You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date!

How many times have we heard that as a reason to never solicit a donation in a first meeting with a prospect? I have worked with countless development officers who are wary of making an ask in the first meeting. Some even swear it off as a matter of policy, citing reasons like the marriage analogy. However, I’ve never been convinced that those who refuse to ask for the gift early are always doing so because it’s in the best interest of the prospect.

Hesitation to solicit a gift in a first meeting will lead to countless missed opportunities. Consider these scenarios:

  • Your prospect is deeply moved by your cause but is currently fulfilling a multi-year major commitment to her alma mater, and is therefore unable to give a major gift to your organization for at least two years. But, a donation of $1,000 would allow her to begin a much deeper relationship with your organization that would position you for a larger commitment when her university pledge ends.
  • An alum has sporadically made gifts to your annual fund: six over 10 years. The last donation was last year. In meeting, you realize he doesn’t have the capacity to increase his gift size significantly, but you could increase his frequency by both securing his next gift and discussing the value of ongoing annual support.

What would happen if the development officers in these meetings avoided a conversation about making a gift because they were uncomfortable? They’d shortchange not only their organizations, but also their prospects who would welcome a thoughtful dialogue about giving.

What do we do on first dates? We ask a lot of questions. We get to know the values, goals and interests of our date. And if there seems to be a match, we ask them for the next date.

This is the analogy for a first-meeting solicitation. We should ask the questions that determine shared values and mutual interest. And when those elements are present, we should ask for the next meaningful step – and sometimes the thing we should ask for is a donation.

Ready to hone your skills to determine when a first-meeting ask is appropriate and develop and practice language for the solicitation? Join me at the next KDD Philanthropy Fundraising Essentials Bootcamp 1.0 on October 18, and Bootcamp 2.0 on October 19, where participants will discuss specific prospect scenarios and develop their own toolbox of questions

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