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Give your Donor a Target, not Indigestion

Take-away: Asking for specific gift amounts reduces anxiety, is more fun and gets bigger gifts.

Here’s a recipe for heartburn. You dine at a restaurant where the waiter can choose to slip you a bill for $10…or $10,000. You find an outfit you love … in a shop without price tags. Most of us want to know how much things cost and fear, “if you need to ask, you probably can’t afford it.”

Yet, with the best of intentions, you may put a donor in this anxiety-ridden no-man’s land. To avoid putting her in an awkward position or pressuring her, you say, “Just give what you can,” or, “Could you give a bit more than before?” or, worst of all, “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.”

DONOR: Hearing this, she thinks, OMG, did I give? How much? Was it $200? $1,000? …

It’s almost impossible for her to feel simultaneously generous and anxious. So she prevaricates, saying “I’m not sure, things have been a bit tight lately, I need to talk to my husband.” Or, she makes a low gift of $200, just to be safe. You leave with a smaller gift than last year or no gift at all.

Here’s an alternative. You’ve done your homework, know her interests and how much she gives to your nonprofit and others. You tell her (briefly) why you care and what inspires you to support this cause. You ask her about her own connection, thank her and provide a framework for discussion:

YOU: “Thank you so much for your donation of $500 last year. You helped provide lunch for 30 underserved summer camp kids. They loved the cooking lessons, and learned to make delicious, inexpensive and healthy meals, which I hope you’ll come taste for yourself. Would you consider making a gift of $1,000 so we can expand the program this year?”

Asking for a specific gift amount is less stressful, statistically yields larger gifts and is flattering, as it shows you’ve taken the time to learn about her and that you appreciate her past generosity.

The #1 reason people give is because of who asked them, not for a tax deduction or to see their name in a program. Whatever the response, asking is a wonderful way to get to know a donor and to engage her more deeply in your cause. Without you, she might not have given at all.

After all, how many reminders do you need to write that annual check to your alma mater?

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