We know from personal experience that asking a donor for a gift when you’re sitting across the table from them is one of the most exciting and inspiring things you can do as a front-line fundraiser. After presenting your donor with an offer THEY are passionate about, having the donor respond with a “Yes” has a profound effect on you and the donor. Richard and I often say something mystical happens in that moment.

But, as we’ve all learned during the pandemic, you don’t have to be face-to-face to ask your donor for a meaningful gift and to create that mystical experience. Not all donors want to meet in person, or they simply may not have the time for that type of meeting with you. (Tweet it!)

This is one of the reasons we don’t like having a face-to-face metric. We need to be tuned into a donor’s preferences, not ours or the organization’s management preferences.

During the pandemic, we’ve seen over and over how front-line fundraisers, like you, have asked for significant gifts over Zoom, phone, e-mail and even text. The strategy of having to ask for a meaningful gift only face-to-face is over.

However, I want to give you some ideas on how you can effectively ask for gifts when you are not sitting across the table from a donor.

Asking Over Zoom

  1. Ensure you’re in a quiet location where you can focus — no sitting outdoors at a café while talking to your donor.
  2. If the donor is unfamiliar with the system you’re using, send instructions to ensure their audio and video are set up correctly.
  3. Consider sending information ahead of time or have follow-up plan of what to send.
  4. Use permission-based asking to stay aligned with the donor.
  5. Listen closely to tone and what body language clues you can see.
  6. Give space for potential audio delays.

Asking By Phone

  1. Focus in on the donor’s voice and tone.
  2. If you know that the donor is super chatty and is getting really quiet on your call, check in and ask some alignment questions.
  3. Have some pivot questions ready so you can stay aligned with the donor, be curious, and explore if more information is needed.

Asking By E-mail or Text

  1. These two avenues should be used mainly if this is the donor’s preference — in other words, it might be easier for YOU to ask this way, but is this really how the donor wants to communicate with you? Be clear about that.
  2. Email and text will eliminate the ability to gauge response in real time.
  3. You’ll need to do much more pre-communication about what you’re sending and have a follow-up plan.

Remember, no matter how you’re going to present the opportunity to your donor, always make sure that the offer aligns with the donor’s passions and interests. Then, make sure you really consider the donor’s communication preference and that you’re open and transparent with the donor leading up to the ask. Finally, make sure you absolutely have a follow-up plan no matter what the donor says, and that you’re able to celebrate their impact.

No matter how you present an opportunity for a donor to give, that moment of bringing together the needs of the world and your donor’s desire to change the world is profound, because of the impact it will have in eliminating the need and bringing joy to the donor’s heart.