Let's review six best practices for writing a major gift proposal. First, personalize the language. Asking for a major gift is a delicate task. Even to your wealthier donors, the size of a major gift is significant, and warrants careful consideration and thought. Because of that, your prospects need very specific customized solicitations to get them over the finish line. Nothing will turn away your prospects sooner than an impersonal approach. That starts with the letter's salutation, and builds through the various language within the proposal. Imagine someone asking you for a major gift and addressing the letter with a generic, "Dear donor" or even worse, what if it said, "To whom it may concern?" When you cultivate a major gift donor, you spend plenty of valuable time with them with the targeted aim of getting to know them better, and helping them understand your organization and your mission. If you don't use that information during your proposal, you're letting it go to waste. Open with a direct address, to not only the donor's name, but the donors preferred name. Is this the kind of donor who prefers to be formally addressed as Mrs. or Mr.? Or is this the kind of donor that immediately asked to be called by their first name? What about a Richard who goes by Rich? You'll learn all of that, track it in your donor database, and put it to good use when it comes time to write up the proposal. Lead with a compliment in gratitude. You want to open by thanking the donor for any previous gifts and or involvement with your organization. Many times major gift prospects have been flagged to strong candidates from their spots in your donor pool. Donor loyalty is a major giving indicator, and frequent past donations are markers of donor loyalty. With that in mind, there's a good chance that your major gift prospect will have already contributed to your organization in some regard, prior to even starting the major gift solicitation process. Acknowledge the prospect's past actions, and compliment them on the good work they've done. Prospects will be much more receptive to an ask if it follows a genuine acknowledgement of their prior philanthropy with your organization. Why would they make bigger contributions, if you don't even appreciate their previous gifts? If a prospect has never contributed to your cause before, you can still be complimentary of their giving behavior. You aren't pulling these major gift prospects out of thin air. Inherently, a qualified major gift prospect has a philanthropic history, even if it isn't with your organization. Make the case for your cause. At this point in the process, the major gift prospect is probably very familiar with your organization. You've already given the prospect the background on your nonprofit, its mission and the specific work you're doing. While the prospect was learning all of that about your organization, your major gift officer should have been concurrently discovering where the prospect fits within your nonprofit's mission and service. Once you know a prospect's interest and charitable propensity, that should guide the case for your cause. This part of the proposal is essentially your chance to demonstrate how your mission and your prospects interests align. Present all the options. You can't look at a prospect and proclaim, "You must give X amount to the general fund or donate Y amount to this brand new program we're launching next spring." Donors do not want to be and should not be told what to do with their hard earned money. You can guide them with how you present the options, but you need to give prospects a selection to choose from. In this step, you'll summarize the various programs and efforts that are in need of assistance. Make a recommendation. Now is the time to lead the prospect to the program that would be the most beneficial for both them and your organization. It's also the time to make the direct ask. Your ask should detail exactly what the donor would need to do. Explain the program the donor would be funding in an accessible and highly descriptive manner. Answer why this particular program requires this particular gift. Be as explicit in your answer as possible. Tell the prospect some variation on, "We need X for Y program, so that we can accomplish Z together and prevent M." Between your research on the prospect and what you've learned during cultivation, your ask will be well informed, and should be the best option for the given circumstances. Be confident in that and provide the prospect with all the necessary information to make such a decision. Explain the impact of such a gift. Discuss it hypothetically in terms of what this particular prospect's donation could do for the program at hand, and then provide examples of other situations in which your organization has made great strides in the past. Use these other success stories to give authority to your statements that the funds you're asking for will help accomplish your next great organizational accomplishment. Major gift prospects are at this point in the process because they are interested in the work your organization is doing, and want to be part of that work. It's your job to assure them that their gifts will actively make a difference for the better. To really emphasize the importance of your request, focus in on the impact of such a gift. A few other helpful thoughts when it comes to