A few weeks ago, I got to spend time with my niece Nicole and nephew Evan who were visiting Philadelphia before the start of the new school year in Florida. They’re wonderful kids, and it was great seeing them.
One evening when 9-year-old Evan and I were hanging out, I decided to ask him an odd question to see where it might go:
If you wanted someone to give you money, what would you do?”
Evan, who just entered the fourth grade and has no fundraising experience, replied:
I’d ask them.”
Bingo! Evan instinctively knows one of the fundamental rules of fundraising: If you want donations, you have to ask for them.
So, are you smarter than a fourth grader?
Since you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you know the general importance of the ask in the fundraising process. However, knowing and doing are two different things. So, let me ask you a few more questions:
Do you ask for planned gifts?
While 88.7 percent of people surveyed say that it’s appropriate for a nonprofit organization to ask for a legacy gift, researchers found that only 22 percent of those over the age of 30 have been asked. In other words, there are a huge number of people who are willing to be asked for a planned gift but who are not.
Even among those charities that do ask people to make a planned gift, the ask is reserved for a very narrow group of prospects that might include major donors, board members, and people who have requested planned giving information. Those asks are most often made during face-to-face visits.
On the other hand, wise organizations also use direct mail and the telephone to reach out to a broad number of prospects to ask them to make a planned gift commitment.
One smart nonprofit organization that has successfully used direct mail to ask for legacy gifts is the Natural Resources Defense Council. They did two mailings involving a total of 50,000 pieces that generated $8.5 million in bequest commitments. You can see a sample of the mailing by clicking here.
A university in Texas targeted 7,000 alumni with a mail promotion for Charitable Gift Annuities, following up direct-mail-generated leads with phone calls that resulted in $730,000.
An orchestra in the Pacific Northwest implemented a coordinated mail/phone campaign involving 2,200 prospects in an effort that produced an estimated $2 million in bequest expectancies.
If your organization wants more planned gifts, you need to ask more people to give. While face-to-face asks will always be important, you can ask far more people by using direct mail and the phone as well, just like your organization does for the annual fund.
You can find more details about the examples I’ve cited, additional examples, and helpful tips in my award-winning book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.
Do you ask supporters to enroll in a monthly-giving program?
In 1989, I predicted that virtually every charity would have a monthly-giving program within five years. Sadly, I could not have been more wrong. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Now, more than a quarter-century later, shockingly few charities ask supporters to give monthly.
A great way to enhance your organization’s donor-retention rate while upgrading the amount of support from donors is to ask donors to give monthly.
Some of my friends and I believe so strongly in the power of monthly giving that we participated in this short, light-hearted video on the subject:
If you’re not asking your supporters to give monthly, you’re organization is missing a great opportunity. For powerful advice on how to run a monthly-giving program, checkout Harvey McKinnon’s book Hidden Gold, and Erica Waasdorp’s book Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.
Do you ask donors to upgrade their support?