4 Basic Rules for Asking for the Big Gift

How many $5k gifts does it take to get $1mil? The answer is 200. This is 200 donors to engage, build trust, make the ask and steward to match just 1 big gift of $1million. Also, make a mental note that to engage, build trust, make the ask and steward is the same process whether the ask is $5000 or $1mil. 

Now ask yourself how much faster can your organization use those funds if you get 1 check for $1mill vs 200 checks for $5000? How much more can your organization do for the community or cause it serves? 

One reason asking for big gifts seems difficult is because you don’t see, hear, use, speak those “big” numbers often. We tend to get scared by or fearful of numbers like $1 million, $10 million, $25 million, etc  and it adds unnecessary pressure to the situation.

The solution, and basic rule #1: Normalize the numbers. Get comfortable through frequently using those numbers (even if just in your imagination). 

  • Ask yourself what your organization could do with that big gift ($1mil, $10mil, $20mil). Then double it and ask what you could do with twice as much. Actually take time to think through how your organization would spend $20mil or more. This will help understand what that money can do. 
  • Incorporate that amount in your day to day. For example order your coffee then ask the cashier to hold the cream but throw in $1mil. Make it fun and actually practice speaking the amount even if you know you won’t get it. Begin to rethink how you view those “scary” big numbers and shift your focus to what’s really important is the heart of the 4 basic rules of asking for big gifts.

Another barrier people have to making that big ask is how they are viewing the moment. In other words the lens they choose to focus on is one of threat. They see the situation as threatening in some way. This is likely any number of doubts that may be popping up. These doubts can derail your ability in several ways from thinking clearly, speaking confidently, being present in the moment and even standing up straight. 

The solution and basic rule #2: Step into potential mindset. Potential mindset is focusing on the possibility, creativity, potential of doing something you’ve never done before. To embrace new horizons and experiences with an open mind and edge of your seat feeling is magnetic and shows up in your body language, speech, energy and is seen and felt by those you interact with. 

  • If the thought of asking for your largest gift ever feels threatening- ask yourself what exactly is threatening you? Notice what that view does to your body language, your ability to communicate clearly and confidently. Ask yourself if focusing on this threat is the best place for your attention to be. Ask where your attention really should be.
  • Consider a moment(s) in time when you felt confident, connected to a greater purpose, full of gratitude and bliss, immersed in creativity and potential. Notice how even just thinking about and immersing in this memory impacts your mind and body. Consider what your body language, clarity of speech, mental focus would look like if you took this version of you into an interaction with a donor. Are you able to be more present, find creative solutions, get excited about the possibilities of what a big gift could do for your organization?

Once those first two rules are executed then you are able to move onto the next two barriers which are about connecting and bridging. This is often prevented by doubts, or lack of preparation or an assumption that the conversation should be about the organization. Again, this approach is felt by the donor and can prevent you from asking or from getting a yes. 

The solution, basic rule #3: Make it about the donor. Engaging and building trust with a high wealth donor should first and foremost be about getting to know them. This starts prior to meeting them. Do some research on their interests and achievements. Ask questions about what they are passionate about, favorite memories, hopes for the future. 

Actively listen to not just what they are saying but what values are tied to their words. Notice what matters to them most, what has impacted them most, successes and failures that have shaped them, etc. 

The solution, basic rule #4: Be the bridge. Rethink your role with a donor as more of a facilitator or connector then a Gift Officer. 

  • Your goal as a gift officer is not to “Sell” it’s simply to be a facilitator and bridge the needs and wants of the donor with the needs and wants of your organization. Think of yourself as the facilitator and the “ask” will form itself. 
  • As you listen and learn about what is truly important to that donor piece together how they can fulfill those values and needs through contributing to the goal of your organization. 

As in the title these are the basic rules and will create a very strong foundation for you to easily and confidently ask for big gifts of any value. For more details on how to learn and practice these rules reach out to our team or check us out at brightdot.com.

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