When I first started my fundraising career, I was given a laminated card the size of a business card and on it was listed all of the questions a prospective donor should be asked in a cultivation meeting. It was very handy and fit right in my wallet. Now, when I’m training and coaching board members, Executive Directors and resource development staff – I’m often asked “What are the key things one should do and not do when making an ask to a prospective or renewal donor?” Below, I’ve created a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts and I’m sure there are many more but this at least gets you started or might serve as a good reminder:
When Making an Ask, Do:
1. Do research a prospect thoroughly and if a current donor, research giving history and anything personally about the person you are meeting with. If a corporation, check stock quote that morning as well as current media stories so you know what you are walking into.
2. Do provide a briefing document to organizational leadership and/or volunteer solicitors a week before the ask and follow up with a phone call two or three days prior to see if they have any questions. If a big ask or involves three people, schedule a conference call two days or one day prior. Ask leadership or the volunteer to meet you 15 minutes before the appointment in a coffee shop nearby or in the company lobby to discuss again who will say what and answer any questions.
3. Do make an ask in person if at all possible. The larger the ask, the more important it is to make it face-to-face.
4. Do take the opportunity to find out more about the person, company, foundation by listening first and asking questions. Then, tell your story, present the need and make the ask.
5. Do offer an opportunity for a prospective donor to see your organization’s mission in action.
6. Do invite the spouse to the meeting if an individual or family ask. This eliminates the individual from using the excuse that they need to speak to their spouse before making a decision.
7. Do offer verbally and on paper a menu of funding opportunities. For individuals, go in with a specific ask and be ready with two to three back up funding needs or ideas if the first one doesn’t interest the donor. If a corporation or foundation, a menu provides one annual ask on everything that needs funding from general operating, capital campaign, endowment to sponsorships for an event.
8. Do ask the prospective donor to CONSIDER support of $______ for _________. BE QUIET and wait for their response.
9. Do understand that if you get a “no” it just means not right now so don’t give up and find other ways to engage the prospect and keep the prospect informed of the organization’s great work.
When Making An Ask, Don’t:
1. Don’t email to gain an appointment – always call. You can follow up to a voice mail with an email if a prospect has been hard to reach. Leave specific times when you can be reached and ask that if you miss their call back to please leave times they are available to speak.
2. Don’t show up on time or late. Arrive 15 minutes early – always.
3. Don’t forget to thank a renewal prospective donor for their support before asking for another donation.
4. Don’t leave without making the ask. This may seem like a given but many times the ask is never truly made.
5. Don’t get off track in the meeting. If the volunteer solicitor is running over time or not following the script agreed upon, interject and get them back on track or take over the conversation. Do not talk too much about yourself, get to know them.
6. Don’t leave without something. If they say no to money than ask for another appointment in the future, ask them to open a door to another potential donor, ask them to sit on a committee, ask them for an in kind gift, ask them to attend a future get together – make them say yes to something!
7. Don’t keep going back to companies to ask for more funding throughout the year. They expect you to present all annual opportunities at one time.
8. Don’t forget to thank the prospect immediately for their time via email and/or personal note and reiterate any action steps that were discussed.