The little-known trick that makes it easier to ask for big gifts

dreamstime_s_42535614How can we make the moment of asking for a large gift, easier?
The most crucial thing to solve is how you feel about asking someone to give – ie literally, get clear what it means to you, to present someone with the opportunity to give generously to a cause they care about.
And obviously it helps if you have properly understood and appreciated their world first, and developed a level of trust, so that on the day you present this opportunity, you do so in terms that are genuinely interesting to them.
But I meet some fundraisers who have improved their skills in these areas and still struggle with the moment of asking. How on earth do you shift gear from chatting about the project, to actually asking for a gift?
Try this question…
What I call the confirm question is the best way to bridge the gap. It is a closed question, by which I mean it’s not an open, ‘what do you think?’ question, but one to which the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
It happens after you have been explaining things about your future project that would solve something that the donor cares about; and at a point where you have decided it would now be appropriate to ask (ie invite the donor to consider making a gift).
At its simplest, the confirm question is something like ‘…Do you think it makes sense to build this school / provide this helpline / invest in this specific kind of research?’ Or you could soften it into something like ‘…Mrs Donor, my sense is that you think we’re right to be doing this…Have I understood you correctly?’
If she says ‘yes’, asking for the gift is much easier
If Mrs Donor’s answer is broadly a ‘yes it’s a good project’, then (assuming there is now enough rapport between us) it’s relatively easy to say ‘and is it the sort of thing that you would consider making a gift towards?’ Note, I would much rather ask this simple question about giving in principle, and allow her to ask me how much, than to try and cram in all the detail of what needs funding / its price-tag in this initial ask question.
But what if Mrs Donor says no, she has reservations about the project? Well then the confirm question was just as valuable. Because thank goodness I’ve found out that Mrs Donor does not really like the project (yet?), before I asked for a donation. Because if I had steamed ahead and asked for a gift, she would certainly have said ‘no’ but she may never have told me why. As it is, if she tells me she has reservations, I can find out exactly what they are, and hopefully solve them. I could then either invite her to consider giving to this same project, or if need be, to a different one.
I recently studied the various techniques used by one hugely successful Director of Development at a school. (She has already smashed her year’s target by 35%). She told me she found a big improvement in her results when she added this confirm question at the appropriate point in her donor conversations: ‘Is the bursary campaign something you think is valuable?’
As you might expect, I now have two questions for you:

  • Do you think the confirm question may be a useful tool to make it easier to ask for large gifts?
  • If you have not consciously been using a confirm question up to this point, what confirm question could you try next time?