2 phrases to use when asking for money

Phrases for asking for moneyI normally speak to large groups at conferences or to smaller groups of board members, but I've been privileged to do a lot of one-on-one major gift fundraising training this year. One of the most common questions I am getting from nonprofit employees and board members alike is, "Ok, the 'Get R.E.A.L.' formula is nice, but when it comes tom making the ask, what do I say?"

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:

  1. "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.

  2. "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!

Looking for more tips on asking for money?

Are you looking for even more tips on asking for money? Check out the The Nonprofit Academy. With over 60 tools, templates, and trainings, you'll learn how to make your fundraising the most effective possible. And the seminar on "The Asking Conversation" shows you exactly what to say in a meeting when asking for money and exactly when to say it! More at http://thenonprofitacademy.com/vault/asking-conversation/.

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to https://fundraisingcoach.com/21-ways/


  1. We train callers never to say 'consider' after someone was asked if they would consider a gift and they said yes. After a month it hadnt arrived so we called and he said 'I said I would consider. I did and I dont want to give.' Personally, I think if you can say directly what you want, major gift fundraising is probably not your bag

  2. Great comment! But not many people should be making major gift asks over the telephone.

    When I did some one-on-one phone call training last week, I also suggested they not use the "consider" phrase. On the phone, you want the credit card, not a pledge.

    That being said, I would never advise a board member or nonprofit employee to ask for five and six figure gifts by phone.

    • you are NOT going to get my credit card number over the phone. i think this is an outlandish request. i will investigate the charity and then decide after the research.

      calling me on the phone is a total turnoff, and it is invasive, rude and won't be tolerated by me.

      • Thanks so much for you comment. Just remember, if you're involved with asking for money to not be limited to your personal preferences. PLENTY of people are fine giving over the phone.

        As you'll note, I didn't recommend it. Face to face it best for major gift solicitations.

  3. Hi

    I wasnt suggesting one asks for a major gift. What I was suggesting was that given, in a simple phone call by a student p/t caller, we find the need to avoid consider, a professional fundraiser or a senior volunteer face to face ought to have the courage to ask directly when face-to-face. Simply saying I really dont like the vagueness of 'consider'

  4. I feel as though you took my words and wrote a post on it, Marc. (But of course, my tribe is asking for auction-related stuff and not necessarily only cash.) I'm going to pop a link to this post over on my FB page.

  5. I love the humanity and grace in the words you have chosen, Marc. As with any hard-sell, the more direct approach leaves no room for the donor to step into the conversation with anything but a "yes or no" answer. It becomes very us/them. We need this, you have it - so what'll it be?

    The question becomes one of walking the talk of core values of the organization. If a core value is respect and dignity and compassion, that should mean to everyone, shouldn't it? If we treat everyone we encounter as an organization (not just donors) with grace, imagine what that would make possible!

    Sorry to ramble, but this is a big hot button for me. I love the language you've chosen, perhaps because the current get-the-cash-and-move-on system is leaving so much good stuff on the table - the passion and wisdom and heart and soul of donors, beyond just their wallets.

    The next question for my own work, then, is how to realign the entire system for supporting community work, to make it more respectful of the whole of a person, and not just respecting them as long as they are forking over the cash. For me, that is where the fun stuff starts - and where the best gifts abide...

  6. Sometimes I like to alude to the positive experience giving can be by using the word "enjoy" in my asking question. I also think it's helpful to alude to the difference the donor will be making with his or her gift. So I might ask "Would you enjoy__(name the difference the gift will make or what the gift will accomplish)__ by making a gift of $X?" This leaves room for the donor to identify his or her passion and whether making this kind of a gift will align with that passion.

  7. Thanks Marc for highlighting the word "consider." I think it's one of the most powerful words in fundraising. That word lets "no" be a perfectly good answer, which, of course, it is. The asker's responsibility is to ask and the donor's responsibility to decide--that is, to say yes OR no.

    Using the word "consider" allows asking to be not about getting the most money today, but about encouraging donors to give the gift that is right for them.

