Using Cultivation to Achieve Solicitation Success

By: Jenna Archuleta, Major Gifts Officer  

You’ve accepted the position, taken the training, and are ready to call your first major gift prospect. You review your research on the individual and begin dialing the phone. And then, you decide you need to think about it a little before you make the call. Hours turn to days, which turn to weeks and months that go by without you calling. “ What am I waiting for?” you ask yourself.

All fundraisers have been in this situation. But, with proper preparation, soliciting a major gift can be a simple, enjoyable experience.

Solicitation is the third of the four-step fund-raising process of Identification, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship. All steps are important, but many new major gift fund-raisers make the mistake of starting with solicitation. Measuring success in major gifts is very different than annual giving. With annual giving, success is measured when donors give money.

With major gifts, success can be learning about the donor’s family, educational background, or favorite Rotary project. Cultivation is the key to any successful major gift solicitation. Cultivation involves gathering information via insightful questions and thoughtful consideration of donors’ goals. Cultivation often starts with a request to have coffee.

Rather than requesting a significant gift right away, get to know your potential donor. What is special about Rotary for them? Why have they made charitable gifts in the past? What is their personal, professional, and Rotary history? What causes do they care about?

In these first meetings, do more listening than talking. Connect around shared Rotary passions if possible. As you get to know more about your potential donor, work with your major gifts officer to develop a customized cultivation strategy for each potential donor in your portfolio. Keep in mind that the major gift fund-raiser’s role is to use your meetings, phone calls and other communications with this potential donor to develop a Rotary relationship.

The success of your cultivation depends on asking for the right gift amount, for the right program, at the right time. The time is right for solicitation when your conversations and research have provided enough background to know that now is a good time for the donor to give, you have a mutual understanding of which programs or projects the donor is passionate about, and you have enough information to know an appropriate gift range for which to ask. When the time approaches for you to make a solicitation, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Acknowledge the donor’s past Rotary service and leadership.
  • Show Rotary Pride – for example, show your shared, personal interest in Rotary’s outstanding service projects around the world
  • Be considerate by asking for consideration – don’t begin the conversation with the question, “Will you give a gift”, start instead with “Will you consider making a gift?”
  • State the specific amount you are asking for them to donate.
  • State the specific designation such as a particular area of focus or a fund.
  • BE QUIET (let the potential donor speak first)

Prepare for your solicitation meeting by writing out what you plan to say and rehearsing it aloud. Common errors of major gift solicitation include:

  • Talking too much
  • Sounding cold or inconsiderate
  • Using words like “should” and “ought”
  • Asking apologetically or with embarrassment
  • Breaking eye contact
  • Rushing the ask
  • Breaking silence too soon after the ask

If you have done your homework and followed all the steps above, your solicitation is successful. Carefully cultivating your donor and learning more about their background and charitable goal will help you align his or her goals with the available giving options to create an enticing solicitation the donor will gladly fund. If you focus on cultivation, successful and simple solicitation comes naturally.

If you’re still a bit nervous about cultivating your first potential donor, watch these solicitation role-playing videos to learn some tips:


A New Fund Development Strategy

EMGA_Monteau_MichelWritten by Michel Monteau, endowment/major gifts adviser, Zone 11 & part 20B

Greetings from France!

In my role as an endowment/major gifts adviser for The Rotary Foundation in France, I found that many of the strategies and guidelines provided during our training were difficult to implement in my region. I worked with my RRFC and his assistants to develop a regional strategy that is more effective for our region.

First, we identified the main cultural challenges in my region:

  1. Relationship between the French and money in general: In France, money is considered a private matter and it is somewhat taboo to talk about finances with others. Donors give very discreetly and publicly displaying that you are a donor is poorly perceived. Additionally, there is a strong tie between giving to public funds and community service.
  2. Tax code: Contributions made to the Foundation in France, and in many parts of Europe, are not tax deductible. Therefore, donors give to those non-governmental organizations which have the tax deductible accreditation. It is even trickier when you are proposing a Bequest as the French law provides descendants with right to a minimum share of an estate.
  3. Rotary giving culture: There is currently no established culture of individual contributions to the Annual Fund in France. Contributions are given by clubs, recognition programs are not popular, and public recognition events such for such things as Paul Harris Fellows or Major Donors are not very frequent or public.

All of these challenges make it very difficult to find a Rotarian who is ready to become a major donor. For the E/MGA, this made me ask the question: how can I be efficient? Here the strategy I have been using for the past eighteen months:

  1. Promote small individual gifts by encouraging clubs to register member contributions as individual contributions.
  2. Encourage Rotarians to become Benefactors and Paul Harris Society members.
  3. Promote individual gift history as a long term investment.
  4. Work with district leaders to make sure that major gifts information reaches every club member.

I work closely with the RRFC and his team of assistants to make sure we are supporting each other’s efforts. We work together to share information jointly through mailings and during training events. Since July 2014, we have secured two major gifts, four new level-1 donors and worked with a donor to increase their level of contributions. This may be just good luck but I think it has a lot to do with our strategy which we will continue developing and refining during the next eighteen months.

Happy holidays!

Team photo_GROUPEDHappy Holidays from the Regional Leader Support team!

This holiday season we are especially thankful for you, our dedicated regional leaders and assistant coordinators whose passion for Rotary and diligence in the field furthers our impact in communities worldwide.  Because of your efforts, we are better positioned to increase our membership, be recognized publicly for the work we do, and strengthen our Foundation.

