How to Use a News Story to Support Your Major Gift Ask

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By Richard Perry

Below is a perfect example from our colleague Diana Frazier on how she advised a major gift officer to use a news story to support a major gift ask. I am going to explain exactly how it happened so you can copy the idea for your situation. The entire exchange below occurred over five days.

Step No. 1: Find a News Story to Use

The MGO is working with a donor in which the conversation between the MGO and the donor has “trailed off.” Something needs to be done to get it back on track. So, Diana gives instructions to the MGO to take a news story and contextualize it to the work the organization is doing. The MGO finds a news story.

Step No. 2: Present It to the Donor

The MGO sent an email to the donor. Here is what that email said:


I hope all is well and that your seedlings are growing beautifully.

When I saw this story about a fire in a large, public orphanage in [COUNTRY], it stood out as a direct testament to why we do what we do to keep kids safe in small private homes in [COUNTRY]. The story about a recent fire that now puts the death toll at 40 is a graphic and horrible reminder of just how vulnerable these children are. I’ve included a link below.

A facility built to house 500 was pushed beyond the limits to an estimated 800 at the time of the fire. Conditions were so bleak, children tried to escape to avoid the abuse that takes place.

This is beyond heartbreaking. We know only too well from our work in [COUNTRY] that our two private homes are all that come between safety and tragedy. The difference between the lives of our 100 children, and the over 800 warehoused in horrific conditions in public orphanages, is stark.

Full story: [LINK TO NEWS STORY]

I would love an opportunity to sit with you to discuss your partnership with [ORGANIZATION. You asked me if I could use additional funding. My resounding answer is yes. Our homes are in need of more resources. It is difficult, if not impossible, to say no to a child who comes to us in the night. We know, only too well, the inhumane options that face these vulnerable little souls.

I’m in [TOWN DONOR LIVES IN] often. Let’s set up a time to exchange ideas.

Thank you for all that you have done.



Step No. 3: Wait for Reply From Donor

Here is the actual reply from the donor:


Thank you so much for reaching out to us. My wife and I have been talking about getting in touch, but things can be busy. Yes we are “all in” on supporting [ORGANIZATION]’s efforts in [COUNTRY]. We can meet in person or just talk on the phone. We would like to help [ORGANIZATION keep moving forward on this in a way that is both measured and sustainable but also impactful.

Perhaps we can talk on the phone this week? The best way to reach me during the day is my cell phone as I am working at the farm.

Looking forward to talking with you,


Step No. 4: MGO Responds

The MGO called the donor as requested and was prepared to discuss the impact of program, measurement of results, sustainability of what the program does, explaining the full cost of the program (including overhead from headquarters), current funding from a few key couples, funding from an annual appeal letter, a few other designated gifts and the gap that then is pulled from the operational budget.


In this case, the donor committed to $75,000 this fiscal year AND a seven to 10 year commitment to sustain the program!

You can copy this strategy and the sequencing of events exactly as Diana has laid it out for the MGO. It may take more time between steps. Or there may be questions the donor asks that need your answers. But the core idea is still a good one, which is to use a story or article in the news to support what you are doing. Try it.

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