Add this to your bucket list


by Kristin Short, Senior Consultant,  HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Most people have on their bucket lists – a visit to the Grand Canyon, to run a marathon or to try something daring like skydiving.  Sure, I would like to see the Grand Canyon and run a marathon, but I also had ” complete a million dollar ask” on my bucket list, and  I just completed that one.

Asking for money can be intimidating and asking for a million dollars can be even more intimidating because the stakes are higher.  The one thing I did not expect from asking a donor for a million dollars is the overwhelming feeling of “privilege” to be a part of that conversation that I was struck by. Talking to someone about making a transformational gift that could make a huge impact on your organization is truly an honor and a powerful moment.

Now that I have been a part of a conversation about donating a million dollars, I have a few tips to offer:
Before the visit:

  1. First and foremost, do your research. Make sure the donor is capable of giving at that level.  As important as capacity is, propensity is even more important.  Would your donor want to give at that level to your organization? Is the donor philanthropic?
  2. Rehearse the many paths the conversation could take. Plan the flow of the conversation.
  3. Have a special request packet ready. In the packet, outline the donors’ involvement and legacy with the organization, write out the special request, and show how that will have a transformational impact on the organization.

During the conversation:

  1. Begin the meeting with pleasantries. Ask about things that are meaningful to your donor. Keep the conversation focused on things that matter, not the weather.
  2. Make transition to why you are here.
  3. Be grateful. Talk about the donor’s meaningful relationship to your organization.  Discuss the legacy this donor has had with the organization and thank them for all that they have done and continue to do.
  4. Explain the exciting plans for the organization. Show how a transformational gift is important to the organization and how a gift at that level could make a profound difference.
  5. Make your special request. Hand your donor your special request packet and go through some of the main points. Let your donor know that there are few people you can ask for a leadership gift and they are one of them.
  6. After you ask for the donation, be silent. Listen to your donor’s response.
  7. Have a next step in place. Let them know you will follow up with them in a week after they have a chance to think about this special request.
  8. Immediately send a thank you letter, thank them for their time and consideration, outline the conversation and reiterate the next step.

I recommend adding “asking for a million dollar gift” to your bucket list.  Be prepared, practice and it will take the intimidation away.  Remember – asking for a donation is a conversation and as a fundraiser, that is something you excel at.  In the end, you will be happy to a part of a conversation that could truly make a difference to your organization.


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