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If you have followed along with our blog, you know that we recently wrote about the donor lifecycle (and if you’re new, we’d recommend you go back and take a look). More specifically, we laid out the five phases of the cycle — identification, discovery, cultivation, solicitation, and appreciation — looking at why each matter and how Atticus can help.

Here, we’ll take an even deeper look into one of those five phases of the donor lifecycle — solicitation, or “making the actual ask.” This is the part of the process that requires fundraisers to do what most all of us find uncomfortable (to one degree or another) — asking for money. Whether you’re new in this role or a seasoned pro, it’s worth a bit of your time to read about how you can prepare for and eventually make the ask of a potential donor or how to train your people to do so effectively. Our goal here is to ease your fears and discomfort, as well as to help you feel confident that you’ll have success.

So, let’s look at aspects you will want to consider when preparing to make an ask from a donor and look at the role Atticus can play to assist you along the way.


1. Acknowledge Your Reticence to Ask

This initial step may feel silly to you, but as you begin a new campaign or embark on developing a new donor relationship, you will likely feel some amount of hesitation and anxiety. Of course, this is completely reasonable, but have you ever spent time truly considering why you feel uncomfortable? Maybe slowing down to contemplate this feels like a waste of time when you surely have a busy schedule but nailing this down will allow you to face your concerns head-on and develop strategies that work for you and the specific ask in front of you. So, as you begin this process, use the list below to help you identify the cause of any pause, and then continue on in the process:This is because without proper identification, the rest of the cycle becomes irrelevant. In order to engage the four other phases, you first need to identify the right people. This likely begs the question for you, “How then do I do that?” Don’t worry, we’ll get to that answer soon.

  • Are you concerned that making the ask may negatively affect your relationship with that person?
  • Are you new to the fundraising profession and unsure of how best to go about making the ask?
  • Are you unsure of the donor’s capacity for giving, and therefore unclear on what, exactly, you should ask for?
  • Does your organization lack a clear mission, vision, and values that you can communicate to the potential donor as you make the ask?


2. Understand the Giver’s Calculation

For most potential donors, there are a couple of things that feel particularly important when considering whether or not to give their money to a particular cause. Your job, as the fundraiser, is to connect with them in a couple of specific areas.

First, consider how you can connect to the potential donor’s head. They want to be presented with a coherent narrative and understand what your organization does, why it does it, and how you accomplish it. Essentially, are your mission, vision, and values clear and clearly communicated? Are those easy things for donors to understand, buy into, and even share with others?

Additionally, you should make an appeal to the donor’s heart. At the end of the day, donors are people, and almost all people want to feel an emotional connection to the causes they support. You may want to utilize powerful stories, as testimonials often draw in the hearts of donors far more easily than facts and figures ever will. Try to cast a compelling vision for the opportunity, rather than simply stating a financial need. This may be as simple as explicitly stating the clear connection between the giver’s passions and your organization’s vision.

As you seek to understand the best way to connect with a potential donor ahead of making an ask, this is where Atticus is uniquely poised to help. When your mission, vision, and values are clearly outlined, our team and technology are able to easily help you draw clear connections to givers, answering many of the questions outlined above. With Atticus’s help, it will be easy for you to approach a donor knowing why they may be inclined to give and how their values fit nicely with those of your organization. Remember, you are inviting them to join in on an opportunity, not just asking them for a monetary value.


3. Be Specific

Now that you’re feeling a bit more confident about connecting to the head and heart of a potential giver as you work toward making the ask, it’s important to nail the details of what, specifically you’re asking for. This step is simple, but absolutely crucial in helping you confidently and successfully make the ask. So, before having that conversation with a potential donor, consider these things:

  • Whom are you asking? (Tailor your conversation and strategies to the specific person.)
  • What is the purpose of the ask? What will the money be used for? Remember this is where they have an opportunity to be a part of something great, and they will want to know what exactly that is.
  • When do you need the gift?
  • How much do you need to accomplish this great endeavor or opportunity?


4. Utilize the Gift Chart

You’re likely familiar with the idea of a gift chart (or pyramid), but if not, it could quickly be summarized as: a tool that lays out how many gifts and of what size you need to reach a certain goal. Here’s an example:

In some ways, the reason this is relevant to your plan to solicit a gift from a potential donor falls in line with the discussion above on specificity. It’s helpful for donors to know exactly what you need and what role they can play in that. It also increases the likelihood of them increasing their gift amount when they’re able to consider their gift amount in relation to those of others or the overall needed amount to achieve the given goal (i.e., they initially thought they may give $500K, but after hearing what it would take financially to truly accomplish the goal or mission, they want to be a part of, they increase their gift to $1.5M).

Again, this is a part of the process where Atticus is able to provide you with critical information. Using data on past giving history and other various wealth indicators, our technology recommends the amount for which you may consider asking from a potential donor. Considering this in terms of the gift chart, you’ll know ahead of time who may have the potential to give the amounts at the top of your pyramid, allowing you to focus your efforts on the right people at the right time in the process.


5. Follow Up After a Commitment is Given

You may utilize the tools above leading up to the ask, but once that conversation has been had, there is still a bit more to be done. Specifically, it’s crucial to follow up with the donor on the commitment they’ve made to ensure it gets fulfilled.

Many times, a donor will make a commitment and promptly follow through, but when that’s not the case it’s important to assume the best (perhaps sending in the check slipped through the cracks during a busy time for them) but be bold in circling back. If they have changed their mind, they’ll let you know, but this likely isn’t the case. Often, people simply need a reminder and a specific timeline to ensure the task gets completed.

Sure, this may feel awkward, but remember that one uncomfortable phone call, meeting, or email is almost certainly worth the end result of a completed gift and new believer in and supporter of your cause.


6. Maintain a Relationship with Your Donors

Lastly, even once a check has been written, consider how you can maintain a relationship with that donor. First, and perhaps most obviously, express your gratitude for their gift. Send a thank you note or email or give them a call — whatever feels most authentic to you and your organization will likely carry the most weight.

Also, make sure your relationship goes beyond fundraising. Rather than only reaching out when you are in the middle of a campaign, think of ways to involve them in the more tactical parts of your mission and vision. Continue connecting their gifts and passions with the needs of your organization, and of course, when possible, help them connect those directly to the areas their gifts may have impacted the most.

Asking for donations — even for a cause for which you are passionate about — is no easy task. Our hope is that the information above makes the job a bit easier and that you’ll consider inviting Atticus into the process to simplify it even more as you look to find the right partners in order to fund your great endeavors.