Have you ever asked someone trying to sell you a product if they use it themselves?

It can be pretty illuminating. After all, if they don’t use the product, perhaps it’s not a good one for you to use either.

So too with fundraising. If you’re asking for money, be sure to make your gift first. And make it in a way you’d expect others to give. If you’re asking others to consider a gift 10 times bigger than their annual fund gift (a common practice with capital campaigns), challenge yourself to do that too.

It’s not that you need to give the same size gift as those you’ll be asking. But if you fundraise for an organization, I do recommend you make a leadership gift, how ever that is defined by your group. (For most groups, a leadership gift starts at $1000 a year.) Most of us shouldn’t be able to give the highest gifts that we will be asking for. But all of us should challenge ourselves to give more.

Here’s why this is so important: Your donors are exposed to hundreds or even thousands or ads a day. (Some even say 3,000 or more ads.) As result, they’ve developed highly tuned “B.S.-ometers.” They usually have a gut sense when someone’s telling the truth and believes what they say.

Time and again, I’ve seen this B.S.-ometer affect fundraising.

During one campaign, we used a cocktail party approach to raise the last $1 million of a $3 million campaign. Hosts would invite their friends to a party where we and they would share the campaign. No solicitation would happen at the event. Instead, all attendees received a personal packet and a promise that we or the host would follow up in the next week or two.

The results were stunning. Hosts that gave $10,000 pledges, received $10,000 from their guests. Hosts that gave $25,000 pledges, received $25,000 pledges from their guests. But hosts that hadn’t made a pledge to the campaign raised $0 from their guests.


People know. Not only do they have internal B.S.-ometers, they also talk to each other. They know how committed people are to the project before they make their gift. So be sure to make your gift first.

Making your gift first also helps your attitude. It is so much easier to ask, “Would you join us in making a pledge…” than to just ask for a gift. It’s as though you’re coming on the same side of the table as the donor, looking at the project as peers.

For many of you, July 1 was the start of a new fiscal year. So stretch yourself. Consider your options. And make your gift first.

[This post is a part of the Fundraising Secrets posts that are being compiled for my next fundraising book. To read some of the others, go to: https://fundraisingcoach.com/category/frsecrets/.]

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