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The 4 Stages of a Successful Ask For Major Gift Officers

Veteran gift officers turn donor visits into works of art. They know exactly how to structure a visit so that it ends with a successful ask.  Great visits come from years of practice, but good training can help gift officers get on their feet faster, move a relationship forward, and close the ask. We talked with Kent Stanely, Vice President for University Advancement at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU) about the training and support needed to help gift officers have successful visits no matter the stage of their career.   

Through his 15 + years in fundraising and development, Kent has noticed that many gift officers love donor stewardship activities, but feel uncomfortable asking for a gift.  Therefore to help gift officers be the most successful and comfortable in their roles, training should focus around how to make a successful ask.  

Kent breaks donor visits down into a series of timed stages. Providing structure helps gift officers practice the art of fundraising within a framework that has proven to be successful.  

How to Plan a Successful Ask  

Timing is critical when you’re asking a prospect for a gift. While every fundraising team will have their own parameters for donor meetings, most visits should roughly follow this format:  

Welcome – 10-15 minutes of catching up. 

Building the Case – Make your case quick and compelling. Gift officers go off the rails when they spend too much time leading up to the ask. Focus on the most important details and fill the donor in later with the minutiae.  

Making the Ask – Coach your gift officers beforehand on language they should use to make a successful ask. Every team will have their go-to phrases and practicing them ahead of time gives officers confidence and tools needed to make the ask.   

Leave Time for Questions – All gift officers know that it’s important to make the ask at the right moment. If they struggle, it’s because they’re not sure when that moment should be. Make the ask with at least 15-20 minutes remaining in the meeting. It’s so important to leave time for dialogue – this gives the donor time to ask questions, negotiate, and plan his or her follow-through steps with you. If you don’t leave time, you don’t have time to set the plan in motion and may lose the donor.   

Great management strategies help gift officers be successful and improves your ability to meet fundraising goals. Download 6 Ways Fundraisers Can Up Their Talent Management Strategy to learn how.


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