Are you ask­ing for gifts per­son­al­ly, face-to-face?

Written by
Simone Joyaux
January 24, 2017

First of all, asking face-to-face in North America is asking for a major gift, not street fundraising. Though many find both equally scary. Asking for a donation in a personal conversation is the cheapest and most effective way to raise money. It is also a marvellous cultivation strategy.

When I was a chief development officer at a theatre company we conducted 500 face-to-face solicitations every year to support its annual operations. About 75 volunteers met prospects and maybe 10 of the volunteers were board members, the rest were theatregoers.

Face-to-face in North America is asking for a major gift, not street fundraising. Though both, of course, involve talking to donors directly. Many find both equally scary.

How do you start this personal approach?

Start small: for example, recruit two solicitors, the people asking, and personally approach five to 10 prospects in total. But do make sure that at least one of those two solicitors is a volunteer. You can be the other solicitor and, of course, your executive director should be one also. So you could actually start with three solicitors – you, your executive director and a volunteer – each with three to five prospects.

Make sure this first personal ‘campaign’ is successful and ask current donors only. Celebrate the success, then increase the number of volunteers who will ask and their prospects each year thereafter.

Celebrate success, then build on it.

Who are your prospects for personal solicitation?

Start with your donors. Review their gift history and explore what you know about them. Decide who might be able to give more than his, or her, 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. I’d start with those who’ve given for five consecutive years or more and would try to find out more 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 organisation.

Getting a date in your diary won’t be as difficult as you think. Donors want to see you to share their ideas, insights and concerns.

Contact them to arrange a personal meeting

Your first job is to get an appointment, which won’t be as hard as you think. Donors actually want to meet you; they want to know how you’re spending their money. They have ideas, opinions, insights and concerns and they want to share them with you. 

Call the donor to arrange a personal, face-to-face conversation. Explain why you want to meet, for example: ‘Hello, Simone. Thank you so much for your investment in our organisation. Your gift makes a big difference and I would very much like to meet you to 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.’

You want to report. You want to ask for a gift. You can also tell the prospect that you want to pick her brain and get her opinion. But you always must say that you want to ask for another gift.

Prepare for the meeting

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

What are the donor's interests and, just as important, what isn't she interested in? 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?

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 her to define the appropriate amount to ask for. Of course, this doesn't mean that this is the gift she will give, but you’ll know you asked properly.

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

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 Ask by Laura Fredricks (Jossey-Bass, USA, 2010). This is a great book. Read Beyond Fundraising by Kay Sprinkel Grace (John Wiley & Sons, USA, 2005), another great book. Visit This new website has valuable tips, unique tools, podcasts and workshops.

About the author: Simone Joyaux

Simone Joyaux

The late, great Simone P Joyaux, ACFRE was described as ‘one of the most thoughtful, inspirational, and provocative leaders in the philanthropic sector’. A consultant who specialised in fund development, strategic planning and board development, Simone guided countless organisations and professionals during her many years of consulting and coaching, teaching and writing. She taught in the graduate programme for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, in Minneapolis, USA. Her books included Keep Your Donors, Strategic Fund Development and Firing Lousy Board Members. As a volunteer, Simone founded the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a social justice organisation. Simone and her life partner bequeathed their entire estate to charity. You can find more of Simone’s writing in SOFII’s Simone Joyaux archive, here

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