Would you propose marriage to a person the first time you met them? Probably not. So why do we think it’s acceptable to make a major ask on a first “date” with a prospective donor?
It’s pretty universally accepted that you shouldn’t propose on the first date, especially if it’s going well. You don’t want to scare your date away! Just like in dating, it’s best practice to take things slow and build a relationship with anyone you might want to ask for money.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but here are some things to consider as you work your way up toward a big ask:
Get to know folks
Dating is a low-stakes way to get to know someone before diving deeper into a serious relationship. You should treat your first interactions with a prospective donor the same way. Ask questions and let them talk. What are they passionate about? How much do they already know about your platform or issue area? Do they know about your organization? Do they seem aligned with your mission? Just because someone might have the financial capacity to give doesn’t necessarily make them an ideal donor.
Who will make the ask?
In learning about the interests and needs of your prospective donors, you are also giving yourself an opportunity to decide who from your organization would be the best person to make the ask and how. What kind of program would the donor like to hear more about and fund? You can’t target your ask if you don’t know your audience. The more targeted and personalized the ask, the more likely you are to get a yes, leading to a higher donation and more future donations!
Don’t waste time
One of the most common reasons fundraisers make the big ask during the first meeting is out of fear of wasting the potential donors’ time. But if a prospective donor has accepted your invitation to a meeting, they’re interested! Of course, you shouldn’t have meetings just to have them — we recommend the POP Model to determine the Purpose, Outcome, and Process for all meetings — but don’t be afraid to take things slow.
People are not ATMs
People are not machines. They usually don’t just give to any cause or organization that asks. They usually want to build a connection — not only with the issues but with you, too! By asking genuine questions and tailoring your conversation and pitches to those answers, you are signaling that the prospective donor is important and that you are invested in them as people, not just check-writers. That’s good for you and your organization because the stronger the connection between the organization and the donor, the more likely the donor is to give month after month or year after year. Just like with dating, as long as the feelings are genuine and the relationship is built on trust and mutual commitment, things are likely to progress. But jump ahead too quickly and scare them away and you’ll probably just get left with the bill.
People don’t just give to causes and to organizations — they give to people they want to create a connection with.
If you’re ready to grow your audience and increase your fundraising, book a free strategy call with our expert team today. We’ll help you get a plan in place that will focus your efforts and save you time.