your writing style. First, consider using will instead of would. The former helps the donor envision what he or she has made possible, and lets them know you are committed to the project. Clearly, if the project is one that will be carried out only with the donors backing, the latter might be more appropriate. In some other cases, the conditional would might fit your tone or purpose better, but in general, opt for the more decisive and conclusive will. Secondly, choose active verbs over nouns. Instead of saying, "Your past gifts are a demonstration of your unwavering support for the college's mission and vision." Try, "Through your gifts, you have demonstrated unwavering support of our college's mission and vision." Instead of, the new classroom will stand as a tangible reminder of the value the university places on students," try something like, "The new classroom underscores," you could use the term demonstrates, highlights, shows or testifies too here if you'd like. The new classroom underscores the value of students at the university. Note that both revived sentences are shorter than the originals, which is also a further benefit. Third, beware of using nouns to modify other nouns. When a reader comes across the sentence such as, "Your gift will help us build a new plant protein deficiency abatement system that will benefit malnourished children in Africa." The initial reaction is likely to be, "Huh?" The confusion is because you have a string of things. Plant, protein, deficiency, abatement and system that modify and add to or change the understanding of other things. Rewrite such sentences, even if it requires more words. Your gift will help us provide protein bars to malnourished African children, is a better example. Finally, use adjectives sparingly. What happens when you read, Dr. Fisher's technological breakthrough has precipitated the development of a previously unimagined, unprecedented and revolutionary new way of communicating wirelessly. This unwieldy string of adjectives, unimagined, unprecedented, revolutionary and new is not only redundant, but also likely to put your reader to sleep, and erode your credibility. Now that your proposal has been written, you can start the proofreading process. You should plan numerous and harsh revisions. Write your first draft just to put some flesh and muscle on that suitable design we've discussed. Don't distract yourself with worries about how elegantly you are writing. Read that draft aloud and perform a keyword search, and you may find that you have overdone it in some parts and brushed past others. Interruptions while you were writing your first draft may have caused you to echo convenient words too often, repeat whole phrases monotonously, or even say some things twice. Fix all of that and you have completed your first revision. Store your draft in your computer for a few days, longer even if your schedule permits. When the heat of creation has dissipated, letting your judgment somewhat cool, review what you wrote. Check out the way it hangs together. Does it tell your story in a logical manner? Cut out any items that lead to nowhere or lead somewhere you don't want to go. That's your second revision. The next time you look at your draft, you would do so with only one purpose in mind. That is to get rid of words that aren't carrying their weight. Needless words will bog you down. Here's an example of what I mean by omitting needless words. Let's look at this first example. If you were to write, "Unrestricted endowment funds given by generous alumni and friends will provide steady flexible and highly valued support to the college. The lack of rigid restrictions upon private support would allow the college to build, develop or maintain critical areas central to its educational mission." So looking at that, it doesn't look all that bad at first, but at second glance, in nearly four dozen ill chosen words, what it's really saying is this, unrestricted endowments are highly valued. They let the college build or maintain areas critical to its mission. Some of your associates probably believe every word they have written is untouchable. Lead by example and be tough with your own copy. This will complete your third revision. Polish it and eliminate any drab words that came to you so easily. Keep in mind however, that you are writing in order to convince, not to parade your vocabulary. Keep an eye out for jargon or use of a passive voice. Writing with an active voice, makes sentences move more briskly. Another advantage, the active voice nudges you in the direction of a more direct style. It requires you to find a subject who or which is causing whatever happens. If the passive voice is used, many pages can be covered without a real person or a concrete cause ever being revealed. Finally, perform a spell check but do not rely on it completely. Remember, spell checks only check spelling, not context. You may have spelled they're correctly, but should have used their. Only you can read those words in context to make sure your usage is correct. So now our proposal is all done and we can move on. So finally, at this point, you are ready to do the ask. And actually, it's the best part because this is where you look the donor in the eye, and propose something that will bring him or her tremendous joy and fulfillment. That is what we will be discussing in our next module.