Asking for a gift can be scary, but there’s one important thing you should know about what no often means. Today we’re talking about asking for a gift. Specifically in terms of answers you might get, what they really mean and how to respond to them.

In case you’re like me and prefer to read something instead, here’s the transcript:

Hello – this is Kirsten Bullock again of The Nonprofit Academy. Today we’ll be briefly talking about what your prospects might say when they’re asked for a gift – as well as ideas for how you can respond.

I was starting work with a new organization a few years ago - the people I was talking with insisted that the largest gift we’d be able to get from an individual would be $300. When I asked why, they said it was the largest gift they’d received from an individual. Truth be told, it was the largest gift they’d asked for. A few months down the road, I asked one of the organizations leaders for a $5,000 gift. He not only said yes, but suggested that he would contribute an additional $5,000 to serve as his gift for the prior year. From $300 to $10,000. Would that help your organization?

As I’ve mentioned before, asking is not about begging. And it’s not about selling. In major giving, it’s about building a long-term partnership with someone who has resources and a passion for the cause your organization addresses. So when we ask, it’s more about inviting them to be a part of something that they’ve already indicated an interest in doing.

When we ask, there are basically three answers we’re going to get. But it can get complicated, because the answers – yes no and maybe – don’t always mean what we think they mean.
The first, and frankly most common, response we’ll get is no. So often, we hear that and immediately clam up and try to run out the door as quickly as possible with our tail between our legs. But – let me share something with you –often no simply means that they’re not comfortable saying yes yet. So if you get this response, you’ll need to ask some clarifying questions.

Things like: Is there something holding you back from making a gift? Is there a different program you might be more interested in? Is it a bad time?

Provide additional information and respond to their objections. It’s not a time to be pushy, but a time to listen and help them explore what types of programs they might be most interested in supporting. Then see if they would like to meet again, thank them for time and do your best to leave the door open for further discussion.
Not now, maybe or maybe later is another response you’ll hear. Again, try to ask clarifying, open-ended questions to determine what the objection might be and talk through how the organization might be able to address it.

- They might have two kids in college and need to wait until they graduate to think about making a gift. Make sure you stay in touch during the interim time.
- Perhaps they’ve just made a big investment in their business and need to hold off on making a big commitment – you could ask if it would help if you extended the payments over a few years.
- They could be concerned about fiscal stability of your organization or any other myriad of things. Find out what it is and then determine how you might be able to address the concern.

If it’s simple to address, you could make an adjusted ask – restating the agreement that you and the prospective donor have made – and then be quiet and wait again.

Finally, some of the time your prospect will say yes. And when they do, stop talking.

Don’t commit one of the major sins of fundraising and talk yourself out of a gift. It’s been known to happen. Really.

Simply say thank you. Clarify the terms of the gift. And then leave.

And congratulations on getting that big gift.

That’s it for today. Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next time!