Want to Raise Millions of Dollars? Create an Efficient Fundraiser

If you had a Swiss Army knife for the perfect major gift fundraiser, the tools in it would include ones for motivation, collaboration, calculation, creativity, and most of all efficiency. With a portfolio full of prospects, a fundraiser must learn to strategize on what matters most – being efficient with their time to determine which of the larger gifts have the best chance of closing. The “efficient” fundraiser succeeds and raises millions of dollars by applying these three strategies:

  1. Focus on top priority prospects
  2. Complete a lot of visits
  3. Make lots of asks

To help fundraisers get organized and stay focused, keep these two tools at the ready: the monthly prospect tracker, and the quarterly review sheet. Both can be used by the individual fundraiser or manager with their direct reports as you will see. 

Monthly Prospect Tracker

The monthly prospect tracker is intended to keep fundraisers focused on their most promising opportunities – or the major gifts that have the best chance of closing in the near term.  They will spend most of their time with these prospects. This spreadsheet will help determine the most efficient path to move prospects through the donor pipeline. By completing the tracker at the beginning of each month, select those prospects with upcoming gifts to close and determine next steps to make it happen.

Instructions to fill in the monthly prospect tracker:

  • Prospect Name: Copy and paste all of your prospects into this column.
  • Solicitation Timing: From the pull down menu, choose if you are going to make an ask this fiscal year or next fiscal year. Aim for 10 prospects for this fiscal year and 10 prospects for next fiscal year. Those prospects without an upcoming ask can be left blank in this column/field.
  • Gift Amount: Enter the amount of the potential gift. 
  • This Month’s Activity: Choose the activity you want to complete this month. This column should be filled in if the prospect has a Current Year or Next Year Ask. Not all of your prospects need this column filled out, but the priority prospects most definitely will! Here are the selections from the pull-down:
    • Call/Email Prospect
    • Visit with Prospect
    • Other Engagement Activity
    • Make the Ask
    • Close the Gift
    • Stewardship Activities
  • Notes: Add specific next steps with your prospect here.

Once completed, sort by the “Solicitation Timing.” This will bring all prospects with an upcoming ask to the top of the list, thus creating a strategy and priority punch list. This prioritization keeps the fundraiser focused on the prospects needing the most time to close a gift in the near term. Do this at the beginning of each month to help plan and execute an action plan of activities in the weeks ahead.

Quarterly Review

The quarterly review is a snap shot of a fundraiser’s progress in terms of metrics and asks. This is a great exercise for managers to review regularly with their direct reports or for a fundraiser to do themselves to make sure they are on track with visits and upcoming asks and closes. By completing this report quarterly instead of only once or twice a year, a fundraiser can determine more regularly where they are and where they need to be. This document contains the following information:

  • Commits metrics: how much money you have closed in the current fiscal year.
  • Visit metrics: how many visits you have completed in the current fiscal year.
  • Major Gift Asks: number of asks you have competed in the current fiscal year.
  • Major Gift Closes: number of major gifts you have closed in the current fiscal year.
  • Asks to be made this quarter: prospect names and ask amount(s) you will make in the upcoming quarter.
  • Asks to be closed this quarter: prospect names and ask amount(s) you will close in the upcoming quarter.

Not everyone starts out as an efficient fundraiser, but with the right set of tools, successful strategies can be learned. Use these two tools to help outline a map to determine the best, and most efficient path to more major gifts.

What’s Your Value Rating to Your Prospect? Here’s How To Increase Your Number!

People are just plain busy again – especially those high net-worth prospects you are trying to court. It can be challenging, even frustrating, to get any response from your requests, right? Keep in mind, your prospects have lots of competing priorities, none of which may include you. What will it take to make you stand out and get noticed? Your value to a prospect is vitally important and can make all the difference. Check out these tips to help you move the needle on your value-meter. You’ll not only demonstrate your worth so you can close “the ask,” but you’ll build a lasting partnership that will benefit both you and your prospect! 

