Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ideas For Your Major Gift Ask

Every nonprofit fundraiser's dream is to have a conversation with a major donor that goes so well, that the person writes you a check immediately.  Too bad it's rarely that easy.

Yes, the major gift ask is one of those things that gets even experienced fundraisers a little antsy.  It's all too easy for nerves to lead you to a critical error that can ruin the whole process.  And then there's the second guessing.  Did you ask too much?  Too little?  You'll drive yourself crazy if you allow these thoughts to take control.  The reality is it's totally natural to have a little fear before prospecting for a major gift.

According to Rachel Muir, client strategy executive at Austin, Texas-based Convio, how you handle that fear will determine your success.  She let The NonProfit Times in on some tips on how to better prepare for major gift asks:

  • Make sure the prospect in question has been properly cultivated before asking for a major commitment.  Think of it this way: You could ask someone to marry you on the first date, but it would be creepy and desperate.  The same applies with your donors.  You should be stewarding your donors with seven unique touches annually: a visit, a tour, prompt thank you’s, personal stories about your successes, newsletter, annual report, personal calls, etc.  It's all about the courtship!
  • Find out everything you can about your prospects.  What are their interests?  Where did they go to school?  What are their giving patterns?
  • Re-connect with your organization's mission.  Why are you asking for money in the first place?  Having a strong passion and commitment for your cause is a major selling point for donors.
  • Consider doing your asks in pairs.  Two is better than one, right?
  • When it's time to make the ask, make sure it's in a setting where there will be minimal interruptions.  You will want 20 to 30 minutes of the prospect's undivided attention.  Suggestions for meetings spots could be their office or somewhere at your organization.  Whatever you do, do not ask at a restaurant.  This will guarantee you multiple interruptions.
  • Describe the impact of your organization through the use of personal anecdotes.  Focus on the benefit, impact, and vision.
  • Do not use acronyms.
  • Here's the most important thing to remember: After you make your ask, be silent.  Give the prospect time to think.  Continuing to talk after making your ask is a great way to talk yourself out of a gift.
What happens next is hard to say.  They'll either say yes, no, or ask for more time to think.  If that's the case, make sure you make a return appointment, and thank them for their time.  If they say yes, make sure to thank them for their generosity.  If they say no, ask if it is the amount of the gift or the timing. You can offer to stretch their gift out over time. If that doesn’t work ask them if they will renew at their current gift level.

We hope you have found these tips useful for your organization's prospecting efforts.  Head to The NonProfit Times for more articles like this.

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