Five Steps to Yes (It’s about People and their Passion)

In some circles, asking for money has a very negative connotation. It might be associated with begging, or arm twisting or manipulation (at least that’s what I hear when I give trainings on asking). But it really doesn’t need to be that way. What if we were to look at the asking / fund development as an exploration process? What if we concentrated on finding the people who already want to accomplish what our organization is trying to accomplish? Would that change how you look at fund development? It’s less about asking for money and much more about finding partners to come alongside us in our endeavors.

That said, there are annual-level gift asks and then there are major-level gift asks. The style of each will be very different. Today, I want to talk more about asking for a major gift. The base amount for a major gift might range from $250 to $25,000 depending on the organization and your fundraising program.

Here are five steps you can take when you’re preparing to ask for a major gift (as your organization defines it).

  1. First, be prepared before you make the first contact. You should have a good idea of the types of causes the prospect supports, the amount of their gifts as well as anything happening in their lives that might impact their ability to make a gift.  Have an idea of the project you’d like to present to them and how much you’re thinking of asking them for.
  2. Next, reach out and ask for a visit. This should be someplace private and quiet. Plan on bringing any materials about the campaign with you to the visit, rather than mailing them ahead of time.
  3. At your initial visit, respect the potential donors time. Ask lots of questions, listen, and try to identify whether or not your organization – and your project – is a good fit for your prospect.
  4. Presenting your case statement and asking for the prospect’s support will most likely not occur on the first visit. When you do, make sure that you are knowledgeable about both the project and the campaign so that you will be ready to answer questions that may come up. Ideally you’ll be prepared to ask for a specific amount. This may sound counter-intuitive, but donor’s appreciate knowing a ballpark of what your expectations are (i.e. is it $100 or $100,000). Remember, whatever the prospect says, it’s not about you – it’s about whether or not the organization and project are a good fit for the potential donor.
  5. Finally, saying thank you is so important. Find creative ways to express appreciation beyond the standard thank you letter. In fact, marketing theory says that it takes seven times hearing something for us to REALLY hear it, so try to find seven ways to say thank you.

Who will you ask?

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