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Carol Spychalski

Carol Spychalski

Affiliate, KDD Philanthropy
Associate Vice President of Philanthropy, San Diego Humane Society

Five Questions to Ask Before You Ask

Inviting someone to give should be fun — so why do we get so nervous?

While it’s normal and positive to have some nerves, the truth is that when we feel very nervous, it’s often because we haven’t done our homework. And no, not the research-at-a-computer kind! It’s all about what we ask the prospective donor and how we get to know them.

The next time you’re preparing to make an ask, ask yourself: Have I done my homework?  Prior to your meeting, test whether you can answer these five questions.

1). What motivates the donor?

Do you know exactly why they care about your cause? How supporting your organization aligns with their own values and desires for the world?

If you’re not clear about the answer to these questions, then you have more work to do to cultivate your donor.  Ask for a visit and acknowledge that since you’ve spent so much time sharing about your organization, you want to learn more about them, too! Ask questions like:

  • How did you come to care so much about this cause?
  • Where did you learn to be so generous?
  • What do you enjoy about giving?

2). How does the donor feel about your organization?

By the time you ask someone for a gift, you should know where your organization ranks as the donor’s personal philanthropic priority. And, you should know whether they feel connected to, and trusting of, your organization and its leadership.

You can pose these questions!! Think about what you might learn by asking the following:

  • We’ve been so fortunate that you’ve trusted us with your support, and that’s something we take seriously. I’d love to know how you feel about your experience as a donor to our organization?
  • You’ve been incredibly generous, and we’re so grateful to you. One thing that’s really helpful for us to understand when we work with our supporters is how you feel about our cause and our organization in relation to others. Would you be willing to share whether our organization is one of your top giving priorities?

3). Is this the right time for the donor to give

The best time to invite a prospect to make a meaningful gift is when they’re excited about your cause, have trust in your organization and have no personal circumstances that would stand in the way of such a gift. Do you know where you stand on each of these measures?

If you’re not confident about their commitment to the cause and the organization, consider some testing questions:

  • It’s been great getting to talk with you about the work we’re doing here at our organization. What are your impressions so far?
  • Is there anything that’s surprised you as you’ve learned more about us?

And when the answers to these questions are all promising, there’s one more green light you should seek with a pre-ask. In other words, asking to ask:

  • I love hearing how passionate you are about this issue.
  • I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your support — if you were open to making a gift, what that could look like here and what impact that would have.
  • Is that something you’d be open to exploring?

4). According to the donor, what should this gift accomplish?

Should the gift be restricted to a specific area within your organization?

Are they interested in a current-use gift or establishing an endowment?

Is recognition an important component of their giving?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is the time to ask! If your prospect has said yes to the pre-ask, then these questions are easy:

  • That’s wonderful, thank you!
  • If you’re open to it, I’d like to ask a couple questions to make sure I come back with the right options for you.
  • Is there a specific area or program you’d like to have an impact on?
  • Some of our supporters  really like the idea of establishing an endowment — something that supports these programs year after year. Is this something you’d like to include as an option?
  • Celebrating our supporters is something that means a lot to us, and it can inspire others to get involved too. How do you feel about the idea of doing something that would include a naming opportunity?

What amount should we ask for?

It always comes down to this, and the true-but-occasionally-frustrating answer is that research can only take you so far. The most important elements here are your instincts and your listening skills. Here are a few questions that can help you get there during the pre-ask conversation:

  • If you could achieve anything for animals/students/etc, what would that be?
  • Would you be open to making a pledge over a few years?
  • I’d like to come back with some ideas for you, and I want to share that they’re going to be ambitious — but I think you’ll really like them! Would you be open to that?

With this knowledge in hand, you’re in a great position to make a compelling ask. Which means that you get to set (most of) the nerves aside, and enjoy the next step in inviting someone who cares deeply about your cause to have an impact!

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.