Asking Made Easy: The 1-2-3 Approach to Soliciting a Gift

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Asking Made Easy: The 1-2-3 Approach to Soliciting a Gift

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Asking for a gift for your nonprofit is easier than you might think. The real challenging part is pushing past your fear of asking.

Once you’ve decided to ask, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Getting Over Your Fear of Asking for a Gift

Getting past the fear of asking is probably the hardest part of all. So let’s take a little time to understand the nature of your fear.

It’s natural to feel afraid, especially if you are not an experienced gift solicitor. You’re probably afraid of rejection, afraid of saying something silly or sounding stupid, afraid of offending a donor — the list goes on and on.

While you may not get every gift you ask for, it’s unlikely you’ll cause any serious damage to yourself, your organization, or your donors. The positives far outweigh the potential risks involved in soliciting a gift.

Think of all the things you were probably afraid to do at one point or another. They include things like:

  • Learning how to swim
  • Riding a bike
  • Asking someone out on a first date
  • Learning how to drive a car
  • Requesting a raise

Without taking a leap of faith and pushing past fear, you would never have achieved any of those things.

The “Easy as 1-2-3” Approach to Soliciting a Gift

Now it’s time to face your fear of individual solicitation, which is key to successful fundraising. And it really is easy as 1-2-3.

1. Specify a need

The more specific you can be in terms of what your needs are, the more likely your ask will be successful.

  • Do you need a new staff member to help run your programs?
  • Do you need funds to keep the lights on and the computers running?
  • What about funding to attract and maintain the best staff in the region?

Once you identify a specific need (or two) and the costs associated, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

It’s important to be able to articulate your specific need(s) in writing and verbally. That doesn’t mean you need a fancy brochure, but you must be able to demonstrate how that gets you closer to your mission and how that gift would specifically impact your work.

2. Identify a potential donor

Now it’s time to identify potential donors for the gift or gifts you need. Start with A, B, C qualified prospects.

A = Access. You know you have access to someone if you have their phone number, email address and they will respond to your outreach. They may not respond immediately, but they will get back to you or someone else at your organization.

B = Belief. The person you have in mind believes in the cause. You know this because they are a current or past supporter, volunteer, or have expressed an interest in your cause or organization.

C = Capacity. The person you’ve identified is likely able to make the size gift you have in mind. You know this because there’s evidence of them making that type of gift in the past (to your or another organization) or you are aware of their financial situation.

Once you’ve identified a potential donor and have A, B, C qualified them, you’re ready to move to the next step.

3. Ask for support

While it’s important to cultivate donors prior to asking for a gift, for the purposes of this post, we’re going to skip straight to the ask — you know what you need, how much it costs, and who to ask.

At this point, you’ll request a meeting with your ideal donor. Do not beat around the bush; rather, be direct and straightforward. Ask for a 30-minute meeting to discuss the needs of the organization and how your potential donor might help. If they refuse to schedule a meeting, it’s unlikely they would give a big gift. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying, but move on to your next potential donor for the time being.

Schedule a meeting in a quiet place, where the interruptions will be minimal. Meetings can take place in person or via Zoom.

  • Start with small talk and ask about the person’s family, work/business, or a recent vacation. Take a moment to catch up, but move quickly to the subject at hand.
  • If you’re nervous, just say so. Be authentic. Let the donor know you’d like to ask for financial support but that these types of conversations are not your favorite part of the job.
  • You should also take some time to thank them for taking the time to meet with you and for their past support of your organization. Be as specific as possible when acknowledging their past support.

Now it’s time to share the needs of the organization you identified above in step one. Say something like:

As you may know, we cannot run our afterschool program without great staff. In fact, we have a waitlist for our services. The only way to keep all the kids in our community safe after-school is to hire more staff. Each new staff member costs $80K, including benefits.

We’re looking for four donors to help ensure we can hire one new staff member, and we’re hoping that includes you. Would you consider a gift of $20K per year for the next three years?

State the need. Be specific. Include a dollar amount. That’s it.

Then, don’t say a word. Wait quietly for a response.

Easy Ways to Follow-Up After the Ask

Be prepared to follow up and agree on the next steps after the donor responds. Here are some responses (and here are a few more) to get your juices flowing:

Thank you so much for considering our request. I understand you need a few days to speak with your family and financial planner. Could we continue the conversation next Tuesday at 3:00?

Thank you for agreeing to our request. We couldn’t be happier! Would you like to make your gift online with a credit card, or should I send you an envelope to mail a check? For planning purposes, when can we expect your gift?

I understand the request was more than you had in mind. Could you share more about what you might consider?

Final Words

Remember — soliciting a gift is just a conversation between two people who care about an important cause. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be, and don’t let fear stand in your way.

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