Getting Major Gift Asks Just Right

Major gift fundraising: the ask must be made at the right time, in the right place, for the right amount, to the right person, for the right project. But how important it is really for all these “rights” to be in place? What does it mean if they are not? Here are just a few reasons why having everything in place can matter.

The right person

This may seem obvious, but are you asking the right person for support? Is the person that you are connected with the one who makes the decisions in relation to charitable giving for the family (or the company or foundation for that matter)? Or is it a friend, spouse or colleague, who has been championing the cause?

If they are not the person that holds the purse strings, then think about how you and your contact, together, can bring them into the conversation so that you can understand more about their interest and motivations. By handling this with sensitivity and respect in relation to both people, you have a much better chance of taking this relationship to the next level.

The “right person” of course also relates to the person doing the asking. Should it be the executive director, chair of the board, or a friend who is connected to the organisation?

The answer is not always straight forward, since motivations for giving can vary from prospect to prospect. Sometimes people give because they have been asked to do so by a contact to whom they owe a favour, but most give because they care about the cause. If that is the case, they are more likely to want to be asked by someone connected with the organisation who they trust and respect, whether this person is the chair of the board or the fundraiser.

The right place

Again, there are different viewpoints on this. From coffee shops, to homes, to grand venues, the best place is wherever the prospect is most comfortable to have this kind of conversation. Having said this, some of the most effective asks are immediately following a field visit, a tour, or other opportunity where the potential donor has seen the organisation’s work in action and where they can truly visualise the impact of their support.

In the end, wherever you choose, ensure that you both have enough time, where you are unlikely to be disturbed or the prospect distracted, so that you can both focus upon the task at hand.

The right time

This is crucial to success in major gift fundraising. If the donor is not ready to make a gift, then they might turn you down, make a much smaller gift than they could if they had been asked at the right time, or in some cases, even be offended by an approach that they feel is inappropriate.

Nor should an ask be left too long. If a donor has been supporting an organisation for sometime, has the capacity to give, but is left waiting for the ask, they can feel frustrated and may choose to move on to support another organisation.

The right amount

So what is the right amount? And why does it matter so much? Well, it’s as important for you as it is for the donor. If you are reliant on bringing in some major donations to achieve your goals, then not asking for enough from your best prospects could mean that you don’t reach your financial obligations.

For the donor, not asking for an appropriately high amount when they have already decided to make a leadership gift, can leave the donor feeling underwhelmed. Too much and the gift will be out of reach for them. It is always better to be specific about what you need from them, but if you aren’t sure about the amount to ask for, one way to handle this is to ask within a range that you have a strong sense fits within your prospect’s giving capacity.

The right project

By understanding what your donors care about, and identifying the project that is really going to engage them, not only can you raise more money, but your donors will feel much more excited to be involved.

The most important factor to consider

The biggest mistake you can make in major gift fundraising is not to ask at all! Hanging around for the perfect scenario can result in missing the opportunity all together. So whenever you are planning your approach, ensure that you balance the importance of getting everything right, with what is realistic and within your donor’s expectations. As a result, the ask can be a joyous experience for all involved.

Read the full article on major gift asks by Mena Gainpaulsingh


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at