As you prepare for the year-end giving season, there are so many moments when you might feel stuck. You have something you need to ask a donor but don’t know how to do so in an honoring way. You may want to ask if they will increase their giving, or give a second gift, or find out if they can even give this year at all, but knowing how to start that conversation can feel daunting. 

Our donor communication and relationship building model, Permission-Based Asking™, is your solution. Why? Because it gives you the confidence and tools to ask great open-ended questions and facilitate meaningful relationships with your donors. It’s much more than one opening question, which is why I want to show you how you can respectfully broach a subject with a donor and start a meaningful conversation. 

Here are a number of scenarios and examples of language you can use. It’s important that you adapt these examples to be in your own voice. But, these ideas will hopefully help you get into a space of curiosity so you can ask great open-ended questions

Scenario 1: Asking for an Additional Gift

Hernando gave his typical gift in March. But, over the months, you’ve developed a deeper relationship. You now understand he is interested in your forest replanting project. How do you broach asking if he wants to give a second gift for replanting trees? 

Hernando, you have so generously given every year each spring. I want you to know that your gift is greatly appreciated as it has a big impact on our local environment. As we have been talking, I’ve learned more about your passion for replanting local forests. And, I have been updating you more on those projects. We have some forest project opportunities coming up and I wondered if you would be interested in learning more about potentially supporting one of those projects before the end of the year?

Scenario 2: Asking For an Increase for the First Time

Suzanna has been giving the same amount each year for the past five years. You want to ask for an increase in her giving but are afraid that it will seem unappreciative. 

Suzanna, you have been giving for the past 20 years and given a total of $89,000 over those years. Can you believe it! And you have faithfully been giving $5,000 each year in November for the past five years. As we talk about your interest in the local housing project, would you be open to discussing your giving interest this year and how an increase could help more people? 

Scenario 3: Donor Didn’t Give Their Gift This Year Like They Normally Do

Adam usually gives in July but didn’t make his gift this year. How do I find out what happened and ask if he wants to give before the end of the year? 

Hi Adam, I wanted to check in on something. Do you have a few minutes? You have given so generously for the past six years each July, however I’m not seeing a gift in from you this year. I’m checking to make sure we have no error on our side and to check in with you. Would you be interested in sharing more about your philanthropy goals for this year?

Scenario 4: You Don’t Know a Donor’s Interests and Passions

I want to clarify what exactly about our mission Terrance is passionate about, so I can either ask him for a gift related to that in November or at the very least share updates on that program when I talk about the impact of his giving. 

Terrance, we have had a few emails and chats, but I realize I’m not really clear about what in our mission you are the most passionate about. Would you be open to a conversation?

And then, once you meet…
Terrance, what first drew you to give to us? With our five areas of focus (list them) can I ask which area or which program most inspires you? Care to share more about that? 

Scenario 5: A Donor’s Business is Struggling

I know that Vin’s business is slow this year. He usually gives every October. How do I find out if I should ask him for a gift this year? 

Vin, thank you for sharing with me about the challenges you have been facing with your business this year. It means a lot that you let me know what has been happening in your world. 

I also don’t want to make any assumptions about where you’re at in your giving interests and capacity this year, so I wanted to check in to see how can I best serve you and your family this giving season? 

Scenario 6: How to Meet with a Busy Donor

As a successful business owner, Samantha has a packed calendar, and I know from past experience that it’s challenging for her to find time to meet with me in person. How do I broach the subject of why I want to meet with her to review a proposal and make an ask?

Samantha, you run circles around me with all you are doing, and I respect your time. That is why I want to ask if you would be open to having a 20-minute in-person or zoom meeting to talk through some projects I think you might be interested in supporting this fall. Being able to talk it through helps me to better understand your interests and answer questions or concerns that bubble up for you. It’s also so inspiring for me to hear from our special partners like you about what you care about most within our mission. Would you be open to setting up a quick meeting? 

What can you do next? Look through your caseload of donors and ID who you need to communicate with prior to your upcoming asks. What do you need to know about their giving interests and goals? Then write up a script for each of them that you can use when calling or in an email. The more you practice doing this, the more comfortable you get and the more your donors get to experience authentic meaningful connection with an organization they care about. 

You’ve got this!