JGA Counsel

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Three Keys to Nonprofit Gift Solicitation

By Dan Schipp

The other day someone reminded me of the “Rule of Three.”  The rule states that if you want someone to remember something, break it down into three key points. 

Since  lately I’ve led several development staff training sessions on gift solicitation, I thought I would write about the three most important things to keep in mind when soliciting a gift for your nonprofit organization.

The three keys are:  plan, engage, ask.

Before even picking up the phone to call for an appointment, make sure you have a plan for the meeting and have taken the time to determine the desired outcome. 

  • What do you want to accomplish? 
  • What are the primary messages you want to convey? 
  • Who, if anyone, should accompany you in the call? 
  • What questions and objections might you encounter and how will you respond to them? 
  • What will be the amount of “the ask”? 

Don’t go into a meeting with a prospective donor without having a strategy for the conversation.

Engage the prospect.  Avoid letting the conversation become a monologue.  As you make the points for investment in your organization, seek feedback from the prospect.  Ask for their views on the points you are making.  Listen and respond to their interests and concerns.  The more you can get them actively involved in talking about your organization and its plans for the future, the better your chances of having a successful outcome to the conversation.

Finally, provided you have not heard anything in the meeting to cause you to think this is not the right time to move forward with a request for support, make the ask clearly and confidently.  Lead into the ask by asking permission of the donor to solicit a gift:  “In light of the discussion we have just had about the impact that XYZ organization is having on health care in our community, may I now speak with you about a gift to support XYZ’s work?”  Then ask for a specific gift and having done so . . . stop . . . be quiet . . . let the prospective donor be the next one to speak.

That’s how I would apply the “rule of three” to philanthropic gift solicitation – plan, engage, ask. 

What do you see as the keys to successfully soliciting financial support?

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