Major-gifts officers, and fundraisers in general, need to be a lot of things to be successful at what they do. Let’s take a look at some of the winning attributes of winning fundraisers. The last one may surprise you!

(1) Individuals in charge of fundraising need to be in tune with their NPO’s finances so they can set goals that are strategic, effective and attainable. They need to know the numbers.

(2) Fundraisers need to be able to sell the cause. Donation is a way that people make statements about themselves, and people love feeling connected to a cause. Sell the cause by showing how they can make a difference and the money will follow.

(3) Fundraisers also need to be patient! There’s nothing more demoralizing than hearing “no” over and over again. It starts to get to you. A successful fundraiser puts the last call behind him or her and keeps chugging along.

(4) Fundraisers are persistent! If you get “maybe” for an answer, follow up with those potential donors. You’ll be so surprised how persistence can pay off. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better than the $0 you’ll raise by giving up immediately.

Last but not least…

(5) Fundraisers need to be personable and willing to connect with their donors. Major gifts officers have tons of great stories, especially from making in-person calls with rich potential donors. Check out some of these stories from FrontRangeSource. From getting down in the dirt with the affluential gardener to helping a donor sort through her garbage and recycling, going the extra mile for donors can make the difference between “maybe” and “you’re my new BFF, will $5 million suffice?”

It’s all about making that connection with that donor. It’s about finding out what really fires them up, discovering their passions and making an effort to show that you care. They’ll show you they care in return.

Here’s an example from my personal experience: My freshman year of college I worked as a student caller for our Annual Fund calling alumni, talking about the importance of alumni giving and about my unique experience at my school. At the end, we’d make our ask. One evening I called a jovial gentleman from Tennessee. The subject turned to my area of study, history. Turns out he’s a big Civil War buff, so he started quizzing me on the Battle of Gettysburg. I must have passed his tests, because he committed to a pledge of several hundred dollars.

The takeaway?

You never know what you might end up talking about or doing as a fundraiser. One minute you’re a fundraiser, the next you’re a FUN-raiser. (Get it? FUN-raiser?) Having a broad-base of knowledge and skills (outside of sales), a friendly personality and a willingness to go the extra mile under the assumption that there’s nothing in it for you will take you far.