It's a great question.
Fundraising isn't a business transaction. Donors aren't picking an item off the shelf and going to the cash register. If it were that simple, asking for money wouldn't even be necessary.
Here are the two phrases that are helping people the most:
"Would you consider a gift of $X?"
Asking is challenging enough. A question like "would you consider a gift of ____?" accomplishes two things. First, it takes the pressure off the asker. People visibly relax when they hear that this is a good fundraising phrase. This feels like something they can naturally say.
Second, this phrase encourages askers to use a specific dollar amount. "Will you support our cause?" is a vapid cop-out for truly asking for money. One person's idea of "support" may be $250 when you'd rated her as a $25,000 prospect. Do the donor prospect the courtesy of plainly telling them what number you're thinking about.
A non-confrontational question like "Would you consider a gift of $25,000?" accomplishes just that.
"Honestly, I have NO idea how much to ask you for, but is a gift of $______ something you'd be able to consider?"
Honesty is quite disarming. And despite our best research, peer reviews, and calculated guessing, there are times we really don't know how much to ask someone for. So let them know! This is especially powerful for volunteers who've been coached by excellent counsel to ask at a higher level then they feel comfortable asking at.
Most people respond well to requests for help. This is basically a request for help: Could you help me know how much I might ask you for? If you're in the ballpark they'll tell you. And if you're too high, they'll tell you too!
What to say if they ask you how you came up with the specific gift amount
From time to time, prospects will ask how you determined that number for them. Saying, "Well, we were looking at your stock holdings and the sale of your last business so $200,000 seemed reasonable" is an awful explanation. Instead, try using a printout from GiftRangeCalculator.com. "You see, Bob, the entire project is $4 million. To reach that, we need three leaders at the $200,000 level. You seemed like a great fit."
What do you say when you're asking for money?
Those are my favorite phrases for asking for money. What phrases and questions do you like? Tell us in the comments at the bottom of this post!