Part 1 of this article focuses on why it is imperative to ask for the gift during a donor trip. Not before – when the donor has yet to see the incredible impact, and not after – when the climactic moment has passed and their attention may have shifted.
Making the ask on the trip requires two things:
First, that you have someone present from the organization who holds a strong relationship to the donor and is comfortable talking about money. This could be the Development Officer, Executive Director, or even a Board Member. I’ve written about appropriate roles and responsibilities in another article, but the point here is that a successful ask assumes there is someone on the trip wth the comfort and experience to make it.
Second, A successful ask also assumes you have prepared the donor to be asked. If you haven’t prepared them, and they don’t know what’s coming, jump back to Part 1 of this article and learn what you can do.
I provide three common scenarios in order of preference:
1. One-on-one (or as a couple) in a private setting
This is my preferred option because it most mirrors the meetings we’ve had with our donor back home. This meeting could happen over a meal, a long walk, or in some private moment. My suggestion is to preface the meeting with with a debrief of the day, attend to their emotions, thoughts, feelings, and questions. Acknowledge that they have seen some important work over the last few days, and ask if they could see themselves funding the project. Mentioning a specific amount is better than not having one, so make sure you’ve done your homework and know how much to ask for.
2. As a group in a private setting
This option works if, and only if, we are dealing with small group and they all know each other or are acquainted in some way personally or professionally.
Sometimes the trip is jam packed and you have no time for individual meetings (though if you work with me I always make sure to design trips with meeting time in mind). So now your only option is to make the ask as a group. There is a way you can do this respectfully and sensitively. First, I would make sure you do this in a private location. If it is over a meal, make sure other patrons in the restaurant are not within earshot. I recommend a conference room in the hotel or local office.
It’s doesn’t need to be a formal presentation and I do not recommend using slides – they will have already seen and experienced something far more powerful than photos on a slide deck. Mention a group goal in monetary terms, stating that among the people in the room, you think the goal can be met 100%. The important thing here is that you follow up with each participant individually to get some kind of response before the end of the trip. Even if the response is a request for more time to “think about it,” you want to know where they stand so you can follow up immediately after the trip for their final decision.
3. When the donor initiates it
Ah the magic of spontaneity. This is what ends up happening on some trips and when it does we fall back on our fundraising intuition.
Sometimes the donor initiates the conversation about money. They may bring it up at unexpected times and places. Their enthusiasm is a great sign, but if the setting is not private or appropriate, tell the donor you’ll talk later in the day. Resist the urge to talk about money in an ill-timed moment and risk embarrassing the donor or botching the ask when you are unprepared. The thing to do is to follow up privately, that same day, and have the discussion. It is best to address this individually (see #1) but if you were also planning to do a group ask, let the donor know what’s coming and say that their gift will count toward the group goal.
We have touched on How to Make the Ask, but I want to wrap up with a few warnings of When – specifically when not to make the ask:
1. At the airport or on the plane
Believe it or not, for someone like me who travels all the time, I hate flying and I hate airports. This is the last place I feel comfortable reflecting on powerful experiences or making big decisions. I know plenty of people who feel the same. Your donor might be one of them. Don’t take this chance.
2. When they are overcome with emotion
Oftentimes seeing the need first-hand can be emotionally draining. If your donor is still processing, let them process. We all need time to internally debrief new experiences. Be aware that not everyone wears their emotion on the face, or displays it in a way that may be easy for your to read. Just because someone isn’t bawling doesn’t mean they were not deeply shaken by what they witnessed. Proceed with caution.
3. When they are tired or distracted
This is why you want to wait at least a few days into the trip before making an ask. It’s not just travel fatigue. People also have frustrating moments during travel (schedule delays, long waits, stomach/bowl problems, extreme weather, etc) and their discomfort in these moments may be difficult to decipher right away. Spend a little time observing the donor for the first few days to see where their frustrations lie. When you find them, avoid those moments.
On the first few days of the trip you and your donors are getting through jet-lag, culture shock, general disorientation, and sensory overload. Use those precious few days to cope and, more importantly, to observe the donors. Wait for that right moment and go for it! With all the work we’ve done in recruiting, screening, cultivating, and preparing the donors, you should approach the ask with confidence and comfort.