Proven Strategies for Getting to the Ask

Donor Relations, Major Gifts

By Jeremy Reis

You know the feeling. You’re in a meeting with a major donor prospect, and the conversation is going well. They’re engaged, they’re asking good questions, and you can tell they’re interested in what you have to say. But then, just when you think you’re about to close the deal, they bring up another topic entirely. It’s frustrating, but it’s also completely understandable. Donors want to be sure that their money is going to be put to good use, and they want to see results. So how do you get them to the ask faster?

When it comes to asking for donations, fundraising leaders often face two challenges: how to ask without seeming pushy or entitled, and how to ensure that their request aligns with the donor’s interests. The key is to remember that donors are people too, and they want to feel like their contribution is making a difference.

1. Build rapport before you ask.

The first step in getting to the ask is building rapport with your donor. This means taking the time to get to know them as a person, not just as a potential source of funding. Find out what their interests are, what motivates them, and what causes they care about. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to make a case for why they should support your nonprofit. And when you do make the ask, they’ll be more likely to say yes because they’ll know that you’re not just after their money—you’re after helping them make a difference in the world.

2. Make sure your request is specific and tailored to the donor’s interests.

Once you’ve built rapport with your donor and have a good understanding of their interests, it’s time to make the ask. But before you do, take some time to craft a specific and tailored request that addresses their specific interests. For example, if they’re interested in education, you might ask them to support a new literacy program at your local library; if they’re interested in environmental issues, you might ask them supports tree planting initiative in your city; if they’re interested in social justice issues, you might ask them support your organization’s work with refugees or immigrants. The key is to make sure that your request is relevant to their interests so that they know their donation will be put toward something that matters deeply to them.

3. Tell a compelling story.

Donors are more likely to give if they feel a personal connection to your cause. So don’t be afraid to share a personal story about why your work is important. Be sure to focus on the impact that your work has had, and be specific about how their donation will help make a difference. Stories are an effective way to connect with donors on an emotional level, and they’ll be more likely to remember your story when it comes time to make a decision.

4. Make it easy for them.

Nobody likes filling out paperwork, so make sure that your donation process is as streamlined as possible. If you can set up an online system that allows donors to make a donation with just a few clicks, that’s even better. The easier you make it for donors to give, the more likely they’ll be to do so.

5. Be transparent about where their money will go.

Donors want to see results, so it’s important to be clear about how their donation will be used. If you can show them exactly how their money will make an impact, they’ll be more likely to give again in the future. And when it comes time for them to recommend your organization to others, they’ll have specific examples of why your work is important.

6. Be specific about what you need and how their contribution will help

Donors want to know that their money is going to be used in a way that will make a difference. When you’re making an ask, be specific about what you need and how their contribution will help achieve your organization’s goals. For example, if you’re raising money for new school uniforms, don’t just say that every donation helps—explain exactly how many uniforms each donation will provide and why new uniforms are important for your students’ success.

7. Be sincere and passionate about your cause

Your donors should be able to tell that you care deeply about your cause—and that you believe in its importance wholeheartedly. When you’re making an ask, let your passion shine through. Share stories about how your work has made a difference in people’s lives, and express gratitude for any support they’ve already given.

8. Follow up after the donation is made.

Once the donation has been made, it’s important to follow up with your donor so that they know how their money is being used and what impact it’s having. This can be as simple as sending them an email update or giving them a call on occasion; or, if they’re interested in staying involved with your work on a deeper level, you might invite them serve on your board or volunteering committee. No matter how you choose follow up, doing so will show your donors that you appreciate their support and that their contribution is making a difference—both of which will encourage them give again in the future.


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