Asking for gifts drives fear into the heart of many non-profit Board members. They don’t want to impose on friends or business associates. They don’t know how much to ask for.
In my experience, the biggest hang-up Board members have is that they don’t know how to ask – what words to use when that moment comes.
All of this is perfectly normal. If asking for gifts came easy, non-profits would be awash in revenue raised by Board members.
Certain words or phrases you definitely do not want to use – like, “Can I put you down for $1,000?” Donors don’t want to feel like they are being inventoried.
Also avoid phrases like, “Will you give us $1,000?” While direct, it can put donors on the spot and can force a quick decision. The larger the request, the more time a donor will need to make a decision.
That’s where the three most important words in fundraising come in. These are the words that, when combined with a strong case for support and the right amount, will lead to a greater likelihood of success. Plus, using these three words conveys respect for the person of whom the gift is being asked. In my experience, the use of these words was never received offensively by the prospective donor.
Ready for them? Here they are:
“Would you consider…”
Here’s how they would be used:
“Jane, would you consider a gift of $1,000 to help us reach more children in need?”
I’ve used these words effectively many times when soliciting planned gifts:
“Ed, would you consider including us in your estate plan?”
Another variation is in the form of a statement rather than a question: “John, I would like you to consider a gift of $1,000 in support of our scholarship fund so that needy students can attend our school.”
It’s a subtle difference – asking someone for a gift vs. asking someone to consider a gift. That difference, from the donor’s perspective, is crucial. The request to consider a gift is respectful, low pressure, and non-threatening.
Even better, your donor’s response can only be – “no,” meaning they will not consider a gift; or “yes,” meaning they will consider it, in which case you can shift the conversation toward how long their decision process might be.
For any Board member uncomfortable with asking for a gift, those three important words should help relieve the fear and pressure that comes with the responsibility of raising support for the causes you hold most dear.
Comments or feedback? Contact me on Twitter @juanros.