3 big reasons why nobody talks about the single most important fundraising tactic on earth

Let’s jump right in….  The single most important fundraising tactic on earth is appointment setting. There! I said it!

Don’t believe me? The late Jerold Panas agrees with me. In is top-selling book Mega Gifts, he pointed out, “It is a plain fact of fundraising that it’s often far more difficult to get an appointment than the gift.” He continued by saying, “Getting the appointment is 85 percent of getting the gift.”

Plus, remember, we’re talking about major gifts and legacy gifts here and, if you’re like most organizations, that’s where around 90% of your revenue comes from. So that’s where you should be focused. But that focus will run into a dead-end if you can’t land the meeting.

Agree? I bet you do! But, sadly, hardly anyone ever talks about appointment-setting in the sector.

I’ve never seen a conference syllabus include a discussion on the topic. No webinars either. No books too. But if you want to learn about how to write grants or send out more junk mail, you’ll find plenty of that everywhere you look.

So why isn’t anyone talking about best practices for setting up meetings with major donor prospects and legacy donor prospects? I think there are 3 big reasons:

  1. Void. Hardly anyone really knows how to do it well. I believe that’s because hardly anyone teaches fundraisers how to do it. Plus, even most consultants aren’t very good at it.
  2. Vicious cycle. Since the educational void exists, the result is a vicious cycle where people in the sector ignore the topic, like an elephant in a room.
  3. Temperament. Many people in the sector are simply not cut-out for the role. They fear embarrassment or failure. They don’t see the calls as offers and opportunities served up for donors. Instead, they see them as interruptions and annoyances. This is partly because they haven’t been taught properly. But many, no matter how well they are educated, will still cringe as they imagine themselves making calls to people they do not know well.

How to set appointments. 

If you’ve heard my story (which you can read in my book), you might remember that I first got into professional sales at the age of 14. Back then I learned that the only way to sell anything of serious value was to get face-to-face with a prospect.

So, I walked up and down the streets of my neighborhood knocking on doors and ringing bells asking anyone who opened their door if they wanted their car washed and waxed.

That was my first business! By getting face-to-face, my batting average was pretty good.

I later sold advertising space by walking into retail stores at strip malls and asking for the owner or manager. My next gig was at an ad agency (Pallace Inc.) that focused on direct mail marketing for nonprofits in the D.C. region. We had one computer in the office that everyone shared to type and print out personal letters. My job was to generate new business. In order to get face-to-face with prospects downtown, I made cold calls to set appointments for meetings using the telephone. I figure I made about 30,000 cold calls in those days and I kept track of my “moves” with four-by-six-inch index cards and a pen. There was no internet and no email. That was back in 1994.

Times are different now.

Your supporters use several channels to engage with your cause. Some prefer direct mail or email while others want you to text them.

Plus, there’s A LOT more noise, especially for wealthy people.

If they’ve got capacity, they are on everyone else’s radar too. Not just yours. So, they know how to hide and they are particularly good at ignoring your outreach.

But you can still win!

It IS possible. You CAN set appointments with highly qualified major donor prospects (and legacy donor prospects). But you’ve got to do it the right way. Here’s some content that will help you:

A blog post about engagement calling

A free report about engagement calling

A free webinar about engagement calling

Another free webinar on the topic led by a fundraiser 



Related Posts:

>>Cold calling major donors to arrange appointments doesn’t work – but this method does
>>Here’s a job description for a major gift or legacy gift lead outreach associate

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Laura A Waller
Laura A Waller
2 years ago

Absolutely spot on, Greg! Thank you for the free offers at the end of the blog post.
I’m one of those rare birds that actually loves “cold” calling – that’s because everyone I reach out to is actually warmed up. Some of them quite a bit. They are so warm, in fact, that I usually have targeted a specific value or specific problem that I can speak with them about on the first call. Gets the trust and openness going right away. Using the Engagement Fundraising fundamentals gets them talking to me before I even call so I land a lot more first face-to-face appointments. And the industry average 6-12 meetings needed to close a solid, secure, well-defined PG goes way down to 3-6.

Claire Axelrad
2 years ago

Greg, I talk about this ALL the time! Articles (both on my blog and as guest pieces for other blogs) and free webinars. Because, I too, agree it’s critically important. You can tune in to a webinar on the topic here: https://clairification.com/proven-strategies-get-major-donor-visit-register/.

I love teaching folks in the sector how to do this well. One rule: No cold calls. Warming folks up in advance is pretty much a condition of making a call to set up a donor visit. So using engagement tools, as you preach, first is essential. On the same page,

Get smarter with the SmartIdeas blog

Subscribe to our blog today and get actionable fundraising ideas delivered straight to your inbox!