An Ask is An Ask

by Jason Dick · 7 comments

You may have heard a guideline, “ask for three times what you’d like a donor to give.” This is a mantra that’s often used as a technique to get a stretch gift. That guideline is a very poor rule of thumb. A good ask is one the donor feels they could stretch to make but does not feel like is out of their ability.

The magic of asking for a specific amount is that you can encourage a donor to think about a larger gift than they would traditionally do. If a donor has said yes to you soliciting them for a gift, then they have already indicated that they are very likely to give. People do not like to say no. Most of your “no’s” will happen because you’ve surprised someone and they did not know the purpose of your meeting. From a donors perspective in their heart of hearts they want to say yes to whatever you ask.

Most donors, especially if you’ve done a good job bringing them close to your nonprofit, want to do something that will be significant. Right after you ask for your gift the first thought of the donor is, “can I make that work?” That is why it’s so important that you give them time in silence to think about your ask (for more read my post: Be Quiet). If you ask for a number that is completely out of the realm of their ability, their first thought is, “how can I say no without disappointing them?” From the Development Officer’s perspective we believe that we’ve challenged them to make a stretch gift. Our hope, especially if we ask three times what we think a donor might give, is that they will give at a higher level than if we just asked for a gift at a specific level.

From the mindset of the donor the ask is the ask. Ask for a stretch gift but not one that is out of reach. When you ask for more than a donor has the capacity to do they leave feeling disheartened. If they are close to your organization, they will feel like they’ve let you down.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

HigherPixels March 8, 2012 at 9:16 am

Great Advice! I’ve also found that gathering as much intelligence ahead of time is an important part of the process for making “the ask” of a major gift. Leveraging your Board (assuming they are active) can go a long way to knowing the amount that will resonate as reasonable.

The board, possibly, can help you determine things such as: how much have they given to other organizations, what their perceived capacity to give is at this time, and what they like most about your organization. Finding the sweet spot of a stretching “ask” is tough. And often, despite all the prep work, can be more like art than science.

Thanks for the post! :-)

Reply

SupportMyGroup March 18, 2012 at 11:07 am

Excellent advice! I think the silence that you mention after asking is so important. I know a problem I’ve encountered is that sometimes the people you have asking feel awkward in that silence as well, but whatever they say in that moment can too easily offer an objection to their initial request – so they end up working against themselves.

Something else I’ve found helpful is to keep it personal. If they comment about kids, be interested. People are much more giving with those to whom they feel a connection.

Great post!

Reply

Non-Profit Websites March 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

That’s why it is so important to build good relationships with donors. This lessens the anxiety or concern when asking.

Reply

Steve April 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I like how you say it, an “ask” is an “ask”. And you make a good point, asking for three times what you’d like often makes everyone (asker and donor) uncomfortable.

A study done by Jakob Nielson (a web usability expert) found that most important to donors is want your mission is and what you do with your funding. I suggest people focus on the second part. Tell donors where the money goes. It turns an “Ask” into an “Ask and Tell”. It can put people at ease as well as educate. And if Nielsons study is accurate, it also satisfies an important need of potential donors.

Reply

Sierra April 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

You say that the donor often asks, “How can I make this work?” It makes you realize that if you’ve secured a meeting with someone about a donation, they already have the intent of donating. That being said, the job of the person asking for a donation is to look into the company to see realistically how much they should be asking for. And what the donor could stretch to afford.
The mindset of the donor is that once you ask, they can respond in any way they choose. So our goal must be to figure out how to make it irresistible for a donor to donate.

Reply

Urunji Child-Care Trust December 22, 2012 at 11:53 am

Great and invaluable advice. We all have to learn somethign everyday and this is a great lesson even for small non-profits like Urunji Child-Care Trust making a great impact but facing the challenge of much needed funding. Thanks guys!

Reply

Mark Hallman January 11, 2013 at 5:07 am

Your advice about silence is spot on. I have a history in sales, and some of the best advice I had at the start of my career was that after you ask for the sale, shut up. The first person to talk after the ask is the person who loses. Now that was terminology from a used car lot, but the concept holds true for any ask. Once you’ve asked, be quiet, let the potential donor surprise you and say yes!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: