Sleepless in 2013?
Round 4: The Ask
MP: One of the toughest challenges I think that is facing nonprofits is not being clear on the ask. There seems to be a resurgence in the last 18 months that people — I’m not sure if it was the perceived bad economy or what — don’t seem to want to put a dollar amount on major-gifts asks. If you say, “Would you support our cause,” that’s a cop-out. That’s not a solicitation. The person doesn’t know what you expect from that.
We had one savvy donor at a fundraising event here in Maine that we were going to be asking for $25,000, but it was one of those deals where you get together, a board member had a cocktail party, everybody showed up, notes were stationed at the event saying, “We’ll follow up with you after the event.”
The next morning, we get a check for $250 in our inbox. We wrestled with this. The $250 was totally pre-emptive. They knew what they were doing. This was a $25,000 candidate. Can we, with a straight face, say, “Thank you so much for the check. We’d still like to visit and talk to you about a gift”?
What we’ve been talking about with transparency and branding and “board members are people too,” it’s out of respect for the other person. I’ve only had coffee spilled on me or spit at me, and nobody’s dived at me when I said a dollar amount. “I’d like for you to consider a gift of $150,000 over the next three years.” One person’s coffee did come at me. But that was because of poor timing on my part. It was a little higher than they were expecting. But most people get flattered when you’re asking an amount, and at least you’ve done them the respect of telling them what you’re thinking. If you don’t know, you can always say, “Hey, I don’t really know what to ask you for, but this is the gift chart that we have and we really need something around the $150,000 level. Is that something you can consider?”