The most crucial time in the fundraising process is after you have asked for a gift and are trying to get the prospect to make the commitment. At this point you will be faced with objections, excuses and delays from the donor and perhaps some hesitations on the part of you, the fundraiser. You must be able to properly navigate the situation and move past any hurdles to achieve a signed gift commitment. Below are eight strategies to help you get there.

1) Deadlines

Giving the prospect a specific date for when your university needs the gift by can be a great motivational tool for donors. Below are situations and suggestions that incorporate the use of deadlines:

  • Campaigns: Fundraising campaigns have an end date when the goal must be reached. “Booking your gift before the Mumford University campaign ends will help us be successful in reaching our goal.”
  • Program Support: If the gift supports a program that starts at a specific time. “Mumford University needs these funds before January 1st or we won’t be able to do the 2019 Summer Bridge Program.”
  • Faculty Support: If the gift supports a faculty or staff position, you can stress that the recruitment process needs to start immediately. Ex. “We need this gift to start recruiting the best faculty before other universities get to them first.”
  • Endowment Timing: Endowed funds must be invested for twelve months prior to a disbursement. Use the end of a calendar quarter to create a sense of urgency. “If a new fund reaches the endowed minimum by quarter’s end, it will become part of the university’s endowment.  If it just misses quarter end, the funds will sit for another three months without an opportunity to grow with the market.”

2) Push from Leadership

Utilizing a highly respected person on campus to help push the donor can be an effective strategy. A personal call or email from the President, letting the donor know how important their gift is to the university goes a long way.

3) Promote Peer Giving

If you have a targeted group of prospects for a specific campaign, this is an opportunity to showcase a gift by one of the well-known prospects. Ask the potential lead donor that you need his or her gift so that it will help encourage others to give as well. This is also an opportunity to ask the lead donor to use this gift as a match for the campaign. Ex. “I really need you to make this gift to use as an example that will lead to other alumni making their own gifts because they know and respect you.”

4) Special Announcement

If the prospect (with a proposal) is coming back to campus or attending an upcoming special event, consider using that date as leverage.  Ex. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could inform the president that you made your commitment when you are on campus?” or “It would be great if we could announce the gift at the Engineering College 50th Anniversary event.”

5) Stock Market

If you know or believe the prospect plans to make the gift with appreciated stock, you can talk about the performance of the market to your advantage to credit urgency.  If it is performing well, urge them to make the biggest impact with the market high.

6) Tax Incentives

For some donors, the tax incentives are the most important part of making their gift. Reinforcing the exact benefits they will receive can be helpful. Getting the gift in before the end of the year can also be used as a deadline incentive in this situation.

7) Pledges and Flexibility

If the size of the gift is an issue, push an option to pay the commitment over, or up to, five years. Ex. “We can always set up your gift to be paid out over the next five-years if this arrangement is preferred.” You can also reinforce other ways to make a gift, other than cash, such as using stock or other planned gift options.

Gift agreements are also non-binding and can be dissolved at any time. Reminding a donor of this may keep their mind at ease if something unexpected happens to them financially.

8) Emphasize the Stewardship

Some donors worry that once they make the gift, they will never hear from you again. Make a point to go through the step by step plan of what happens after their gift is made. Tell the donor the specific examples of ways you will be in contact.  Ex. “We would like you to come back to Mumford University to have lunch with your scholarship recipient next fall.”


Overall it is extremely important for fundraisers to be able to strategically motivate a prospect to make a gift commitment. Making the ask is the easy part. Getting the prospect to follow through is the difficult piece to the fundraising process. This takes a deep understanding of both the prospects motives and the resources available at your university.

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