say what? Who will actually ask for the gift?

And finally, how much will you ask for? What is the appropriate gift request? You don’t want to ask too high or too low – because both suggest disrespect for the prospect. You should know enough about the prospect to define the appropriate amount to request. The prospect may not give this, but the request is appropriate.

Remember this solicitation mantra: The right person asking the right prospect for the right project at the right time in the right way for the right amount.

Resources for personal, face-to-face solicitation:

Visit my website, Click on Resources and visit the Free Download Library. You’ll find various handouts there.

Read The Askby Laura Fredricks. This is a great book. Read Beyond Fundraisingby Kay Sprinkel Grace, another great book.

Visit This new website has valuable tips, unique tools, podcasts, and workshops.