The “ask”ing process is the most critical element of any fundraising campaign, especially with major gift campaigns. While each solicitation presents an opportunity to secure another gift, it is also possible to make critical errors that may result in a lower donation or no donation at all. The following tips for making the ask will help you to be far more effective in securing the gifts you seek and in meeting your organization’s needs.
1. The most effective method of fundraising is person to person. Meet with your prospective donor face to face. Requests conducted over the telephone often result in substantially smaller gifts or refusals.
2. Be knowledgeable about your organization and community needs and the issues you are trying to address. Tell them why you are involved and what the organization means to you with clarity, sincerity, and passion.
3. Know your prospective donor. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the prospect and their interests through board relationships, internet research and newspaper publications prior to the visit. Such information will give you more credibility and leverage in the meeting.
4. Determine who should participate in the meeting. You may want to bring a board member, client, or another staff member. Having at least two people present will take much of the pressure off of a lone solicitor. The second person can contribute any comments the first person forgets. In addition, while one person is talking, the other person can observe the prospect and determine which aspects of the presentation are most effective.
5. Schedule the appointment. Ask for a specific date and time to meet. If they are uncertain about their schedule, set a tentative date. Invite the prospect to meet you onsite, if possible. Otherwise, schedule the meeting at the prospect’s office or home to ensure the formality of your request.
6. Meet with the donor and make the ask!
- Open with pleasantries. Thank the prospect for seeing you and begin the conversation with something relating to the prospect, i.e. job, family etc.
- Get to the asking. The purpose of the visit is to ask for money. Ask the prospect to consider a specific donation amount. Convey the “ask” as an opportunity for the donor. Talk about opportunities for the clients your organization serves, not the needs of your organization. Stay sensitive to what your prospect is thinking while you are talking and remember to focus on the prospect’s interests.
- Be prepared for any number of negative responses. Consider all of the negative responses that could be presented and determine the best way to respond. One way to anticipate and address negative responses from a prospect is to “rehearse” the meeting with your co-solicitor.
- Never leave empty handed. Remember that gift requests are not “all or nothing.” If the prospect denies a cash contribution they might provide sources for in-kind donations, or direct you to other prospects. Your job is to identify the level of volunteer and financial support at which the donor prospect is willing to say “yes.”
- Leave on a positive note. Rarely do people commit to a financial gift right on the spot. Ask if it would be helpful to send any additional information that would aid them in making their decision. Always express your thanks to the prospect for his or her time and consideration of your request.
- Thank the prospect. After the meeting, you should promptly follow-up with a thank you note and provide any requested materials and information that you were unable to provide during the meeting. When a prospect makes a donation, be sure to send a formal acknowledgement to the appropriate person(s).