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Use the hierarchy of fundraising asks
Here is a complete hierarchy of asks that you should be making at your organisation, in the order they should be asked. Not every ask will fit into your non-profit’s development strategy, but that’s O.K.
In general, though, this is the order that you should be using as you approach your donors. In between each ask, of course, you should leave a sufïcient amount of time for thanks, recognition, and stewardship:
- Asking for a gift
The first and simplest ask you should make is to ask for a monetary gift for your organisation. This is the donor’s opportunity to invest financially in your work.
- Asking for referrals
The second ask you should be making of your donors is to ask them for referrals. This means opening up their address book to introduce you to people who might be interested in the work of your non-profit.
- Asking for an upgrade/ recurring gift
The third ask you should be making of your donors is to ask them to either upgrade (by giving more this year than they did last year) or to make a commitment to monthly giving or another type of recurring gift. If you ask your donor for an upgrade and they say no, then try to get them to at least renew their gift by giving the same amount again this year.
This is an ask you should be making of your donor every year. This ask should be made whether or not your donor agrees to make referrals.
- Asking for a planned gift
A fourth ask that you should be making is asking your donors to make a planned gift to your non-profit by remembering your organisation in their Will (or through another planned giving vehicle, depending on how advanced your development process is).
This ask should only be made to donors who have demonstrated strong support for your non-profit through a multi-year series of gifts or pledges to your organisation.
- Asking for a leadership gift for a campaign
Another advanced ask you can make of your donors is to ask them to make a large leadership gift to a fundraising campaign at your organisation. This type of ask should only be made to donors who have demonstrated strong support for your non- profit by a series of gifts, and who have the financial capacity to make a large gift.
Is your non-profit using the entire hierarchy of fundraising asks as part of your individual giving programme? If not, now is the time to start thinking through your current donors and prospects to see how you can make these types of asks in a systematic way.
For example, many non-profits will find and cultivate prospects and then, when the time is right, ask for a gift. Then, they set a goal of asking for referrals approximately 4-6 months after the donor makes the gift. They also set a process in place of asking for upgrades every year and new referrals every other year, and set up a meeting to solicit a planned gift after the donor makes his or her 4th gift to the organisation.
The process looks different for every non-profit, and depends on the size of your staff and fundraising budget and the sophistication of your development programme. The important thing is that you think through this hierarchy and see how you can be making different kinds of asks at your organisation.
Of course, as part of your fundraising plan, you will also have lots of “tactical asks”. These are asks that are made through mass-communication or as part of an individual fundraising tactic, such as asking for an event sponsorship or selling tickets to an event, mailing out your direct mail appeals, sending out an e-mail solicitation to your list, etc.
These tactical asks should be made in addition to the asks spelled out above. Thus, you should still be making an upgrade ask each year to your current donors, even if those donors will also be getting an invitation to your annual gala and a letter about your annual fundraising appeal. Be mindful of the timing of your asks, but remember that just because someone sponsors your event this year it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be asking them for a planned giving commitment as well.
Build a monthly giving programme
Monthly giving programmes allow your organisation to collect a certain amount from your donors’ credit cards or bank accounts every month to support your work.
With these programmes, your donors preauthorise your non-profit to withdraw a gift every month, and your non-profit reaps the rewards of having a stable base of recurring income that comes in every single month, without you having to make calls or send out reminder letters.