After a prospect has been properly cultivated towards an area of interest, it is essential that a strategy is in place to maximize the major gift opportunity. To accomplish this, there are several activities that must take place and is important that you are well prepared.

Priming the Ask

Before making the real ask, it is good to first “prime the ask.” To prime the ask, you are essentially asking the prospect for permission to make the real ask.

You have been a great volunteer and supporter of the Mumford University Entrepreneuship Center. Can we talk at our next meeting about a gift that will have significant impact on the center?

The answer you get back will give an excellent picture of where the prospect is in terms of supporting your university. If they agree to a next meeting, make sure to a put a timeline on when you will follow up.

The Real Ask

This real ask is when the fundraiser presents the prospect with a gift amount that is a slightly higher than the donor may be able to accomplish. By doing this, the bar is set for a significant gift that would accomplish the donor’s philanthropic goals.

Jeff, we are glad that you see the importance of the entrepreneurship center and what it will do for the future of Mumford University. Would you consider a gift of $250,000 to name the maker space?

After letting the prospect know the number, it is important to paint a clear picture of the gifts impact. It is helpful to bring an accompanying proposal document that backs up your pitch on why this amount will reach the desired goals. The proposal can also utilize an options list with different gift amounts that detail what each level will accomplish. The options should include both a large stretch amount and an amount in the range where the prospect is able to make a gift.

The Response

If the prospect immediately says yes, that is great, but this means the ask may have been too low. In most cases though, you will get an objection from the donor stating:

  • The gift amount is too high
  • Now is not a good time
  • They have to talk it over with their spouse
  • They are putting children through college and they are cash strapped
  • They are waiting on an economic up turn

To combat these objections, your first option should be to reiterate the gifts impact. Below are four techniques that can be used to help reinforce the impact:

Tap into the Donor’s Emotions:

“The $500,000 will create an endowment that will fund all ten student leaders to attend the Grace Hopper Conference each year. Anything less would leave some students out of this amazing experience that will help their careers. You had stated previously that this conference helped you get your first job. We want that same opportunity for all these students.”

Detail the Exact Impact:

“We are asking for $1 million because this is the amount needed to fund the Director position within the Mumford Women in Engineering Program. This level will produce yearly endowed funds of $50,000 for a salary range that would allow us to bring in a quality candidate. With a lesser gift, the pool of candidates will not be as good. If we want this program to be a success, we need your support at this level.”

Reinforce the Legacy:

“You have stated that you want this scholarship to be a permanent legacy in honor of Professor Andrew Johnson. Professor Johnson was the faculty member that mentored you and left a lasting impression on your college experience. To accomplish this legacy, the gift must be endowed and our endowment level starts at $100,000. With an endowment, Professor Johnson’s name would be forever known at this school.”

Naming Opportunities for Exposure:

“$500,000 is the amount to name the Mumford Campus Center Auditorium. This space will give you maximum exposure because every marque event at the university takes place at the auditorium. For a lesser amount there are namings such as the Student-Alumni Lounge, but they won’t have this level of exposure and importance attached to them.”

If stressing the impact is not the solution and the problem is too high of a gift amount, you can discuss alternative ways to make the gift. This is where you can explore options such as pledging the gift over multiple years:

“I understand that this amount is a large number. But to have the impact we want and accomplish our goals for this program, this is the level that we would need. Would you be willing to make the full gift but with payments over five years?”

The Wrap Up

After negotiating, the prospect will either give you a yes, a no or say they have to think about it. If they have to think about it, make sure to confirm a date for when it is appropriate to follow-up. During this followup you can use one of these “9 Strategies to Motivate Prospects to Make Major Gifts.

Overall the key to asking for a major gift is to make sure you have well prepared plan, and an inspirational story that details the gifts impact.

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