As a fundraiser, sometimes there is just not enough time for the job and all the other things you want to do in your life.

What I did have time for was worrying. And telling myself to stop worrying. Again and again.

Why was I worrying?

Last week, we received confirmation that the solicitation meeting was with a key donor – finally! Are you ready?

It was for an ask for a Very Big Gift – the VBG. It happened yesterday.

It doesn’t matter the gift level I’m speaking of… in every development office there comes a time when that VBG – whatever the level for your organization – becomes a possibility.

The cultivation had started well before the current fundraising team we have now was in place. It certainly hasn’t been “text-book” in the moves and cultivation; the initial idea of this “top of the pyramid” gift was proposed to the donor during a conversation nearly two years ago. I won’t – and shouldn’t – go into details, but I do want to share with you my key takeaways from this experience.

  • As a fundraiser, you can plan and strategize and write memos and emails, but in the end, you can’t ensure “perfection.” You can drive yourself crazy hoping for it.
  • You must have confidence in your volunteer solicitor – at some point anything less than confidence in them may scuttle the meeting.
  • The most important thing your volunteer solicitor can take to the meeting is a passion for the cause, a good grasp of the big picture (the vision) and being a donor. This creates authenticity, one of the key building blocks of relationships of any kind.
  • When you hear back from your volunteer solicitor (or after the solicitation meeting, when you debrief), be sure to thank him or her lavishly for her/his dedication and hard work.
  • Don’t rush to point out how it could have gone better. What is the point of that? The meeting is over and now you move forward. The magic happened at the moment for the donor – or didn’t. And when your volunteer solicitor is ready to chat about it some time from now, be instructive rather than destructive in your commentary.
  • Keep yourself positive about the process – even if it doesn’t rub off on everyone around you, you just appear more gracious than those who are negative or fatalistic about the outcome.
  • For goodness sake, don’t be a glory hog. Reflect everything good that happened back on the volunteer solicitor who did the asking and the donor who did the listening (and hopefully the partnering!).

This is the biggest ask I’ve been connected to … and the one I’ve had the least control over in many ways.

As a team prepped and prodded, and I listened and encouraged, and we all did some praying from about every faith angle you can name, including the good old “fingers crossed.”

In this case, the donor asked some good questions and is thinking more about the VBG, about being a lead partner in changing an important part of the world – and that is all we can ask.

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