Equality Vs Equity e1515397191427

Do You Know the Right Way to Ask for Big Gifts From Major Donors?

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I am on my way home after meeting lots of fundraisers in USA, Europe, and Africa.  I have learned lots and hopefully helped a bit too.

I caught up with Simone Joyaux, who is brilliant.

Sometimes she is angry, especially when inequality and injustice are around, but always she is brilliant.  Simone gave a thought-provoking talk on building relationships with donors by creating extraordinary experiences.

I asked Simone if she’d mind writing a quick article for me on my favourite topic at the moment – mid and major level donors. Specifically, I wanted to hear her thoughts and advice on how to ask for big gifts or large donations from these donors.

And here it is, some frank, straightforward advice from the wonderful Simone Joyaux:


Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip

Joyaux Associates  |  www.simonejoyaux.com  |  USA

You. Now.

Are you ready to make that big financial request of that special prospect?

Is the prospect ready to be asked?

If both of you aren’t ready, imagine the mess.

As usual, this article may not be what you expect. After all, I’m Simone Uncensored. That means I mostly take “another angle.”

A quick tip before I start: Make sure you don’t just read this article about making the big ask. Read others, too. There’s great stuff out there about specific steps and pacing and request amounts and more.

Read. Talk with experienced askers. Gather success stories and little and big failures.

Then ponder. Bring together all your readings, thoughts, and various experiences. Practice in your mind, in front of the mirror, with a colleague or pal.

Only then are you possibly ready to ask?

However, I’m not writing about all that stuff in this article. Instead, I’m sharing other thoughts, uncensored.

First…What’s the big ask?

What’s big to me isn’t big to Bill and Melinda. What’s big to your organization may not be what’s big for the prospective donor. If you’re donor-centered (and I sure hope you are!), you focus on what’s right for the donor.

Before you ask, learn lots and lots about the prospect. Make sure you know what the prospect considers to be a big gift.

Are you sufficiently familiar with the prospect’s interests to design an appropriate request? A request that brings together her interests…avoids disinterests …reflects shared values…represents a gift amount that’s likely to match the prospect’s capacity and capability?

Actually before the first…

Always remember: People give through your organization to fulfill their own aspirations, to live out their own interests, to connect to their own feelings and their own stories.

Your organization is the means by which people achieve all this. You aren’t the end, you’re merely the means. Remember, as that conduit, you are replaceable.

Back to the first, that big gift…and other gifts, too…

Whatever is big and large to the prospect, most likely constitutes an alignment of values. A value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct is personally or socially preferable to another.

Individuals have values. Organizations do, too.

I’ll give you a small gift. I’ll give you a medium gift. But for a really big gift, a gift that I consider big…Well, that requires an alignment, a deep overlay of my values and your organization’s values.

My deepest beliefs – that which I will fight for – I have to share those with your organization.

    • Maybe my biggest gift will be for the arts…believing that without Rembrandt and Picasso and Freda Kahlo…without theatre and dance…life is bereft of beauty and meaning.
    • Perhaps he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. He may fight still for equity.
  • Maybe her biggest gift will be to find a cure for cancer. She still grieves over her father’s death and the possibility that she, too, will die this way.

Who knows what lies in the hearts of any individual? Well, you’d best know. Otherwise, how can you ask for that big gift?

Here’s a trick question…

Is asking a presentation or a conversation?

Too many people think asking is a presentation. With a brochure, of course. And maybe a PowerPoint or a video and…

Stop it!

Asking personally, face-to-face is a conversation. A lovely, genuine conversation. Not an interview! You ask questions to create conversation. To share and learn.

You listen to the prospect’s stories and feelings. Share your own to build rapport.

And yes, of course, you invite the prospect’s participation. There’s the asking.

In conclusion for the moment

Big, medium, small. It’s a lot the same.

But you need to know more to ask for a big gift.

You need to care more and listen and learn.

You need to actually be donor-centered and genuinely interested in the prospect as a human being.

And one last big thing: You need to be prepared – because of care and respect – to recognize that the donor might just not be that into you. If so, let them go. With grace and respect and best wishes.


P.S. Our Mid Value Donor Super Course will teach you all that you need to know about asking for that big gift from that major donor in exactly the right way! It’s just one of the courses you will get access to when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

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