Your Evanston support team is looking forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays. Over the next few weeks, members of our team are travelling around the world and the country to visit family and relax. Please be patient with us as our response time may be delayed.

Based on your first quarter reports, we are amazed by the outstanding communication and outreach efforts in each of your regions. As a regional leader group, you gave approximately 1,200 presentations, an increase from last year of 17 percent, on topics including strategic planning, Rotary grants, Rotary’s endowment fund, End Polio Now, and Strengthening Rotary.  More than half of you used Facebook to connect with Rotarians in your regions.  Regional leaders continue to use webinars and/or videoconferences to reach over 2,500 Rotarians, a 40 percent increase from last year. Additionally, almost 40,000 Rotarians received updates and expert advice from your newsletters, an increase of 60 percent!

Thank you again for the work you do on behalf of the organization and Rotarians around the world.  You are all champions of Rotary.

Best wishes for the holiday season, and Happy New Year!

Securing support for The Rotary Foundation from corporations and local companies

By Greg Stowers, district Annual Fund subcommittee chair, Zone 26

This Rotary Foundation month, explore some fresh, new ideas about ways to raise money that doesn’t involve nagging all your members. Today I want to talk to you about considering “Other People’s Money” – specifically gifts from corporations and local companies.

The following are some ideas for attracting corporate donations or donations from local companies:

  • Leverage your contributions by engaging your company’s workplace giving program.  When you make a gift or volunteer, many companies will match it with their own donation to Rotary.  Visit to see if your company has previously given to Rotary.  If they haven’t, be the first to ask your HR department about your company’s workplace giving program and double the good you do!
  • Show a possible corporate donor how Rotary projects achieve sustainable results. For example, our projects provide micro loans to women or provide computer-aided-learning to young adults with a guarantee that the majority will be employed at the end of their schooling.
  • Consider offering a publicity opportunity to a local company or corporate donor. Offer ways for them to turn their donation and the results achieved into a business story.
  • Appeal to a donor’s personal interests by connecting the product the company makes to the results achieved. For example, if a firm creates software, it could contribute to a district or global grant which sponsors a scholarship for students majoring in Computer Science. If a firm manufactures water filtration systems, it could contribute parts to a water project in Kenya or Honduras which can provide training and jobs to the local population.
  • Almost any economic and community development effort will trigger related activities, improving the local economy beyond our initial efforts. Secure joint promotion from one of your donor’s trade journals and make sure everyone in their industry knows about these activities. This type of publicity is free and can have wide-ranging impact.

Too often, when we ask corporations or local companies for a contribution, we talk about the good things that the donor’s money will do for those in need around the world, but fail to connect how a corporation or local business can benefit from this relationship.

Learn more about Rotary’s Workplace Giving Programs.

Keep in mind that if a corporation contributes to the Annual Fund, your club receives recognition credits AND it increases District Designated Funds, so that you can do larger, more impactful programs, in line with your donor’s mission.

Recognition points exchange leads to an increase in donations

At the 2014 Institute, regional Rotary Foundation coordinator (RRFC) Todd Lindley gave a presentation about using resources, such as reports, on to achieve success in the field. During the presentation, he mentioned using an existing Rotary report, the Club Recognition Summary, to locate large collections of unused recognition points. Rotary Foundation recognition points are awarded to donors who contribute to The Rotary Foundation through the Annual Fund or PolioPlus. Points are also awarded to donors who sponsor a portion of a Rotary Foundation grant. The Club Recognition Summary report provides club and district leadership with the recognition amount, Foundation recognition points, current Paul Harris Fellow (PHF) level, and date that PHF level was achieved for club members in their area.

Incoming RRFC Carol Govers was reminded of a recognition point exchange that occurred in district 9100, located in West Africa. District leadership took advantage of unused recognition points and exchanged them to match contributions in the region. This provided incentive for donors to contribute more and get more points, bringing them closer to becoming a PHF. Govers had more than 100,000 unused Rotary Foundation recognition points. Lindley and Govers connected after the presentation and Govers talked about the recognition points exchange that had occurred in district 9100 several years earlier. The impact on giving to the Annual fund was significant and they agreed to test out a similar strategy in one of Lindley’s districts as a way to encourage donors to contribute to The Rotary Foundation.

Lindley started a matching points exchange in a district in his region that needed some additional incentives to increase their annual giving. From 1 April to 15 May, donations $100 or more to the Annual Fund in that district could be matched one to one with Rotary Foundation recognition points. The district raised approximately $50,000 in Annual Fund contributions and the program was deemed a success. Govers and Lindley are sure that this practice could be used effectively in other parts of the world. In 2014-15, another district in Lindley’s region will be participating in a points exchange from 1 September to 15 October. Based on the success of the first matching points exchange, Lindley and Govers are confident that this model will succeed in increasing contributions.

To implement this in your region:

  1. Train districts on how to use reports – from running the data to analyzing the results.
  2. Use the Club Recognition Summary report to locate collections of available recognition points in your region.
  3. Talk to district leaders about how they can effectively use these points to engage members and encourage contributions.
  4. Reach out to recognition points owners about contributing their unused points to boost their club or districts giving to the Annual Fund.

Would this be an effective fundraising tool in your region?

Learn more about gifts to the Rotary Foundation and Foundation recognition on