When Is It Time to Ask for a Major Gift?
It's a fundraising paradigm. Hopefully, it's an internal discussion in your organization. And I can tell you that often I have an internal discussion personally — an internal debate.
In our hearts, we know we should be donor-focused. But that clock is always ticking. We are under pressure to meet a goal — and that includes a timeline for annual giving or in a campaign.
When do we ask for a gift? How often is too often? Tick. Tock.
For major gifts and campaigns, we have a steadfast rule that we seldom violate: Never ask for a gift on a first visit. With national campaigns, this becomes a challenge for timing and resources because it can involve a great deal of time and travel — and the investment of travel costs.
If we are in the throes of a campaign, we should already be enjoying the benefit of the feasibility and planning study to help us define the goal, refine the case and develop key messages. We know what resonates and what does not in a broad sense.
But when we narrow that focus to an individual donor, before making a major-gift request you need to have a sense for where the donor stands.
You must make that time for the donor. If your answer is no to any of the following questions, it is too soon to ask for a gift:
- Have you had a meaningful conversation with the donor in the past year?
- Have you been asking him more than thanking him? (Remember to say thank you more than please.)
- Have you been able to get a good sense for her personal and business circumstances?
- Do you have a good idea of her interest in the organization, is she aware of your plans for the future and does she have a strong interest in the ultimate outcome of the proposed project(s).
- Does the donor have a sense of the impact of his last/past giving?
Did you answer yes to the above questions? What are you waiting for? The time to ask is now.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.