It may not be the age-old question, but it is a question that comes up in solicitation. How much do you ask for? If you ask for too much, you run the risk of offending the donor. If you ask for too little, you leave money on the table.
I have a decided bias on this question, but first, this reminder. There is no substitute for knowing your donor. How interested are they in your organization? Just because someone has the means does not mean they will share those means with you. Or even if they have been helpful to your organization, are they still engaged? The wealthy board member who gave a big gift five years ago may have left the last finance meeting in a huff. Make sure your take on their interest is up to date.
When it comes to the amount, you really must do your homework.
· How much is your donor worth?
· Has the donor recently sold a business?
· Is a divorce about to upset the applecart?
· Is a large inheritance coming into play?
· Has your friend recently made a large donation to another charity?
Do your best to answer these questions and several more.
So, now you have done your homework. The development team has gone back and forth between an ask of $50,000 or $100,000. You have fine-tuned your presentation to fit the donor and you are sitting across the desk. Your mouth is dry. You stumble through, as best you can, noticing the typo on the pledge card for the first time. The moment of truth has arrived.
What do you do?
One time I had a client in this exact situation. The organization was in a capital campaign and needed big gifts. The donor in question had been very involved in the organization but had slipped some in more recent years. There was some thought that she, the donor, was not enamored with the current project. The solicitor was afraid to make a big ask, but had mustered up the courage to request $50,000.
Before the solicitor had gotten to the request, the donor pledged $100,000 over three years.
I love clichés. Here is one that applies.
Go big or go home!
Do you believe in your organization and its mission? Do you really need this donation? Then don’t be afraid to make a bold request. Most people will be honored that you thought they could make such a gift.