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Ten Signs Your Donors Are Ready for "The Ask"

Adapted from Benevon, "Current Feature: Ten Signs of Donor Readiness"

The reason most people will tell you they hate fundraising is because of that big, scary thing called "Asking." Most fundraising classes teach you to prepare yourself mentally, write out your speech, practice it a few times, what you should do if the donor says no, how to prepare yourself for the dreaded rejection, and how to counter-offer so that you will eventually get a yes. The emphasis is entirely on you as the Asker.

At Benevon we approach asking from a different point of view—that of the donor. Specifically, our focus is on the donor's readiness to be asked. After all, if you are interested in building a lifelong relationship with a donor, why would you rush the process or risk offending a donor by asking too soon? Using this approach, you would never ask a donor for a contribution unless you were certain that they were ready to give.

Think about someone involved with your organization right now who you know is ready to give. How do you know that? What signals or cues are they giving you?

Here are our top ten signs of donor readiness:

  1. They ask a lot of questions.
  2. They return your phone calls.
  3. They bring their friends to your introductory events and offer to host their own introductory events.
  4. They give you advice.
  5. They come to other events and occasions in the life of the organization.
  6. They start talking about themselves and your organization as "we."
  7. They ask more questions about your fundraising.
  8. They ask how else they can help.
  9. They "hang around."
  10. They offer to give you money.

In other words, donors let you know in many ways. They give off cues—cues which you naturally will recognize, if you trust your intuition.

Using these cues from donors, rate each donor's readiness to be asked for money on a scale of 1 to 10. Then develop a cultivation plan and time line for each donor, customized to that donor's unique interests and needs. The cultivation plan should include a mixture of one-on-one and small group contacts, which very naturally advance the process, culminating in asking the ready donor to contribute an amount of money they are prepared to say yes to!

ten-signs-your-donors-are-ready-for-the-ask_Terry-Axelrod.jpgTerry Axelrod, Benevon
© 2011, Benevon. Adapted from "Current Feature: Ten Signs of Donor Readiness"; adapted with permission.

Terry Axelrod is the founder and CEO of Benevon,, a Seattle-based organization that has trained and coached more than 3,000 nonprofits to build sustainable funding from individual donors.

Topics: Fundraising