The Goldie Company

Step 6: Train Volunteers on "Making the Ask"

Making The Call

The prime objective of your meeting with a major gift prospect will be to ask for her/his financial support. Your discussion should focus on the importance of this support and the positive impact it will have. There are a number of points should be emphasized during the presentation.  The following is a suggested strategy.


Visit only those prospective donors to whom you have been assigned. Try to find out as much as you can about your prospective donor before the visit. Review and become comfortable with the available naming and recognition opportunities. To carry out your visit effectively, you must be knowledgeable about the Case Statement and the contents of the presentation package. Carefully familiarize yourself with this material. Reflect upon the areas of the Case that might appeal most to your prospective donor.

Making the Appointment

Arrange for a personal, face-to-face interview at the prospective donor’s convenience. Presentations or commitments are never given over the telephone. An effective visit will take 45 minutes to an hour, and should be conducted personally.

Sometimes a phone call starts off with a “How are you” type conversation. A good way to swing into the “meat” of the call is to simply state: “[Name of Prospect], the reason I’m calling you is to see when we could get together for an hour or so to discuss a subject that is very close to me, and I think to you as well, [name of organization]. Would you have an hour this week when we could meet?”

Remember, the purpose of telephoning is to ‘sell’ the personal visit, not to discuss donation levels. A common mistake is to be drawn into that type of conversation.

Comments from the prospective donor such as, “What’s it all about?” or “I really can’t afford to give very much right now” can be boomeranged to help get the appointment. A good response would be “That’s one of the points that I’d like to discuss when we get together. Is there an hour this week you could set aside to see me?”

Once you have arranged for an appointment, arrange to get a Presentation Kit from [Name of Organization]. This kit should be used during the visit and left with the prospective donor. The Presentation Kit should never be mailed in advance of your visit!

It is generally a good idea to make visits in the company of another person, carefully chosen for the task (two visitors are often twice as convincing as one). When making a joint visit, decide in advance who will make the appointment; open the discussion; ask for the commitment, and bring the meeting to a close. Review your approach. Try to anticipate possible questions and concerns, and be prepared to answer in a positive way. Conducting role-play with your partner will often increase your confidence for the actual visit.

The Visit

When making the visit, relax and enter into casual conversation until you are comfortable. A good way to start your conversation is to talk about common interests. Inform your prospective donor that you are part of a special group undertaking some select visits on behalf of [Name of Organization]. Be a good listener. As you allow your prospective donors an opportunity to talk, you may get a sense of what particular aspects of the Case may or may not appeal to them. Also, many people, when they are comfortable with the purpose of the visit, will voluntarily begin discussing their business and financial affairs. Take your time! Do not rush your visit. Remember, you are helping someone make a decision about her/his financial commitment to the campaign.

Using the materials provided, inform the prospective donor of the wonderful work that [Name of Organization] does, and how the funds will benefit the community. Emphasize those aspects of the Case that you believe have the greatest appeal to the particular prospect. It is important that your appeal be personal and positive at all times. It would be unwise to say: “[Name of Prospect], you may not be interested in this, but …” It will be effective to say: “[Name of Prospect], I am convinced of the tremendous need for this, and I hope you agree …!” The rationale for supporting the campaign should be presented in a way that is natural for you and for those you will be visiting. Tell the story in your own words. Talk about the reasons why you are involved – why you personally are investing your time and money. Keep the conversation on track. This is where a partner can really help. It is also helpful to keep the solicitation materials in front of your prospective donor at all times.

Requesting the Gift

The ideal situation occurs when, after reviewing the materials the prospective donor indicates that s/he is interested in the campaign and is willing to contribute. At this point, it is essential that you ask for a specific amount. Example: “[Name of Prospect], we are asking people in situations that appear similar to yours, to consider a gift of $________.”

Once the requested gift amount has been stated, you may wish to place yourself in a more comfortable position by suggesting that you really have no way of knowing if this level of support is possible. But, considering the importance of the work of [Name of Organization], you are confident that the prospective donor will respond as generously as s/he can. As a means of enhancing the possibilities of receiving the requested gift, suggest the availability of donor recognition opportunities. Discuss the importance of receiving the requested gift amount. If possible, give examples of what the gift will accomplish. It may be good to mention in passing that the gift benefits the prospective donor’s income tax. This should not be stressed though, since the prospective donor’s motivation is to support [Name of Organization].

Be sure to get confirmation of the gift in writing. Either a signed gift card or a follow-up letter is satisfactory. Do not leave the gift card with the prospective donor. A follow-up meeting should be arranged to confirm the commitment. Please return the signed gift card to the [Name of Organization] immediately. We can then thank the donor promptly.

Prospective Donor Responses

The Prospective Donor Requests Time to Consider the Proposal

This is a positive sign that you have been accurate with your request. The prospective donor may wish to consider the matter further and discuss it with family members, business associates, accountants, etc. Additional time should be granted and appreciation shown for the willingness to give the request further consideration. The next step is for the visitor to secure a follow up appointment scheduled not later than 10 days after the initial meeting. The objective is to receive an answer to the request in a personal interview rather than through the mail or over the telephone. Do not leave the letter of intent behind.

The Prospective Donor Accepts the Proposal and Agrees to Give as Requested

Do not prolong the visit! (Many people have experienced a change of mind when “oversold.”) Suggest that s/he fill out the letter of intent or prepare a short letter stating their intentions. The total amount of the gift and the method of payment should be clearly indicated. Method of payment should state exactly how the gift will be paid: annually, semi-annually, quarterly, etc., and dates to send reminders.

The Prospective Donor has Objections

While you are liable to get objections, keep them in perspective. An objection is not a “no”. It is simply a request for more information and should be treated as such. Encourage the prospect to convey the things that are important to her/him about the organization/project before you ask for the gift. Finally, when you get the objection be prepared with your response. Try the “Feel, Felt, Found” method:

“[Name of Prospect], I know just how you feel. Many of our donors have felt the pressure to give more this year. But what I have found was that the increase in community need required that they re-evaluate their philanthropic investments this year.”

The Prospective Donor Indicates a Complete Refusal

It is a basic principle of successful fundraising to always leave the door open for future possibilities. Therefore, it is vitally important to avoid any confrontational situations. Avoid expressing anger or impatience when the prospective donor has refused to make a gift. Suggest the possibility of a planned gift as a viable option. Express gratitude for being given the time to discuss the campaign and suggest they give thought to [Name of Organization], in the weeks ahead. Politely end the visit.

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Step 5: Develop a Fundraising Committee
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Step 7: Identify Your Stakeholders and Target Audiences