As fundraisers, we are known for going the extra mile to get that big gift. So was the case when I participated in a capital campaign for a wonderful organization. At the time we were working hard and fast to obtain as many big gifts as possible. We had spent several lunches over the course of a year on one particular donor who was older and very friendly with my boss. Over the years they had known each other and supported each other’s causes. On this particular day, this potential donor had come to our lunch meeting prior to a dentist appointment he had made. Upon our arrival, he told us a story of his recent car accident and the resulting missing top teeth from a collision with the steering column. “Oh no…you can hardly tell!” my executive assured him. That wasn’t exactly the truth, but we were on a mission and that was the beginning of the lengths he would stretch to in order to close that gift.
There was small talk and a campaign update, with more investigation on our part as to his intentions. Lunch was served and we all had the chowder, at our guest’s insistence. My boss quickly ate his to get himself back on track to talk more with our prospect. “So, did you love it?” our prospect asked my boss. “Oh yes! Best seafood chowder I’ve had.” What came next was unexpected and a slight miscalculation on his part. After eating half his bowl of chowder, this gentleman scooped, with his own spoon, more of his chowder into my CEO’s bowl. I felt my eyes bulging from my head as I tried to make eye contact with my boss as if it say, “Are you really going to eat that?!” But I already knew the answer, and sure enough without missing a beat, he finished off his newly refreshed bowl of soup.
Unfortunately, the lunch did not end with a gift, and even after comping him to our special event later in the year, we did not ever receive a gift from him. Sometimes no sacrifice or amount of free lunches will move a prospect to become a donor. So be careful how far you bend to get that gift…because sometimes the prospect is just enjoying the attention—and the soup.