(MG Series #4) How to Bring Your Donor into an Ask Conversation, Seamlessly and Easily

It’s the moment of truth. There you are, in conversation with a major donor who’s really interested in an aspect of your work. She’s on the edge of her seat, asking detailed questions about the impact you are making. 

You sit there thinking: “I think she might be ready to make a gift.” 

So you wonder: “How do I bring up the subject of a gift without throwing cold water on this conversation?” 

This is the moment when many nonprofit leaders and fundraisers freeze. They don’t know what to do or say in the moment of opportunity. 

They might blurt out an ask with no preparation or warm up of any kind. The problem with this approach is that your donor may feel like it’s too abrupt. It may feel like an affront – coming in out of nowhere. Then you may have lost serious ground with your donor, and possibly damaged the relationship. 

But prepared, experienced fundraisers know exactly how to handle this special opportunity.

It’s NOT an ask; it IS a conversation.

Most major and principal gifts happen over time. Rarely does the ask happen in one formal meeting. 

Instead, it’s a series of conversations in which you explore with the donor how she wants to help. In reality, it’s a back and forth conversation over a period of days, weeks or months. (Hopefully not years!)

Please note: it’s what the donor wants to do, not what you want her to do. She is in charge, because she’s the donor. 

In our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive course, we will be teaching the Skillful Conversation process that leads gently to an ask conversation. This approach is never pushy. It’s always gracious and polite. Join us for our course (registrations close Feb 24th), and you’ll learn how to organically put a successful ask on the table, seamlessly and effortlessly. 

Help your donor walk through the door of a gift.

With a few well-placed questions, you are helping your donor imagine what they could do, and how they could make a personal impact. 

You lead your donor to the mountain and help them stand in the place of vision and possibility.  You open the door to a gift conversation and your donor simply walks through the door. 

Here are a few simple ways to start a Gift Conversation with your donor:  

1. Would you like to know how you can help this project?

This is such an easy question to ask. There your donor is, carrying on and on about her interest in your mission. You can seamlessly, simply say, “Would you like to know how you could help?

Do note that you are asking your donor for permission to discuss this topic. Does the donor want to go in this direction or not? 

This is how you help the donor feel that they are in charge of the gift process. 

In the upcoming Major Gifts Intensive course, we’ll be teaching our permission-based, conversational asking approach. For many of our clients, this strategy has enabled them to receive five, six and even seven-figure gifts from happy donors – without even asking for the gift. No kidding. You and your team can learn these skills too, to easily close major, principal and campaign gifts this year. 

2. Could you see yourself supporting our work? 

This is one of our favorite qualification questions. Your donor might be sharing her excitement about your work, and you sense that the door is opening for a gift discussion. 

It’s so easy to simply ask “Could you see yourself supporting this project?” You’ll find out immediately whether this prospect wants to make a gift, and probably even when she would decide. 

In addition, this is a great question for board members to ask their contacts. A board member may invite a friend to an event. As a follow-up, they can ask: Could you see yourself supporting our work? Again, it’s not pushy, and it’s very easy for a board member to come out and say this. 

3. Have you ever thought about helping? 

Your donor may have never thought about the idea of a gift. So it’s your job to bring it up. You are simply inquiring about the donor’s interest in getting more involved. 

We love this question, too, because it helps you qualify whether your prospect might become a donor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Don’t make it an “ask.” Instead have an asking conversation! 

Asking conversations are low-pressure and oriented toward the donor. Use these questions to lead your donor right down the path to a gift. 

Our new Major Gifts Intensive 2021 can teach you and your team how to manage the delicate relationship with a major or principal donor, so that they will want to give generously. The Intensive is an extensive, LIVE teaching and coaching program from March – July 2021. 

You’ll learn the structure, skills and systems to secure major and principal gifts for your cause. What’s more, you and your team will be able to close more transformational gifts with the powerful combination of permission and conversational asking.

If you’re interested, don’t wait, because registrations close Feb 24th. Let us know here and we’ll hop on the phone to see if this is a good fit for you and your team.