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Exactly What to Say When Asking for Major Gifts

Fundraising for nonprofits is one of the most exciting activities imaginable. And one of the scariest.

When it comes to asking for money, normally confident people go get tied up in knots. They forget what to say. Their mouth dries up. Their mind goes completely blank.

One of the best ways to overcome that is knowing exactly what to say in the fundraising meeting. Having some tried-and-true phrases you can rely on to clearly make the ask. And practicing those phrases over and over. Here are three of the most helpful phrases to get you to making a fundraising ask.

Three Phrases to Make Your Fundraising Ask Easy

It’s easy to confuse giving a speech or presentation with making a fundraising ask. People rely on speeches and presentations because they can stay in control. But as we know “the person who asks the questions controls the conversation.”

The best part of asking questions is that you are completely focused on the prospect. When you “pitch” someone, you are focused on yourself. And the prospect knows it and quickly loses interest.

So be sure to spend the majority of the first part of the conversation listening to the donor prospect.

Once you’ve heard what the prospect values, what they find important, and what connects them to your project, you are ready to ask them to give to the project. Here are three phrases to help you clearly introduce your ask:

“Because you said… Would you consider a gift of $_____ to this?”

If you can use the phrase “because you said,” you’re on a very strong ground for an ask. It shows you respect the prospect enough to have listened to them. And your saying “would you consider” shows you respect the project enough to make specific ask.

“I don’t know if this is even in the ballpark, but would you consider a gift of $____ to support the children?”

This is my favorite ask. This is completely honest: for most fundraising asks, you really do not know if the amount is in the right range. Saying that to the prospect allows you to ask for a higher gift without risking offending them.

“We’re currently inviting leaders to participate. Would you join us at the $____ level?”

Joining a group of leaders can be a compelling ask. Your level can be the specific dollar amount. Or it can have a name like the “Presidents Council.” Both ways work.

More Considerations in Making Your Fundraising Ask

Those phrases are time-tested ways to make it easier to make a clear fundraising ask. When making a major gift ask, it’s important that you say a specific dollar amount. The donor can’t read your mind, so don’t force them to try. Phrases like “would you support” or “would you give a gift” mean nothing. Respect your prospect enough to be clear: “Would you consider a gift of $25,000 to this?”

It’s best to opt for a specific dollar amount than for a range. If you give a range like “Would you consider a gift of $15,000 to $25,000,” you’ve only asked for the lower end of the range. Even if you hear the $25,000, the prospect only hears $15,000.

And remember to practice these. The more you practice before the meeting, the more natural the ask and dollar amount will be in the meeting. So try the phrasing over and over. Out loud. This practice really serves your prospect. If you’re nervous during the ask, the prospect may be so aware of the tension that they not actually hear what you’d like them to do.

Now you know exactly what to say. Combine these three phrases with a specific dollar amount and see your fundraising results take off!

Marc Pitman

Marc Pitman

Marc Pitman is a leadership expert and fundraising coach. He can teach you to lead teams more effectively with less stress.

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