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  Asking for a Donation

"The goal of development is to engage people rationally with the work of your organization."

The last couple of newsletters have included articles about identifying potential donors, then cultivating the most promising of those to providing ongoing financial support for your organization.

By the time you are ready to ask for a donation and, more importantly, by the time the potential donors is ready to be asked, you have invested a great deal of time and effort in the development process. So don't blow it!

You are after rational donors; people who know your mission, believe in it and are convinced that you have the passion and expertise to carry out that mission. During the cultivation process you had opportunities to introduce you prospective donors to your staff, board members and, perhaps, to some of the beneficiaries of your programs. The prospect was encouraged to ask questions, to work along side staff or other volunteers and to eventually form an opinion about the worth of your organization to the community and your ability to deliver program services to that community.

Their continued involvement (attending events, volunteering, etc.) is sufficient evidence that they have formed a positive opinion about your organization. It is now time to ask for a gift to support the work that the prospect believes in and where he/she has been investing their time and talents. Asking for a financial gift at this point should be the most natural thing in the world and the next logical step in the relationship that has development between the prospect and your organization.

Yet people are still reticent to take this next step. The reasons are simple enough: you don't want to embarrass the other person or yourself, you don't want to risk changing the nature of your relationship, or, perhaps, you are afraid they will say no. These are legitimate fears and must be deal with before you can make a successful ask.

You can reduce or totally bypass these fears with proper planning and with a forthright, unambiguous approach to the prospective donor. Here are some easy steps to follow:
  1. The ask needs to made in private; just you and the donor or the most, you and another member of your organization who has gotten to know the prospect.
  2. Make sure both you and the prospect are not hurried, that you have sufficient time to discuss the ask, answer questions and close the deal.
  3. You need to ask at for a gift that the prospect is capable of making. This means that you have done your homework and know enough about the prospect (where he/she lives, what they do for a living, what clubs or other organizations they belong to, and whether they volunteer or contribute to other organizations) to make an informed guess as to the right amount to ask for. Remember, asking for too little is more likely to adversely effect your relationship than asking for too much. If you err, do it on the high side.
  4. Make sure you have on hand the appropriate forms or documents that will enable the donor to make a commitment. For large donations, this might be a formal proposal. For other donations it might simply be a sign-up card. If your organization uses giving clubs or societies and the gift you are asking for fits one of these, have on hand a brochure or fact sheet about that particular club, or better still, the person from your board that heads that group.
  5. Getting a signature on a proposal letter or donation card is not nearly as important as maintaining the relationship you have work so hard to develop. The potential donor may ask for time to consider the proposal, that is not a no. Simply ask when it would be convenient for you to call them about it. Quite often, the eventual gift will be larger than one given on the spot.
  6. At the end, you need to offer thanks for the meeting, for the gift or for the potential donor's willingness to consider a gift.
You will be surprised at how many of your well cultivated potential donors will become life-long supporters of your organization. Some may even say, "What took you so long to ask? I've been wondering when someone was going to get around to it."