Crash In Turn One of a Major Gift Cultivation

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“Crash in turn one” – that’s one of those phrases that no race fan wants to hear. At this year’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, it was a crash in turn one of lap one. That means that after spending the month of May getting ready, the 500 mile race was over for one team after less than one mile of driving. This brings to mind a famous quote, “You can’t win the Indianapolis 500 on the first lap but you can lose it.” The whole race is about patience. That has to be hard for drivers who are going 200+ miles an hour. But it’s a long race and in order to lead the last lap you have to get through the first lap.

This philosophy also applies to major gift fundraising. Major gifts can’t be raised the first time you meet a prospect but they can certainly be lost. If you make a misstep on that first meeting, you will never gain the trust of your prospect and never find yourself at the finish line: a major gift. Here’s what a major gift cultivation “crash” looks like:

  • too much talking about yourself or your organization and not enough listening to your prospect,
  • making it all about raising money and not looking for ways to engage the prospect in your organization’s mission,
  • asking too soon.

If there were an announcer in my career, I think that I would have heard those disappointing words a time or two: “Sara Leonard has worked hard to get this meeting and engage this prospect but she has crashed in turn one.” Fortunately I learned from those mistakes. Has this happened to you?

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