Ask Yourself 3 Key Questions Before Asking for That Big Gift
Very few people are at their best when they go out to ask a donor for a big gift. Here are three common mistakes.
- They talk when they should listen.
- They ask for money before they understand why the donor would like to give.
- They recite elevator pitches rather than being authentic.
Does asking for big gifts make you anxious? Probably!
For most people, asking for gifts in person is difficult. And when you are asking for one of the top campaign gifts, it’s even harder because the stakes are super high.
Chances are, you don’t have very many donors who would consider giving one of those lead gifts. So, it’s no surprise that when you ask those donors for very big gifts, you are anxious. Your adrenaline pumps. Your heart races. And you get tunnel vision.
That stress response sets you up to talk too much and too fast and not listen well enough.
Here’s what to do: Stop for a minute and ask yourself these three questions before approaching your donors. Doing so will help you avoid (or at least lessen) the stress reaction that gets your solicitation on the wrong track.
1. Why Does Your Donor Want to Give?
Before your meeting, find out as much as you can about your donor’s interests and passions and patterns. You should already know that they have the ability to make the gift. But what’s far more important is why they might want to do it. And for that, you’ve got to know them well.
If you don’t know enough about the donor to have some reasonable sense of why he or she might wish to make a big gift, then you’re not ready to ask them for it. Use your meeting to learn more.
If you ask, most people will be very happy to tell you about themselves and why they give. But you’ve got to be genuinely curious.
2. What’s Your Own Money Story?
Often people assume that the way they feel about money is the way the donor feels. That’s usually not the case. But unless you understand your own money patterns—and everyone has them—it will be hard for you to be open to someone else’s patterns with money.
- Are you careful with money or relaxed?
- Do you budget to the last penny?
- Do you want clear and accurate accounting of money matters or are you inclined not to look carefully until the end of the quarter or the year?
- Do you enjoy giving away money, or do you have to push yourself to be generous?
Your answers are neither good nor bad, but they will reflect your patterns.
Your donors will have patterns of their own. And if you take time to notice, you’ll see clues about how your donors deal with money. Then, you can shape your request in a way that feels comfortable for them.
3. Do You Know How to Truly Listen?
Listening is a super important skill that improves with practice. You can practice every day in all sorts of conversations. In fact, your partner and friends will appreciate it if you do.They might not know that you are just practicing when you really start listening to them! Try it out and watch what happens.
Listening is a skill we all need to work on and then work on some more. Here are two simple methods to practice listening.
Two Simple Methods to Practice Listening
1. The Tell-Me-More Method
It’s easy to talk over people or to interject your views when they are telling you something.
Don’t be quick to respond to a comment someone makes. Instead give them time to say more. You might even pause and say, “Tell me more.” You’ll be surprised to find out that most people do have more to say on most any topic. It’s just that they’re usually not given the time and space to say it.
2. The Mirror Method
Make a conscious effort to pay close attention to the person you are talking to so that you notice and even mirror their body language and tone of voice. If you are listening well, you’re likely to do that without any effort. But focusing more of your attention on their posture and tone will also heighten your ability to hear what they say.
With a bit of daily listening practice, you’ll find yourself getting better at it. And when you use those skills in a major gift ask, you will be far more comfortable. And so will your donor.
Want More Courage?
Still feeling anxious? There’s a free webinar you should check out. David Daniel, Director of Development Field Initiatives at The Nature Conservancy, will teach you how to apply the simple but powerful techniques used by high performance athletes to gear up your fundraising practice. The webinar is aptly titled, “Become a High Performance Fundraiser,” and here are the details:
Date: October 25, 2017
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.