Alumni Introductions 

Networking with fellow alumni can be a great asset to a prospect. Let’s be honest – successful alumni like to meet other successful alumni. A simple introduction on your part can open the door for your prospect. If your university has an alumni engagement network, encourage your prospect to check it out. Use any/all social media platforms, especially LinkedIn to make those connections. Your prospect will appreciate the time you take to help facilitate new connections.

Faculty Introductions

Likewise, with faculty. Make an introduction with key faculty that are conducting research or have an expertise in an area that is of interest to your prospect.  It’s a great opportunity for that faculty member to become a trusted advisor not only to the prospect but potentially to their company as well. Your introduction could also lead to joint research projects, laboratory usage, advisory board participation, or even strategic meetings with the senior leadership of your university.

Relevant Articles and Resources

Get to know your prospects. Read up on industry trends and company articles. Do your homework. The time you invest in educating yourself will increase your value to the prospect. If your university magazine features an article that might interest your prospect, send them a copy – especially if it’s related to new research development in the industry. You’ll impress your prospects by showing your interest in their business, perhaps even developing future collaborative ideas that could mutually benefit their company and your university. It’s another great way to increase future engagement opportunities and distinguish yourself from other competing fundraisers.


Who doesn’t love a perk? Consider inviting your prospects to campus to be your guest at high-profile university events. Free tickets to sports events and other university events will go a long way. Don’t forget to check for other local events happening in closer to them if they are out of state. Demonstrate you were listening to their interests. They’ll appreciate the effort you show. Be creative.

Student Recruitment 

Every company would love exclusive access to your pipeline of talented students to recruit. If your prospect’s company is in the market to recruit for co-ops or to hire top-talent, be sure to inform them about special events such as career fairs, hackathons, student competitions, and keynote speaking engagements. Hosting a company on campus is a great way to increase their branding on campus and in the community. Company recognition also goes a long way. It’s a win-win for you and your prospect.

If your prospect has a positive affinity to your university, that’s step 1. But there’s more to building the relationship than that. Your value can’t be only lip service. It’s like your credit score…a good number can signify that your finances are on the right track. The same concept applies for your prospects. By investing in building the relationship, your value and trust will increase. The result? Those major gift conversations will become easier…and they will get back to you. Ready to move your needle?

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new case studies and articles:

Have You Used the Deadline Card to Close a Major Gift?

Rarely when a major gift solicitation is made does the donor immediately make the commitment. While your donor considers the ask, the process can seem to drag on while you wait…and wait for the decision. How can you speed up the process and close more major gifts? Simple. Deadlines are the answer – your magic remedy. A date-sensitive scenario can create a sense of urgency for your donor. The key benefit of deadlines is that they can prompt people to take action in a timely manner, and reduce the likelihood of procrastination!

Here are some examples of creating deadline scenarios:

Event Announcement

Events are always a perfect time to announce big gifts. It builds excitement. If you have one coming up, encourage your prospect to make their commitment before the event. It’s a win win for the donor and the event. Ex. “The Mumford Summer Gala is next month, we would really like to announce your professorship gift at this premier event. This would highlight your generosity and help encourage others to give.”

Matching Gift

A matching gift challenge campaign is just what it sounds like: A challenge is given to donors to raise a certain amount of money, with a matching gift component, by a certain amount of time. Those challenges start at a particular time and may have a limited deadline. If your major gift donor is a potential target to lead a matching gift challenge, share the deadline and the impact their lead gift will make. Ex. “We are launching a matching gift challenge in three weeks. Your gift would be the match to jump start the campaign and encourage others to give as well.”

Board Meetings

If your prospect is a member of a board at your university and you have an upcoming meeting, offer to use this time to announce their gift at that meeting. Ex. “If you are able to make this gift in the next two weeks, we would like to announce it at the next Board of Trustees meeting. Your gift would be an inspiring example to encourage other board members to consider a gift as well.”

Scholarship Timing

Scholarships are typically given out prior to the fall semester in order for students to calculate their financial packages. Ex. “Please consider making your scholarship gift before July 1st. This will ensure that the student will receive it for the fall semester. Your investment will make a tremendous impact on the university and our ability to provide bright and deserving students access to a transformative educational experience.”

