3 Simple Tips to Make Your Major Donor Asks More Successful
The better you get at asking for major gifts before you plan a capital campaign, the more successful your campaign is likely to be. And, of course, the more money you’ll raise year-in and year-out.
Here are three tips to keep in mind when approaching a donor for a big gift.
No. 1: Reflect the donor’s interests in your major gift asks
Never ask someone for money just because he or she has money. Only ask people for money because you know a real reason they might want to give to your cause.
Through many years in this business, I’ve acquired friends who have lots of money. And, occasionally, I’ve asked one or two of them to give to projects I’m involved with.
I don’t ask them because my projects need money, though—of course they do. I ask them because I have good and specific reasons to believe that the project is something they’d be interested in supporting.
You’ll find that if you’re rigorous about only asking donors to give to something they genuinely might want to support, the process of asking will no longer feel icky. In fact, it’ll be engaging, rewarding and appropriate. They may or may not decide to give, but in either case, they’ll be pleased you gave them the opportunity to consider it.
No. 2: Know the context of your fundraising before asking for gifts
Often, our capital campaign-coaching clients want to know how much to ask someone for. It’s a great question! And the answer may surprise you. Because, how much you ask for has as much to do with the context for your ask as it does with how much money your donor has to give.
When you’re planning an ask, consider these three context questions:
- Is it a one-time or renewable gift? If you are asking a donor for an annual gift—a gift that someone might renew year after year—you will ask for a smaller amount than you would if you were asking for a special, one-time, non-recurring gift.
- Is it a pledge or lump sum? If you are asking someone for a gift he or she can pay in installments over several years, you might ask for more than you would if you were asking for a immediate payment in full.
- What percent of your fundraising goal is it? And, finally, the gift amount must fit reasonably into your fundraising goal. Most donors want to give a portion of the goal. And they want to know where their gifts fit into the larger fundraising goal. That’s one of the great benefits of using a gift-range chart when you solicit larger gifts. It helps the donor see where his or her gift fits in the context of other donors.
No. 3: Don’t give control of the conversation follow-up to the donor
It’s oh so tempting to hand control of the decision over to your donor. But it’s always a mistake.
Don’t say these things:
- “Give me a call when you’ve made up your mind.”
- “Just send in your pledge form.”
- “Call me back.”
Do say these things:
- “I’ll get back to you next week.”
- “May I follow up with you on Monday?”
- “Let’s get another meeting scheduled right now.”
By giving over control to the donor, you lay the groundwork for the relationship to sour. Because if your donor doesn’t follow through or call you back when she said she would, you’ll feel awkward nagging her. And, even worse, there’s a good chance she’ll feel bad that she didn’t follow through and start avoiding you.
Use these three simple techniques and, I promise you, your success with your major gifts will increase. You’ll feel more confident, and you’ll find it easier to ask!
- Ask donors to give to something they might genuinely want to support.
- Ask for gifts that make sense in the context of your fundraising plan.
- Don’t give up control of the asking process.
Did I miss anything? If you’ve tried some other techniques that make major donor asks more successful, share them below in the comments.
If you’re thinking about major donor asks, you may be interested in applying for a special, free, capital campaign-planning strategy session with yours truly. It’s simple: Fill out this application, and if we think a strategy call will be helpful to you, I will be in touch to schedule your free 30-minute call.
Andrea Kihlstedt is a co-founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. She is the author of "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work," now in its fourth edition, as well as "How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Sized Steps," in addition to other books. Andrea has been leading successful capital campaigns for more than 30 years.