March 19, 2012
Asking Can Be Fun!

Asking can be fun!  It should be fun.  Asking a person to make an investment (that is what the gift should be) is fun because it is the culmination of much work.  It assumes that the prospective donor has been properly cultivated by your organization.  It is fun for the Executive, the Director of Development and especially for the volunteer who has the assignment to do the asking.

Consider the following truisms, they should set the tone for your assignment:


  • People give to people. People do not give to causes. People give to people with causes.
  • People will not give to an institution to pay off debts, pay salaries or even give because you need it.  They give because they need what you have to offer them.  They will give beyond the institution, to the good you do.
  • As solicitors, we do not have the right to deprive anyone of the privilege of saying “No”.
  • If your knees are shaking, stomach uneasy, tongue dry just before you are ready to start on a solicitation visit, “Kick yourself aside and let your cause walk in.”
  • The principal reason people do not give:  They’re not asked.
  • Only when they say no the third time should you believe them.  What does this mean?  It means you will hear them say, “NO! I can’t give.” and you’ll have to muster up the strength and say, “I understand, but we need your support, will you consider……

What follows are step by step instructions.  If you follow them you’ll see how fun it really is.

Set The Pace  

The first preparation step in seeking an investment from the public is to make your own commitment to the organization.  That way, you will be inviting investment by example instead of by advice.

Recognize Your Influence

If you are a volunteer you must recognize that because you are taking this voluntary initiative on behalf of the organization, what you say to your prospect and how you say it will be the greatest influence on his/her giving.  Ultimately, the best tool of persuasion will be your own sincerity, interest and enthusiasm.

If you are a staff member you should recognize that the simple effort you are making in a personal call will have great influence on the prospective donor and will be appreciated.

Prepare For The Visit                       

Make the case for the organization by anticipating questions and studying the organization’s materials.

Know Your Prospect                        

The better you know the person you are calling on - his interest and his business - the more effectively you can make the case for the organization in terms that will win maximum attention and investment.

Make The Appointment      

A really meaningful gift cannot be obtained by mail or telephone.  Be sure your prospect can give his undivided attention to your story.  More than one visit may be necessary for his careful consideration of your presentation.  Even though information may have been disseminated to all prospects, do not assume that they will know about the present program.

Telephone for an appointment but strongly resist discussing the gift over the telephone.  There is not a substitute for face-to-face visits.

If they resist, tell them that you respect their opinion and that important developments at the organization require you to share this information in person.  You may want to explain that it will only take 15 to 20 minutes.  You may want to mention that you have some materials you would like to show them as well as an exciting video presentation (if you have one) that they really need to see.  Set a specific time either in their home or office - wherever they are most comfortable.

Pledge Card  

Be sure to take the prospect’s pledge card (or commitment card) and pen with you.

Calling On The Prospect  

  1. Express your appreciation.
  2. Reminisce about the organization.
  3. Quickly outline what the campaign or present fund raising program  will accomplish.
  4. Emphasize the multiplying effect of her gift.
  5. Don’t apologize - this is an important program, and you are part of a tremendous opportunity to help the organization’s future.  Instead of asking people to give because the organization critically needs the money, you are seeking investments on behalf of the organization - a successful enterprise - for the good it will do in the community and in society.  You are not “begging” for a handout.
  6. Mention the total campaign or program goal and the specific goal for your particular group.

Ask For The Gift        

"I could not be here today talking with you about your gift without having already made my own.  My husband and I feel so strongly about the importance of this organization that we have made this our number one priority beyond our regular giving.  I know the amount that each person gives is an individual thing, but we believe the organization deserves our best.  This may require some rearranging of priorities, but we need to sacrifice for those things we truly believe in.  We think this sacrifice is worth it.  The organization needs us.”

"I would like for you and (spouse’s name) to make the organization your priority also, and pledge (or give) $____________ over the next 12 months (over a 3-year period.)"

Ask For the Specific Dollar Amount                          

People like to know what they are expected to do.

Prospect’s Response                         

Your prospect needs a chance to respond.  He may go ahead and make his pledge at this time, or hesitate, or say no, or may ask for additional time to consider it.

If yes, mention we are asking people to complete a pledge card (or commitment card) so we will be sure to know exactly what they have pledged for our records.  If he hesitates to complete the card, remind him it is not a contract and draw his attention to the information on the back of the card which should explain how the gift or pledge can be fulfilled.

Allow him time to respond.  If he still doesn’t respond favorably, be creative by suggesting he pledge that amount but make it over 4 years instead of 3 years, or some other type of program to get this needed pledge.  Only after going through such a exercise do you talk about reducing the size of the pledge.

NOTE:  It is best not to even show the prospect the pledge card until after he/she has made his/her final decision concerning his/her pledge.

Many people you will talk to have never been asked to pledge the amount you will be asking them to give.  It is not that they don’t have the money or can’t give the amount.  They simply have never even considered giving such an amount to the organization.  Your personal giving and involvement will go a long way toward getting others to give more generously than they have previously considered.

 "We simply have to have gifts of this size," 

 "You need to get involved like you never have before,"

 "We are dealing with the lives of our future," 

 "Leadership is so important, and you are perceived as a leader in this community.  Others are watching you and will respond accordingly.”

Suggest a Commemorative Opportunity

As a way of introducing the amount you’d like your prospect to consider pledging, you may choose to recommend a naming of a particular building or entity or a listing on a plaque.

Suggest Ways To Give          

Besides a pledge of cash, there are a number of other forms a commitment can take such as real property, securities, bonds, etc.  Prospects may also want to consider making a bequest through their will to the organization at this time.

Never Leave a Pledge Card              

This is fatal!  Since most prospects want time to consider their investments, plan to make 2 visits - but don’t leave the pledge card with your prospect.  You will find that larger pledges will be forthcoming if you follow this rule.

Make a Date

Unless the prospect is ready to make this investment at the suggested level on your first visit, you will not even want to take the pledge card out.  Instead, this first visit will be devoted to informing the prospect about the campaign and suggesting a level of investment.  Ask, “Can you tell me the kind of time table on which you think you’ll be making your decision?”  Try to schedule your second visit within a week, if possible. 

Make sure you have an appointment for your second visit before leaving.

Consider a Team Approach             

You may wish to enlist the help of another volunteer on selected calls. Two volunteers visiting a prospect - when both have made their own pledges - can be very convincing.

Say Thank You                      

When the pledge is made, regardless of the amount, be sure to thank the prospect, get the card signed and thank them again.

If someone absolutely will not pledge anything, thank them for their time and encourage them to stay involved with the organization. Tell them to call you should they consider a gift at another time.

See the Best First

See first the prospects you consider the most apt to commit at the suggested figure. Remember that early pledges, especially those that are substantial, set the pace for other subsequent pledges.

Call Your First Prospect Now

Make an appointment.  The campaign is on a very tight time schedule and it will not be possible to move ahead unless all assignments are completed within the subscribed time period. If you need more information about the campaign or your prospects, if you are unable to secure an investment that satisfies you, or if you have any questions about how to handle the details of a specific investment, don’t guess - call the organization’s office.



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