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How do I Prepare for the Donor "Ask" Discussion?

Is there an easy answer to this question? Probably not since each donor is uniquely connected to you and your organization’s mission. For preparation for your next “ask,” here are some ideas to consider.

As a philanthropy leader, one of your primary goals is closing gifts. In most cases, the path leading to planned gift closing success is challenging and lengthy, paved with stewardship. The ask discussion with each donor is a critical step to close the gift and requires intentional pre-planning. Your prospect is now ready for a more in-depth gifting conversation with you. Great! The "ask" has arrived. Now to prepare!

Setting the stage is pivotal.  Where is your donor most comfortable meeting? What is the most convenient time for the meeting? How do you make the meeting environment relaxing, yet professional? Will your prospect want loved ones and perhaps their professional advisor at the meeting? If the meeting is virtual, choose the connection media and confirm that your donor is comfortable navigating the video and audio successfully.

Materials for the meeting.  What do you bring to the discussion? Certainly, you will have informational material regarding the gift and the impact it will make for your organization’s mission. The material should be donor-friendly with large text, eye-catching images, and branding for your nonprofit. If the meeting is virtual, arrange for the donor to receive your materials either by email or postal mail. It is essential for you as a gift planner to have a persuasive proposal to share with your donor prospects. You should strive to integrate meaningful ownership into the proposal by connecting to the donor’s passion and heartstrings with your organization. Studies have shown that as much as 90% of a giving decision is based on emotion.

Motivation and clarity for your donor are critical components for moving forward. Include in your proposal “the how” this gift plan works and “the why” the donor should make this gift. Donor friendly wording is necessary to avoid confusion. You may want to include graphics to illustrate the donor's benefit and the mission's benefit.

Donor’s Perspective.  What is it about your mission that is so important for your donor? Images of your mission in action making a difference will resonate and carry an emotional impact. In order for your donor to feel connection with your organization, your proposal will need to include your logo, colors, contact information and mission-oriented messaging. Your branding creates instant recognition, which is an essential reaction.

Matching your proposal closely to the objectives of your donor will move the gift forward. For example, if your donor wants to provide scholarships, be certain that goal is prominent in your proposal. If your donor is passionate about helping animals, your proposal should highlight how their support will accomplish that mission. If your donor feels drawn to support the community's medical facilities, have that focus on the proposal.

Your goal is for the donor to take ownership of the impactful proposal in his or her hands. The joy of moving forward to make a difference is stirred. “Philanthropy is the rent we pay for the joy and privilege we have for our space on this earth.” Quote by the late Jerry Panas, fundraising consultant, author, presenter, teacher and icon.

For this "ask" conversation with donors, encouraging their actions to be more immediate is your aim. Closing more gifts is your goal.  I wish you the best success for your “ask” discussions!

You are invited to share your donor “ask” experiences.  Also, reach out if you have questions about exploring donor-centric and impactful proposals for your donors and prospects. Share your comments below. We are happy to hear from you!

Sandra Henningsen

By Sandra Henningsen
Assistant Vice President, Integrated Marketing, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

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