You’ve hired the right capital campaign consultant.
Your feasibility study is finished and — congratulations! — the result was very good news.
The plans are set, your materials look fantastic, and everything is good to go.
But if you don’t know how to ask for those lead gifts that kick off your quiet phase, or the major gifts you’ll need during your public phase, none of the great work you’ve done so far will matter.
Face-to-Face asks are essential.
If you want your capital campaign to be a success, you’ve got to do some face-to-face asking. But, many people find it difficult, or even scary, to ask others for money.
So what’s the secret?
What can you do to make asking easier and more effective — and what should you tell your volunteers to make asking easier for them?
Some advice from a friend…
A few years ago I interviewed my friend, Kent Stroman, CFRE, about some of the concepts he lays out in his book, Asking about Asking: Mastering the Art of Conversational Fundraising.
His advice? You’ve probably guessed from the title of the book: the easiest, most effective way to ask for money is to hold actual conversations with your prospects and donors.
We’re not just talking about a normal water-cooler kind of conversation here. Instead, these discussions are focused on one person alone — your donor.
Long before you get to the point of “the ask,” you absolutely must learn how you can help your donors make the changes that they want to see in your community.
In other words, the most effective major donor meetings revolve around how each donor can “use” your nonprofit to accomplish something that matters deeply to them.
Five Simple Tips When Asking for Gifts
During our interview, Kent gave me five tips that you and your volunteers can use to make your capital campaign donor meetings both stress-free and effective.
1. Take it slow. Be patient.
Remember that this is a capital campaign and that you want your donor to make a major investment in your nonprofit. A very major investment, one that could be as high as six or seven figures.
But believe it or not, if you let the process evolve organically over the course of a few (or even several) meetings, eventually the ask will become your natural next step.
You build to that next step by asking your donor questions. This helps you learn what they’re most passionate about.
2. Make it a conversation, not an interrogation.
Yes, the point is to ask questions and get to know your donor. But this should be a natural process, just as it would be with any new person you meet.
In other words, donor conversations are not an intense game of “Twenty Questions.” There’s a big difference between thoughtful probing and blunt intrusion!
3. Use your gift chart to help determine the right amount to ask for.
Your gift chart isn’t just a great tool to track your campaign progress. It’s also an essential visual aid to use with donors. When the time comes, put that chart on the table and ask the donor questions like:
- “At the appropriate time, where do you see yourself showing up on this chart?”
- “As you think about what you want to accomplish, what range of gift should we be talking about?”
4. Ask strategically, and listen thoughtfully.
As your conversations continue, ask the donor questions that demonstrate you’ve heard and understand what she has said before.
If you don’t sincerely care about her, and demonstrate that you care, why should she care about you or your nonprofit?
5. Build up to the ‘big ask’ with ‘little asks.’
Ask the donor for permission every step of the way:
- “Is this a good time for you?”
- “Are you ready to discuss a gift?”
- “What would you like to do next?”
Andrea and I will continue to talk about asking frequently (and in depth) on this blog, just as we do with our capital campaign coaching clients.
In the meantime, this post will give you a good place to start planning your upcoming conversations with your capital campaign donors. Good luck, and happy asking!