Skip to main content

When is it time to ask someone for money?

By July 13, 2011October 16th, 2014Development, Donor Engagement

Knowing WHEN to ask someone to make a gift is often the very thing that stops people in their tracks. The big secret that those who make direct asks often know is that the ask should simply be a part of a longer conversation.


It sounds trite, but it’s true: Only ask the people who you know want to say yes.

If you practice this, you will spend your time focused on getting to know people well enough that you will be absolutely clear about why they have a passion for your organization, and then it’s absolutely clear when to invite the gift.

Often during role play exercises in my Art of Asking workshop participants will say something like, “I don’t know how much to ask for.” Or, “I get so scared to ask someone for money.”

My reaction to both of those statements is: You are making the ask about YOU and not about the donor. When you focus on THEM, how they feel about your organization and why they are interested in your work AND you really invite engaged conversation about what moves & inspires THEM, you forget about the “big ask” and you’ll find yourself inviting participation or support of something you are now very clear they’ve expressed interest in.

It is important to ask for specific size gifts but you can much more easily do that when you know your audience.

Here’s a list of questions I share with people getting ready to invite a gift. It’s a short list that should be added to in order to really be effective in getting the donor ready to say yes. What would you add?

7 Critical questions to answer before asking for the gift:

  • Do you know they are ready?
  • Specifically what will be asked for?
  • Does the donor have a clear understanding of the human impact of the gift you are inviting them to make?
  • What concerns might the donor have about saying “yes” to your request?
  • Why would the donor say “yes”?
  • Who will be asking?
  • Where will the ask take place?

    • Absolutely the ideal situation… to have your prospect ask you “How can I help?”
      Good things to think about. Thanks Lori.

    • Sandy Rees says:

      Great stuff Lori! Another thing you might add is to listen for gift noises. Donors will start to ask questions when they’re interested, like “how much will it cost to….” or “what’s your goal for….” or “how many people are on the waiting list for…” Once you hear these, you KNOW the donor is interested in giving.

      Sandy Rees
      Fundraising Coach

    • Sandy, I love the concept of “gift noises”! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Great list, Lori. Everyone loves a check list and I can see this one living on someone’s desk matched to each donor’s profile.

      When I am working with clients asking for support, we often expand #3 to include, what ways have they shown support of your organization. Whether it is attending an event, contributing time or referring a community member, all of those actions are ways to read that an individual is already supporting your cause.

      Sandy, I agree with Lori. “Gift noises” is a great concept!

    • Sherry, Great add to #3! I also like to add: Who can they not say “no” to? and be sure to have that person at the meeting. 🙂

    Leave a Reply