Be intentional as you work towards the Ask

As you get nearer to asking for a major gift you need to be intentional with your monthly touch points.

As you lead towards the Ask it goes without saying that you must have regular contact with your potential donor.  If there has been a long gap (two months+) since you had contact there is little chance that your Ask will be successful.  Hence there is a need to achieve a minimum of monthly contact with your donor as you build the friendship and get to know their family, their interests and what it is they like about your charity.

As we’ve said before, from your first meeting with the potential donor there should be a minimum of 6 – 9 months of getting to know your donor before contemplating an Ask.  For some individuals this could be 2 – 3 years.

Asking is about knowing your donor, understanding who they are and their values and finding a great project match that
will bring joy to their giving for themselves and their family.

However, if you have a goal of Asking, for example, in 4 months time unless you are intentional NOW towards that goal you are unlikely to succeed.

In more detail the Ask is the culmination of your knowledge of the donor and having painstakingly found out why they are
interested in your organisation together with your strong belief that the project you are presenting is the right match for them to fund and will be received warmly.

On your donor plan if you are heading for an Ask in 4 months time you should start drip feeding the need over the next 4 months.   Examples might be:

“Here’s more information on the work we were talking about, the children have already received the educational materials although they are still waiting for additional books once the new wing is built…..”  (Giving feedback but still showing more is needed)


“Attached is a video showing what has been achieved….the children are still waiting for the new shower block”

You can drip feed the needs as you talk naturally about what has been achieved but showing there is more to go or a ‘next phase’.  This drip feeding can be done in person, on the phone, Skype or in emails with attached videos and pictures.  Your donor will have a communication style preference. It is a natural flow of conversation and information showing that there is a lot happening but there is still more to do.

In this way you can lead very naturally to the Ask.  This is easier than developing a warm relationship and then suddenly presenting your donor with an unexpected Ask.

You should always plan where your Ask will be in the year many months ahead (of course to be altered if need be!) because:

  • There is a lot more work around the Ask
  • The Proposal needs to be written with this particular donor in mind
  • The Ask has to be at the right level (Examples:  £10k, £25k or £100k?) from the research
  • Multiple year Asks should be included
  • The Proposal should demonstrate how this project need matches their interest
  • Sometimes there is a requirement for more than one meeting to talk through the project and answer questions including other members of the programme team

For these reasons it is important to plan when your Ask will be for each donor so they can be spread across the year.  For example, if you have 50 potential donors on your caseload it is best practice to plan 4 – 5 Asks each month spread across the year so it is more manageable.

It is never easy for a Major Gifts Executive to do this however meeting new potential givers and qualifying them happens gradually one by one so it is possible.  Particularly in year 2 you can begin to spread the Asks to where you want them to be.

What is your experience?  Ask a question or give your comment below …

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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