Bright Spot Fundraising

Tried and tested fundraising techniques
that help you raise more money.

The psychology of confidently asking for a HUGE gift

jackpot-1198050_640-1For over a decade I have been interviewing fundraisers who consistently achieve extraordinary results – I’ve found this is the most reliable way of discovering techniques that actually work rather than just sound like a good idea.


One of my favourite interviews was with Victoria Stephenson, Head of Philanthropy at UNICEF UK. To give you a sense of why I was keen to interview her, annual major donor income has grown by more than 280% since Victoria started managing the team in 2012.


In my interview we discussed one very wealthy donor in particular, who had initially made a gift of £40,000. Eighteen months later they made another gift – £4 million.


Victoria and her team worked hard to steward the gifts, reporting on the incredible impact that gift had made to the lives of children and families in one of the poorest parts of the world.


Then comes the interesting part. There was a discussion within UNICEF as to whether the donor ‘had done enough’ or if not, how much to ask for next time. Most people felt that if another gift was to be sought, then around £4m would be a fantastic result. What would you have said?


Victoria was convinced that the right thing to do was to seek a larger investment. Critically, she stuck to her guns in arguing this case. Would you?


She got her way, and presented the donor with the exciting chance to fund £15 million worth of life-changing support to children and families. The donor was delighted to say yes, and thanked her for the opportunity.


What can any major donor fundraiser or director of fundraising learn from this story?


  1. Victoria repeatedly said that it was never about the money. She was inviting the donor to help make a particularly exciting project happen which would transform lives. The issue was the project, not the price tag.
  2. Let’s acknowledge how difficult it can be for people who work for charities to comprehend the financial mind-set of the super-wealthy. Your financial thermostat – what feels comfortable – is likely to be set differently.
  3. Focussing on ourselves or our beneficiaries, we can forget that giving makes people happy. The rich person interviewed at the end of the Secret Millionaire programme (when they are £50,000 poorer) is always happier than at the beginning. This is obvious but so often over-looked by fundraisers who talk as if the gift opportunity is Beneficiary Win / Donor Lose, whereas of course it is Win / Win. ‘Why would we not offer someone an even better, more exciting opportunity?’
  4. A major part of the major gift fundraiser’s job is to educate your colleagues about what is possible and how the process works. Don’t be cross if they don’t get it. Of course most won’t, initially. Expect that and get skilful, creative and determined at helping them see things differently.

Condition your thinking so that thinking BIG is easier


One of the best solutions to these problems is to expose you and your colleagues to real stories of fantastic fundraising success.


But beware, don’t fall into the trap of focussing only on what seems easier for the fundraiser like Victoria who succeeded. By envying the brand or resources that appear available to the other charity, you take away your own power.


Study and share these examples to help you learn at both a conscious and subconscious level that enormous gifts and partnerships are possible. With the right tactics, why shouldn’t they happen for you? One participant on the Major Gifts Mastery Programme told me that listening to my interview with Victoria on the World Class Fundraiser’s Edge CD made her change her mind about how much she should ask her own donor for. She had been planned to ask for £2m, but instead dared to opt for £5m.


The donor said yes, and made the single largest gift that the organisation has ever received. By shifting her own financial thermostat and her beliefs of what was possible, she increased the size of the gift by three million pounds. Let’s be clear, if we are to improve our ability to raise money for the causes we serve, we must not only improve the key skills, we must also study examples that expand our belief of what is possible.


On November 29, 2016 / Uncategorized

Client Testimonials 
‘What I love about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is it’s so practical. I’ve seen loads of monetary value come from what we learned, including a gift of £200,000 from a trust that came about because of the learnings in the course. If you want to raise more money, I’d urge you to do the Programme.’

Paul McKenzie, Head of Major Giving and Corporate Partnerships, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Rob's outstanding pitch training helped me secure a partnership worth £380,000 over three years. One of the crucial things he helped me do was to better understand the psychology of who I needed to convince, and use this to craft my influencing strategies, structure and stories to help them say YES. If you need to win more partnerships, I would absolutely recommend you get on Rob's training.

Karen Arkell, Senior Officer, Corporate Partnerships, Teach First

'We recently had a pitch we just had to win. I'm absolutely clear that what we learned from Rob helped us get the deal, which is a partnership that's going to raise £1 million. Rob is better at helping you influence your donor to get the gift than anyone I've met.

Ben Swart, Head of Corporate New Business, NSPCC

Rob's exceptional training has taken our programme to the next level. One example was a colleague re-connecting with a lapsed donor on the phone, resulting in a £100k+ gift; his first in four years. I would absolutely recommend Rob's training programme as an invaluable investment for any fundraising team.

Victoria Stephenson, Head of Major Donors, UNICEF UK

Following the course, Major Gift Fundraisers at the NSPCC increased gift income by 29%

Citation by UK Skills National Training Award

We're currently involved in our largest ever Campaign, with a target of £500 million, so we've invested in the best training available. Rob's courses have been an essential part of our annual King's Knowledge learning programme for the last five years, because he continues to help us get outstanding results.

Gemma Peters, Director of Development, King's College London

I’ve found the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme hugely helpful already. It’s helped me in so many ways, but as an example, I applied one of Rob’s pitching techniques and it completely wowed the panel, and has resulted in a partnership worth over £100,000.

Kieran Cornwall, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

I was on the pitch team to win a partnership worth £1,000,000. I was determined to pitch to the best of my ability. Rob helped me present with confidence, persuasiveness and enthusiasm, enabling me to connect with the pitch panel – and we won the partnership.

Kirsty Lawson, Corporate Account Team Manager, (Head of) at Alzheimer’s Society

Rob showed my corporate fundraising team lots of excellent new business strategies. The techniques made a made a MASSIVE difference to our financial results, including helping to win a partnership worth £2 million

Jess Coombs, Head of Corporate Fundraising, Teenage Cancer Trust and formerly at Action for Children