    I've found that donors appreciate the consider-ate approach and though they may say no when I ask today, the door is seldom closed for me to come back again.

  8. SINCE. You've been giving 'since' 2006. We're so appreciative. Would you considered increasing your gift this year?

    People are more easily swayed to do something they've already done. You want to remind them that they've already made this decision

  9. What I like about "consider" is that it's not about convincing them to do what I want them to do - it is about letting them gracefully step into their own potential, rather than feeling like I am trying to convince them. What language can we use to create the conditions for people to step into their own brilliance? Part of that brilliance may be the gifts of their cash, but when all we are seeking is their cash, we leave SO much of the rest of what they could offer on the table! By giving them the opportunity to step into their own potential, who knows what else they might bring to our causes?

    • Ho-ray, Hildy Gottlieb:

      In my opinion, fund raising is not "sales". Consider is the correct vernacular.

      • Hi Charles,

        I beg to differ. Fundraising is as much sales as marriage is: I've been married coming up on 18 years. I have to sell every day.

        Perhaps our perspective of "sales" is colored by a Music Man-like caricature. Sales isn't the act of pulling a quick one or duping people. Sales in its best form is all about Hildy's phrase "helping people step into their own potential."

  10. What great ways of helping board members and volunteers get more comfortable with making an ask - and I love how Hildy points out that it makes the experience more like a partnership and not have as much potential to feel adversarial.

    Honestly though, as a personal preference I would probably leave out the 'honestly' :-). It seems to imply that there are times when I wasn't being honest (that could be just me though).

  11. I'm loving these comments!

    It's fun when the blog post comments become more interesting than the actual post!

  12. I have always found that asks that lead to a direct yes or no answer are not fruitful and leave you nowhere to go but home, and certainly an awkward situation in assessing whether you would get another opportunity to ask. Working this into your conversation ?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 because...? works most frequently with me. People need direction and the genuine feeling you are interested in them and know them beyond a dollar sign. When I was primarily working with corporations I had a 3 min specific-to-the-donor presentation that I envisioned as a package and the ribbon was my explaining how we would be of mutual benefit. Obviously the guiding principle is you have to know your donor. Some you can come right out and say directly, the amount you need. I agree with Hildy, it's a partnership and respect is number one in approach.

  13. Two Phrases to use appears to bring out two Worlds ? The World of Reality and the Idealistic World.

    Realistic World
    We have the realistic world of John Rux-Burton. The word ?consider? as Marc states should not be used over the phone when asking for five or six figure gifts ? I agree. However, I agree with John ? The word ?consider? brings with it a non-definitive answer. If you have individuals use this ? your fulfillment rate will be low unless you can get the amount on a credit card. Donors prefer to give check pledges over credit card pledges.
    It appears John you and I stand alone with this belief.

    Idealistic World
    It appears that the remaining commentators are somewhat apprehensive in speaking with donors because they are uncertain how to speak with them. They remind me of a novice fundraiser who goes off script and encounters a loss of words. No call to a donor needs to be a Hard Sell ? It never should be. If you want to develop a conversational tone with you donor you need to imagine the number of ways the donor will react as Hildy states ?If a core value is respect and dignity and compassion that should mean to everyone, shouldn?t it? Unfortunately, it does not matter to everyone. Donors may believe in your organization but not as deeply as you do. But some donors will believe as you do. These two facts result in donors? giving because they believe in your cause and the others merely for a tax deduction.

    I have a firm belief in creating a script. It allows you to study the manner in which you want to speak with the donor. Once it is written practice with it as you would want it used on the phone and place yourself in the donors place and use your creative capacity in reacting how the donor would react. Work on it until you are willing to accept it.

