DickersonBakker Blog

Don’t Fundraise Out of Your Own Wallet. Tips on asking an appropriate-sized gift from donors

Chris said something that caught my attention as we were waiting to pick up our kids from youth group: “you don’t sell out of your own wallet.”  Initially, I didn’t understand what he meant.  Chris owns a successful printer supply business, and we frequently drift into talking shop when together.

Chris shared with me that when he was just starting his business, he would sell products to clients that he could afford for his own business.  Thus, if Chris could only afford a third-tier printer, he would sell a third-tier printer.  He would do that even IF his customer could afford paying more for a second-tier printer.  One day it dawned on him that he was selling out of his own wallet instead of considering what the customer was capable of buying.  With that minor realization, his revenue took a leap forward.

As fundraisers, we are susceptible to “asking out of our own pocket.”  I remember one of my first major gift asks, I couldn’t bring myself to asking for a specific gift because $20,000 just sounded like so much money.  Thing was–to the donor I was asking–$20,000 was a small gift.  I seem the same scenario play out time and again with the clients I visit.  They are afraid to ask for $300,000 because they couldn’t give it themselves.

Here are three suggestions for asking for an appropriate-sized gift:

  1. Do Your Research: What size gifts has the donor given to other organizations?  What gift ratings do wealth screening services suggest?  What can you find on Google about the donor that may suggest a gift size or interest?  What do your board members or other connections say about the donor’s ability?
  2. Understand Your Donor: Giving is personal; major donors need a proposal right in their sweet spot to give their best gifts. What does the donor’s giving record tell you?  Are their any clues in the contact reports?  From past visits, how can you tie a gift amount to an area of their passion?
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Stretch: After doing your research and taking time to understand your donor, get out there and ask.  Invite your donor to stretch with a specific gift ask.  It is our job to ask the question, it is the donor’s job to say yes or no.  Their yes or no will provide valuable information on what to ask for next time.

Struggling with your ask?  The discipline of major donor development requires persistence, intentionality, and exceptional strategy.  Dickerson, Bakker ‘s Major Gift Solutions clients commonly see double-digit increases in year one to year two giving from its top donors.  Contact us today to learn more.

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