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How To Get An Email Intro With a Major Gift Prospect (15-Minute Hack)

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Mar 30, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Finding Major Gift Prospects

Welcome to another part in our "How to Wow a Donor in 15 Minutes" series! Today we're talking major gift intros.

The other day, I read a post by the fabulous Gail Perry on how to score a meeting with a major gift prospect. Gail is great at offering actionable advice for fundraisers, but this list caught my eye:

Here are five quick tips to help you get that very first visit:

  • Try to meet the prospect somehow at a social or civic event and introduce yourself.

  • Find out where he or she has coffee in the morning, and "gently stalk him or her."

  • Does the prospect belong to a certain club or organization, where you can manage to "run into" him or her?

  • Does he attend the ballet, local theater, local ball games or his child's soccer games? Those are great places to manage to meet him.

  • Get your board member to invite her to your gala or some other social occasion. It's always wonderful to have someone else open the door for you.“

Now, I have no doubt that Gail Perry could pull this off with ease. But I’m trying to imagine what I would look like attempting to gently stalk a wealthy, successful individual at a coffee shop…

Awkward donor meetings


For me personally, I need a bit warmer introduction than that, preferably by email. But finding a connection point and email contact for a major gift prospect isn't always so easy.

The Email Intro Hack

Luckily, there are mountains of information and contact methods available to you on the social web. It just takes some digging...

Step 1: Find them on LinkedIn

Look up your prospect on LinkedIn. Most of the time, you can do this relatively easily with just their name, but if they have a common name like “Josh Smith,” you might have to do some extra work.

  • Do you know where they live? Filter your results by that city.

  • Do you know what company they work for? Search for that company’s page, then click “How you’re connected” to see a list of their workers on LinkedIn.

  • Do you know their industry? Filter your results by industry.

If you have a premium LinkedIn account, you can actually message anyone, even without a connection. You’re good to go!

Step 2: Look for Top Level Connection Opportunities

You’ve found their LinkedIn profile. Now you need to find a connection point.

Do you have any connections in common? If you do, start there. Email your shared connection, ask how they’re connected, and (if appropriate) if they’d be willing to give you an introduction.

Where did they go to school? Same place as you? Show your school spirit! Invite them to an alumni networking event, or just mention your shared alma mater in your first contact.

Step 3: Find Their Website

Alright, here’s where we’ve got to start doing a little bit of online creeping. You need their email address to reach out, but this isn’t always easy to find.

First, you need to see if they have a personal website. Look them up on Twitter. Does their profile contain a link to a blog? Go to their blog and check out the “Contact Me” page. If you’re lucky, you might find the address there, but more often than not, you get a dreaded contact form (arrgggg, I hate contact forms). If you’re trusting, try filling out that form. If you’re like me, you don’t trust that they’ll actually respond to those, so you move on… the footer! You’d be surprised how many times people list their email address in their footer, but not on the contact page.

No luck there?

Step 4: Visit their Work... Website

Thought we were about to take the leap into full-on stalking, didn’t you?

No, we’re just going to peak around their work website. Take another look at their LinkedIn page at their current employer, and take a trip to their website’s “About Us” section, and look for some staff profiles. There’s a good chance you’ll find their email address somewhere on there.

Still no luck?

Step 5: Time to Bring Out the Technology

If you still can’t find anything, it’s time for some technological help.

Take their first and last name, along with all those websites you’ve been searching on, and try plugging them into one of these sites:



They’ll dig through sites and find an email that seems to match the person you’re looking for. If you haven’t found their email address by now, they just might not want to be reached.

Just Because You CAN Doesn’t Mean You SHOULD

These are powerful tools, and unfortunately, people abuse them all the time. You’re just trying to make an honest connection with someone, but they’ve been burned by strangers online so many times that they think you’re just another one of them.

That’s why it’s important to only reach out to individuals who you feel would actually be a good fit. Finding a connection point shouldn’t be too difficult, because hopefully you’ve already identified a reason why this person would want to support your cause, other than “they’re rich.”

They Responded...Now What?!

Now you can utilize those tricks from Gail Perry! If you have figured out their favorite coffee shop, it would be a great time to suggest grabbing a coffee there. Play it off like “Have you ever been to Bean Roasters on State Street? It’s one of my favs.”

Now how are they supposed to resist you?


For more introduction email resources, check out this article:


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Image credit: flickr user Mats Eriksson, CC BY 2.0

Topics: Major Gifts, Donor Nurturing,

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