What YOU NEED to Make the Ask

Richard and I are often asked by organizations to help them figure out what kind of materials they need to take with them for an ask meeting with a major donor.   Many of these organizations have crazy ideas that they have to bring elaborate and expensive pieces with them to “make the sell.”  Videos, highly designed 20-page proposals, expensive gifts…we’ve seen it all.

Well, let me tell you don’t need all that.  I will give you a list of WHAT you really need that will make the points from your meeting and remind them why your organization and specific project is worthy of their support.

The first thing to remember is that any collateral material you bring with you will not make the sell to the donor.  I don’t care if it’s a 45 slide PowerPoint with emotional music playing in the background.  If you are in a face-to-face meeting with a donor to discuss a gift, you should already be 90% there to a “yes.”

Meaning,  all the work you have done prior to that meeting (stewarding their last gift, sending them “You made a difference” updates, cultivating them by demonstrating you KNOW them) has all been done.

Secondly, the work you have done preparing the next ask for this donor (discussing his passion, presenting new options of projects and programs to invest in, getting a good idea on how much he would like to invest to match that to a specific project) has been done.

Okay, I’m getting to that list, but you see my point, right?  Collateral materials are not going to get you a gift.  They should only be used as a guide during your discussion, and mainly as a “leave behind” that reinforces what you have already covered in your meeting.  If you rely on materials to sell your program or project, it’s a weak presentation.  It’s about the quality of the project, the work you have done to prepare for the meeting and your presentation that shows the donor you have listened to him.

Then, before you leave the meeting, you can hand him this:

  1. 9 x 12 folder—matte finish, not fancy, that reinforces your organization’s brand with the name and logo.
  2. Cover Letter—a one-page letter from the President, thanking him for considering the project, specifically naming the MGO in the letter, and personally signed.
  3. Case Statement—2 to 4 page document, either 11 x 17 folded front and back or 2, 8 ½ x 11, paper clipped together, reiterating the case for the project.  The case statement includes background, need, solution/impact, a specific paragraph directed personally to the donor of what you are asking, financials, and photos.
  4. Real Photos—If you have actual photos, put a few in the folder.  It’s very powerful for the donor to actually have them in his hands. Make sure these photos are large so the donor can see the face and feel the emotion.
  5. MGO Business Card—make it easy for the donor to get a hold of you if he has questions.  But, most likely you will follow up with him.

The overall look should be clean, not fancy and overproduced, yet professional looking and easy to read.

That’s it.  This is all you need.  Remember, all this should do is reinforce what you have already said face-to-face.  Many times donors will not give you a decision right away.  They need time to think and talk it over with a spouse or partner.

The great thing about this leave behind package is that it’s versatile for different types of donor visits.  Not every one-on-one donor visit is intended to make an ask.  If it’s a first meeting with a prospect, you can include a piece about the organization, your mission, vision and history.  You could add a piece that highlights several projects a donor may be interested in, or even a CD of a video or photos that tell powerful stories.

So, there it is.  You don’t have to spend a bunch of money…in fact you should NOT do that.  You don’t want to give that impression.  But, if you leave behind the appropriate materials that specifically address the donor and his or her passion, it will leave a strong impression and reinforce a reason to support your cause.

Remember, donors give because they have been inspired by the work your organization does, along with the work you have done to match their passion with the mission.  Everything else is the cherry.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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4 Responses to What YOU NEED to Make the Ask

  1. ljacobwith says:

    My favorite line in this post: If you are in a face-to-face meeting with a donor to discuss a gift, you should already be 90% there to a “yes.”

    It’s true. The meeting just nudge the inevitable. The materials, however great they are, should only be secondary and won’t turn a yes to a no. Great post!

  2. Spot on, and so refreshing. Sometimes I think all the time we spend creating collateral is just a way to procrastinate so we don’t have to make the ask. Donors really don’t appreciate that, and it doesn’t help our organizations either. All it helps is the designers and printers.

  3. Agree. Collateral materials are NOT going to get you the gift. It is about the quality of the project and your ability to communicate its importance.

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