• Dr Samantha Hardy

How to Guarantee Meetings with Philanthropists

A fundraiser meeting with a prospective major donor

I want to explain why I LOVE gift agreements and why you should too. (In short, they force you to meet your donors to demonstrate the impact you are making and this, in turn, helps you nurture your next big gift).

The more you meet with your donors, the stronger your rapport (assuming the meetings go well and are of value to the donor), the higher your chances of securing repeat gifts (considering you ask at the right time and in the right way).

However, it's hard to get meetings with some donors! I have refused hundreds of "let's have a coffee" requests over the years.

You need to have an authentic reason to meet. A pre-scheduled impact update as part of a gift agreement is one meeting request that's hard to turn down! 

The 'gift agreement,' 'grant contract' or 'pledge agreement.'

Here is how philanthropists are advised to structure their donations. There are four phases, with the last being the formalisation of a 'gift agreement':

1. Undertaking issue research

2. Identifying potential partners or 'grantees'

3. Undertaking 'due diligence' to assess potential grantees

4. Formalising any resulting gifts in a 'gift agreement,' 'grant contract' or 'pledge agreement.


I love gift agreements because they provide you with ongoing opportunities to demonstrate your impact and then build strong and enduring relationships with your most important donors. 

Some donors, such as large foundations, may require this step as part of their gifting process but others may not. 

Why you should consider using gift agreements

If they don’t, here is why you should consider developing gift agreements with your top donors:

*Gift agreements provide you with an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with your funders (and they can save your relationships them when things go wrong!). Everyone involved in a gift agrees on the exact amount and designated use of the donated funds. This process then protects you from donors seeking to widen the scope of a funded project, and it protects your donor's funds from being used for other purposes. (I have seen how the original intent of gifts can 'get lost' inside bureaucracies over time, especially when leadership teams change. Gifts can sit dormant in accounts or boards may seek to spend donations in different ways as circumstances change). 

*All parties agree to a series of reporting requirements. This aspect of a gift agreement presents you with an excellent opportunity to stay in regular contact with your donors about the progress and ongoing impact of your funded projects. I recommend you commit to offering substantial annual impact reports that you tie to planned disbursements of funds over a period such as three years. I would also write in additional informal impact updates and meetings every quarter. You have now pre-scheduled regular opportunities to meet and impress your top donors! 

In my experience, few non-profits make the most of the opportunities presented by gift agreements. Those that do go on to secure repeated and more substantial gifts (and they then use the money to make a much more significant impact on the world). 

My gift agreement checklist

I suggest you avoid drafting an actual agreement in the first instance and instead approach your donors with a list of issues for discussion, ideally in a face-to-face meeting. (Remember, you want as many face-to-face meetings as possible to strengthen your rapport with your donors). 

Here is my list of issues to clarify or confirm: 

* The source of the donation. Examples include a direct personal contribution, a charitable foundation, or an alternate philanthropic vehicle.

* The form of the gift. Cash, securities, or assets such as art, real estate, or intellectual property. 

* The purpose and use of the grant, including any restrictions, related performance milestones, and spending guidelines if circumstances change in the future. 

* Payment terms and dates, including any matching challenge requirements. 

* Commitments related to recognition and privacy. 

* Investment instructions for endowed funds. 

* Agreements on reporting on program impact and investment performance. 

* Whether or not the gift is legally binding on the donor, the donor’s heirs, and executors. 

* Dates and signatures. 

When you have discussed and agreed on this information, you can work with their lawyer (or yours) to create the agreement document.

Do you use gift agreements in your non-profit? Do you or your donors initiate them? Have I missed anything on my checklist? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Do you want to know more about how to fundraise from major donor's perspective? Get my FREE guide: 10 Proven Fundraising Ideas to Secure Major Gifts from Philanthropists


PO Box 739

Woy Woy, NSW 2256




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