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.