Business — 23 January 2012

How do you ask for money? More specifically, how do you ask people to give to a non-profit organization or institution you believe in? Do you ask folks you know? Family members? Co-workers? Do you write a letter to Bill Gates? Do you ask colleagues after a business meeting, or friends after yoga class? What do you say? How much do you ask for? What happens if you ask for a gift, and find out someone else already asked?

Working from a coordinated strategic plan provides answers to these questions, and duplicate solicitations or “asks” are avoided.

Such a plan grows out of the ongoing work of your organization to identify potential donors and sources of funding. Set goals for your direct mail, online fundraising, and grant funding. Measure your progress against these. Most importantly, focus on those individuals who can make a personal gift. Identify your potential donors and for each, determine “who should make the ask.” Using this method, the first asks will be the solicitation of solicitors! A word to the wise – making your own gift gives you creditability when asking others to give.

Your solicitation plan should include a suggested “ask amount” for each prospective donor. Each solicitor should know how much she will ask a potential donor to give. This can be determined through a review of prior gifts, thoughtful conversation, and an evaluation of publicly available information regarding an individual’s giving history, and her level of interest and involvement in your organization.

When it comes to the details of a solicitation plan, here are our suggestions. It should be a living document that is updated regularly. It should include names of potential donors with associated solicitors, a suggested ask amount, and the date by which each solicitation will be made. That’s the short list! It should actually include two more items. One is a donor rating, and the other is the cultivation strategy. The rating could use a simple ABC scale, with A indicating those donors who are loyal and consistent donors, and C indicating those individuals who have yet to give or be involved. Focus on A donors first. The suggested cultivation process for each donor would indicate what actions should be taken prior to asking for a gift. For example, should a potential donor receive an invitation to an upcoming event you are hosting, or a tour of your child care center?

A review of the plan will reveal whether you have identified enough potential donors and willing solicitors to meet your fundraising goal: This information can help prevent mid-campaign stall and disappointment.

Coordinating solicitations can increase your fundraising results. It also keeps volunteers focused and engaged. Be strategic. Coordinate your solicitations.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw. Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at or call (901) 522-8727.


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