by Dan Schipp
Recently, in the midst of a gift solicitation training session, someone asked me, “Won’t I offend the prospective donor if I ask for too much?” That question prompted me to recall an experience I had years ago before I began working in development.
Early on in our marriage, during those days of living from paycheck to paycheck, my wife, Patty, and I made several small gifts – $10, $20, $25 – to a seminary where my brother had studied. When that seminary embarked on its first ever capital campaign, we were solicited in person for a campaign gift by a volunteer, a local business leader whom we highly respected. To our absolute surprise, he asked us to consider a gift of $1000. I don’t recall our exact response but I suspect it was something like, “We’ll have to think about that.” What I do recall – vividly – is turning to Patty after the gentleman had left and saying, “Wow… we have arrived! He thinks we can make a gift of a $1000!”
Getting “the number” right is important. Before soliciting someone for a gift, we as solicitors need to do our homework. We need to do our best to determine the appropriate “stretch gift.” But we will never know for sure what that “right” amount is. We have to trust our preparation and instincts and venture forth. As long as we make “the ask” in a courteous, respectful manner, I don’t think we have to worry too much about offending the donor. We may even flatter her!
In the end, Patty and I ended up making a $500 gift to that seminary’s campaign – far larger than we would have made if we had not been asked to consider a gift of $1000.