I 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 to actually making the ask, what do I say?”
It’s a great question.
Asking can feel awkward because 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.
Rather than waiting for them to come to us, we have to go to them. We have to remind donors that giving is an option. And our asks need to be incredibly clear so they understand what we mean.
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 I coach visibly relax when they hear that asking a donor to consider a nonprofit gift is a good fundraising phrase. This feels like something they can naturally say. It feels less “in your face” than “Would you give a gift of $X?”
Second, this phrase encourages askers to use a specific dollar amount. “Will you support our cause?” is a feeble 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 $X something you’d be able to consider?”
Honesty is quite disarming. And it’s a relief as an asker to be able to admit we don’t know how much to ask.
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?
Remember to ask for a specific dollar amount. Asking with specificity is kind. Clarity allows you and the nonprofit donor to have a clear conversation on a donation. To do any less is causing donors to try to read your mind.
So make your fundraising asks clear but using one of these two approaches.
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 100 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 https://www.nonprofitacademy.com/course/asking-conversation.
- For more on engaging donors, watch the free replay of How to Talk So Donors Really Listen at https://fundraisingcoach.com/how-to-talk-to-donors/
- If appropriate, explore getting fundraising coaching or fundraising trainings from me.
Fundraising really is a fun part of running a nonprofit! Using these two phrases for asking for money and some of the tools above will show you how!