Leadership Meeting

If you have an upcoming internal meeting with university leadership, leverage that to your advantage. Prospects appreciate being made to look good, especially in the eyes of the president. Ex. “I have a leadership meeting next week with the president to update him on fundraising efforts and it would be great to let him know your gift is happening.”


Fundraising campaigns have set goals and ending dates. As the ending date nears, encourage your prospect to be the donor that helps to push campaign over the top. Ex. “Booking your gift before the Mumford University campaign ends will help us be successful in reaching our goal. We are only $250k away from the goal. Help us pass the finish line!”

Program Support

If the major gift supports a program that starts at a specific time, be sure to highlight that information. Ex. “Mumford University is in need to secure these funds before January 1st. Without them we may not be able to offer the 2022 Summer Bridge Program that will impact more than 100 students.”

Faculty Support

If the gift supports a faculty or staff position, stress the urgency that the recruitment process needs to start immediately. Ex. “With your gift, we can begin the process of recruiting and acquiring the best faculty/staff before other universities make an offer first.”

Deadlines. After all, your donors can’t meet one if they don’t know about it. Use them to your advantage!

Feeling Ghosted by Your Prospects? Try These 7 Crafty Techniques to Get a Response!

Major gift fundraisers know that we are not a top priority for our prospects. We are competing with their own priorities – job, family, hobbies, and other organizations they may support. It can be quite challenging even to get a response from a prospect to secure a visit. Here’s how you can avoid being ghosted. Persistence and creative messaging will make the difference. The goal is getting a prospect to open your email. Here are 7 crafty techniques to add to your fundraising arsenal:

Faculty and Staff

Most likely, the faculty and staff at your university have the best relationships with alumni. They can be a great asset and resource. Use them! Collaborate, communicate your strategy, tap into their expertise, and gain their trust. The time you invest in cultivating this relationship is time well spent when they provide you with some solid leads. Share the name of the faculty/staff member in your email. It actually works when you put their name in the subject line. (Ex: Dr. Stephanie Dorado gave me your name…)

LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn is another great tool! If you are connected with a prospect on LinkedIn, check out your mutual connections. These connections can be another enticing way to capture your prospect’s attention – not to mention a great conversation starter once you do.  (Ex: “I see you are connected to Robert Danforth. I had lunch with him last month in Austin.”)

Archives Excavation

Most universities have an archive of photos, yearbooks, etc. This is a great resource. Nothing warms an alum’s heart more than receiving a photo of themselves in their college days. Add it as an attachment in your email request. They’ll appreciate the time you took to find and share the photo. You’re bound to get a response after you have taken them down memory lane!

Student Accomplishments

Photos are great, but so are awards and accomplishments your prospect may have received as a student. Same idea. Check into the prospect’s history. If you find an accomplishment – send an email and give them a shout out! For example, if an alum still holds the record for most points in a single season for the basketball team, send them the list of the top ten. Or, if they won a major academic award as a student, send them an archived article about it. Again, the idea is to prompt a response – and it will!

Honest Approach

Most prospects think that all we fundraisers want to do is ask for money. Sometimes just being genuine and honest in your messaging will get a response. Be upfront – let them know that although fundraising is your job, you won’t be asking them for money in this first visit. Your mission is to listen and discover what the prospect is passionate about and what future funding opportunities they may be interested in supporting. Honesty will get you far – isn’t that what they say?!

In the Press

Keep your eyes on the news. If you see/read about an alum, an alum’s company, a community award or other accomplishment, this is another great way to connect with your prospect. Sending a simple message referencing the news piece shows your interest. And, who doesn’t like to get a little recognition and acknowledgement. Sharing good news goes a long way! (Ex: “always good to see our alums doing great things.”)

Drop Off a Gift

Be aware of your donor’s recent giving history. Personal notes aside, what about dropping off a gift or token of appreciation? Reach out to your prospect and let them know you’d like to meet to drop off a gift for their recent donation. Easy visit confirmed!

Sometimes initially not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck. Be creative – and crafty.

Enter your email to receive notifications of new articles