Just ask your donors!Why are you afraid to ask? What is holding you back from challenging your donors to give more? What stories are you telling yourself about your donors that you’ve simply made up so you can justify not asking your donor for a gift?
Richard and I are confounded by major gift fundraisers who always seem to have an excuse for not asking donors for gifts.
Currently, I’m working with a major gift officer who was creating her 2018 strategic plan for each of her donors. I had asked her to do a first draft of the plan, and then we’d work on it together.
At first glance, the plan looked really good. There was some kind of touch every month for every one of her donors. Great! But as I looked closer, I noticed that there were no planned solicitations.
I said, “Why did you leave out dates when you plan to solicit your donors?” She sheepishly replied, “Well… I just thought I’d leave that up to the donor.” Huh? “The donor will tell me when they want to give.”
This explains why, before I started working with her, her caseload was full of donors who were giving the same amounts year after year. She wasn’t asking. Her portfolio has tremendous potential, yet she was not asking her donors to do any more than what they always had. It wasn’t because her donors didn’t have the capacity to give more; it was because she wasn’t challenging them to give more.
What I mean by “challenging” is that she wasn’t trying to match the donor’s passions and interests with her organization’s specific programs and projects.
I said to her, “Don’t you know that if you don’t plan to ask your donors for gifts, you are denying them the joy of what it means to make an impact with their giving? Your donors want to do something great through your organization’s mission, yet you’re not inviting them to help. The greatest thing you can do for your donors is to ask them to do something amazing that will make an impact. Why would you deny them that satisfaction?”
She looked at me and said, “You know Jeff, I never thought about it that way. I do want my donors to have joy, and I just need to get out there and do it, don’t I?”
I will tell you this: I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure she is successful. I know from experience that I’m going to have to keep nudging her until she has some really great experiences with her donors. Once she has those she will be fine, because she will witness what happens to a donor when he knows he is helping do something incredible. She will be hooked.
And so will you. If you find yourself not including asks in your strategic plan, or you tend to just accept the annual gifts your portfolio donors are sending in each year, or you are shy to introduce new opportunities to your donors – you have to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on with you.
I know you don’t want to deny your donors joy. But you are doing exactly that by not asking and not asking boldly. Your donors want to give. They want to make a difference in the world through your organization.
Let them do it. The right time is now!