Mastering The Ask

Mastering The Ask

Rory Green | 27 April 2015

The sixth instalment for the Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s month-long blog series on Major Gifts, by Rory Green, aka Fundraiser Grrl.

How do I ask a donor for a gift? That is one of the biggest questions I get asked. 

I think that many fundraisers are often scared of asking for a gift – but you shouldn’t be. Remember, asking is an invitation to make a difference in a cause that they care about, NOT an imposition.

The first thing you need to know about asking is this: you MUST do a good job of cultivating a donor before asking them to make a gift.

Say, for example, you have been cultivating Luke Skywalker for a gift. Before I ask Luke, I ask myself these questions:

  • Do I know what Luke is passionate about?
  • Do I know why Luke gives to us?
  • Do I know what areas of our mission he is most interested in?
  • Does he understand, and care about, the project I want him to fund?
  • How much can Luke give?
  • How much do we need?


So, in this example, I know Luke is most passionate about helping younglings become Jedi. He gives back to help others the way Yoda helped him. He is most interested in our campaign to build a youngling academy. He’s been very involved in the planning of the building, and recently had a great experience doing a morning of light sabre training with some young Jedi.

The Ask Before The Ask

Often, before I make a formal solicitation – I like to make a pre-ask, especially if I have done a great job of cultivating a donor. I may say something like this:

  • What information would you need before considering a gift to this project?
  • When would be a good time to talk about your potential support of the training centre?

Maybe Luke has said to me “how can I help make this happen?” – it may be time for me to ask:

  • Can we meet to discuss what your investment might be?

This helps prime Luke, and gives him the chance to tell me what information he might need, or when would be a good time for him to give.

Then you need to think about how much to ask for.

  • Is this the right time for him to make a gift?
  • Does Luke have small kids?
  • Is he acquiring a new business?
  • Is his wealth liquid?
  • How much has he given to us? What is his biggest gift to any charity?
  • How much do we need to make this project happen?
  • What recognition can we give for gifts of different sizes?
  • Can the gift be pledged out? Over how many years?


Deciding the perfect amount to ask for is never easy. We know Luke is at the right life stage. He doesn’t have a young family to support and most of his wealth is liquid. His annual contributions add up to about £20,000 but he has the ability to do more and he is very passionate about this project. He’s made gifts as big as £200,000 to other charities, but I get the sense he is more excited about the Jedi centre than anything he has supported in the past. I would ask Luke for a gift of about £1,000,000. Luke could pledge that out over a few years (based on the fact that he could make a £500,000 gift)/ £1,000,000 is about ten time’s Luke’s annual giving over ten years.

You will know you’ve chosen the right amount when the prospect doesn’t say yes – or no – too quickly.

Once I have all of those questions answered – it is time to make the ask. Here is how that conversation may go:

  • General small talk about common interests
  • Thank them for their past donations / volunteering 
  • Re-cap some of what you have learned about the prospect, their interests and objectives
  • Outline the project you want them to fund – make it clear WHY the project matters, and why it needs funding urgently
  • Ask for a specific amount and for a specific project
  • Outline the recognition they will receive for the gift at that level reason
  • Pause, and let them think it over
  • Answer any questions they may have (i.e. pledge options)
  • And then of course – thank them for saying yes!


You will find that making an ask is always a little different – but with lots of thoughtful donor cultivation beforehand, and some practice – you can become a Jedi master of making the ask – and securing the gift!



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