    The word Enjoy used by Donna - that is a word to conjure up the imagination. If you want your donors to identify his or her passion and whether making this kind of gift will align with that passion this result does not depend on the word ?enjoy? It all depends on your tone and passion. The donor?s passion does not emanate from the word ?enjoy? it will manifest itself by your own belief and passion you demonstrate in speaking with the donor. Going back to the script ? choose your words carefully and create the passion by creating a picture in the donors? minds. If the donor refuses be prepared for a second ask using the same passion in your voice as you did the first time. If they refuse the second time ? thank the donor for their past help. This will leave your organization another chance at another time to ask for a donation.
    For example, I was managing a campaign which dealt with the seals in Canada. I was asked to review the script and make any changes I believed would enhance the donations to the non-profit. The initial script stated that the seal hunters were killing seal pups under 12 days old and the non-profit was asking for donations to stop this occurrence-this was the main statement in the script. No compassion ? no way the donor could identify with the non-profit or their cause.
    The change had to create a picture in the donors? mind. The change ? remove the word killing. After doing some research I wrote the following. Because of the economic conditions in Canada the Seal Hunters are allowed to CLUB TO DEATH PUPS UNDER 12 DAYS OLD. DRAGED ACROSS THE ICE USING ICE PICKS ? SOME OF THESE PUPS DIED SLOWLY. HELP US THROUGH YOUR DONATION OF $__ SOTHAT WITH YOUR HELP WE CAN STOP THESE HORRIFIC ACTS.
    Remember if the donor refuses you need to come back with the second effort ? not merely with a dollar amount but with a reason for giving. Make it short and to the point ? Miss Jones I can understand not everyone can give this amount but we can?t let these pups die - not this way ? would you support our mission with $__?
    Replacing the word ?killing? created the picture in the donors mind as well as the donors were able to identify not only with the organization but to their mission.The picture was created; the fundraisers were counseled in using passion in their voice. Donations came in on the first ask, others on the second ask. Granted we had refusals but the campaign brought in thousands of dollars over the calling period.

    I have always been a firm believer in what Shakespeare wrote ?The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. ?

  14. anita starling says:

    I like honestly, I have no idea how much to ask you for, but is a gift of $$$ something you'd be able to consider?

  15. Kristian Hochreiter says:

    What an excellent post and comment thread, thank you! One I often include in asks: "Partner" - "You have been such an important Partner over the years, we are so very grateful, we would love it if you would join us this year at the $xxxx level" . . .

  16. This has been very helpful as I will soon be in the position to make some very significant asks...thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I am copying and pasting in preparation for my practice, practice, practice sessions!

  17. I have 23 nationality process here in Tunisia with all women ..And various nationalities ...Thus the nicest money

  18. My favorite to use is. ( would that x_$ be within your means)

  19. I have cancer and am in chemo and my friends have set up a fundraiser for me. I'm having trouble with the verbiage I need to attach in a message when I pass it a long (either on FB or in an email).It is incredibly humbling and awkward. What would you say in the first person, if you were in my shoes?

    • I wouldn't put it in the first person. That's way to hard.

      I'd talk about myself as I hear my friends talk. They obviously care enough for you to make a significant change. So create a first draft using their words, no matter how awkward or humbling, and then see what you have.

      • Marc - I have a service dog and I'm on Disability. We just got done living in a Motel for 4 months. Finally after 4 long emotional months, I was able to get a duplex. Here's where I need help. At the age of 46 I am starting from scratch. I need everything. If you were to ask me what is the one thing you would really want it would be a washer and dryer. Then having a comfortable bed to sleep in. I am signing up on indiegogo.com to launch my campaign. Can you please give me some good pitch ideas asking for help? I have no idea how to write this. Thanks! Patti

        • Congratulations, Patti!

          The best ideas are on the blog. The "Do It Yourself Fundraising" article in the "Articles" section. You could also use the search box at the top of this page and search crowdfunding. That will show some posts from people who used sites like Indiegogo.

  20. Ruby Lee says:

    How would you like to pay for your donation? Easy. They'll ask how much, you hit them up for double the amount you had summed up. If they don't want to pay that much they will laugh or ask why so high.

    The feeling of giving has many intangible benefits, so asking for large sums means it's a win-win in my mind. I don't ever feel wrong or uncomfortable.


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