The Advice Visit: Best Way to Open Door to a Major Gift Prospect

Has this happened to you lately?

Your donor says, "I'm to busy to see you now."

Your donor says, “I’m to busy to see you now.”

Here you are, sitting at your desk with your major gift prospect list in hand.

You’ve allocated time this morning to get on the phone and set up some appointments with some of your key supporters.

You want to visit with them in person.

And you want to use the visit as a prep to a larger ask.

Because you know that face-to-face visits are the most important cultivation tool available to you.

What happens when you try to set up face to face visits with major gift prospects?

So you get on the phone, cheerfully calling and asking for a few precious minutes of your wonderful donor’s time.

And this is what you are getting, over and over:

“I’m too busy to meet with you – call me later.”

  • “I love your organization and I’m supporting you guys.   Since I’m already giving.  Spend your time on someone else.  And call me after I get back from my next trip.”

Gawd, it’s so frustrating!!

How on earth are you going to cultivate this donor if you can’t get in the door to see her?

There goes your goal for a certain number of major donor visits a month.

It’s particularly discouraging when donors you know personally won’t give you an appointment.

Those are the ones who will cut you off quickly because they know you, and they probably see you often.

So it’s even harder to get them alone to chat privately.

The key to getting in the door: Ask for advice.

Ask your donor for advice, and he’ll be more willing to visit with you.

You probably know one of my favorite sayings:

“If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, then ask for money.”

I’ve written extensively about the power of advice visits:

You can call the donor and say, “I have an idea up my sleeve and I want to bounce it off you.”

Or try, “We’re thinking about an interesting project and I want to pick your brain about it.”

If the donor knows she gets to do the talking, then she’ll visit with you.

And this saying is all about listening, listening to the donor.

Your donor will see you IF SHE KNOWS she gets to do the talking, not YOU!

Your donor will see you IF SHE KNOWS she gets to do the talking, not YOU!

It’s about letting the DONOR do the talking. (I know it’s hard but you’ve just gotta do it!)

Also, your donor won’t see you if she thinks you are a boring person. : )

See my very popular – and funny – post - The Fundraiser’s Kiss of Death.”

Remember that fundraising is not all about you.

It’s actually about engaging the donor, pulling the donor out, finding out what turns your donor on, and fanning that flame of whatever passion they have.

I was coaching a fundraising colleague in Raleigh last week on how to get in the door.

She was having a difficult time getting meetings with major prospects.

She told me she was calling them and saying, “I’d like to come by and tell you what my organization is doing.”

Well, no wonder the donors were avoiding her!

A busy, important person does not want to sit quietly and receive a lengthy presentation from a junior person.  They simply won’t do it.

I suggested to her that she try:

  • Advice Visits.
  • “Thank you visits.” These are very powerful!
  • “I’d love to hear why you gave” visits. Or “I’d love to hear your story.”
  • Or, bring the CEO of her organization with her to make the visit.
  • Or, get an introduction from someone else to pave the way for a visit.

“I received an unsolicited $10,000 challenge gift in an advice visit!”

Another colleague and client, Linda Frenette, Executive Director of the Community Music School in Raleigh, wrote me recently with this amazing story:

  • “I had an “advice visit” today with a very prominent woman in the community who on the spot offered a $10,000 challenge grant!!
  • “What’s even more amazing is that she would not even schedule the meeting until she told me and my board member that her foundation had no money to give us!”

Wow, wow and wow again.  This just happened late week!

Bottom Line:

Donors are tired of being “presented to.” They want to engage with you, not listen to your verbiage.

Try Advice Visits with everybody. They work!

I have raised a TON of money with this approach.

How have you used this strategy?  How has it worked for you?

Our Next Major Gift Workshop Will Focus on Prospecting and Getting that First Visit

Also, if you want to ramp up your major donor effort and bring in more of those wonderful, sought-after major gifts, you might want to join me for my workshop next week on Wednesday, June 26:

How to Discover and Get In Front of Big Money Major Gift Prospects for YOUR Cause

Even if you are a small organization, short on time, hamstrung by conflicting demands, you can still land major gifts - you just have to be focused and organized.  

And you will get lots of tools and coaching on how to get that very first visit with your donor.

I have tons of templates, worksheets and a detailed agenda that you can check out here.

Join us if you want to raise big money for your cause!


  • Janice Gouldthorpe

    This was great. I have so MANY ideas for which I need advice! And countless possibilities for who I can now call on!

  • Claire Axelrad

    Absolutely works! Has always been my go to strategy. Everyone loves to give advice. :-)

  • gailperry

    Hi Claire! Yup- it is a wonderful door-opener!

  • gailperry

    Janice, thanks and I have to tell you that I’ve raised a TON of $$ with this line of questioning!

  • Kay

    Thank you Gail! I find your tips so helpful … and this one about the “Advice Visit” is particularly encouraging.

  • gailperry

    Thanks Kay! Give it a try and you’ll even find that they are enjoyable!

  • Daniel N. Stinson

    Great article, and I agree I’ve gotten lots of meetings set up through advice visits. My question is how do you transition into an ask from there?

    Do you make an ask during that meeting? Do you follow up wit an ask through email/phone call? Something else?

  • gailperry

    HI Daniel, I wouldn’t make an ask during that meeting. Consider it a “get to know you” warm up discussion. I might deliver an oblique ask, such as “is there any chance YOU might be interested in supporting this?

    Then if the answer is yes, you can explore the donor’s specific interest and then ask for a specific amount.

    You could followup with an ask via email or phone call. BUT better yet, get back in front of your donor and ask in person. If she saw you once, and if you were likable and interesting, then she will probably be willing to see you again.