How to Ask for a Major Gift: A Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

May 30, 2019Board

How-to-Ask-Gift Board

Having a script to guide your board members for an ask visit is essential for nonprofits, especially when starting out.

Board members want to make a difference. Most would be happy to go on donor visits if they had some guidance and direction.

Board members know people in the community, whose passion would align with the organization’s mission, and who is philanthropic.

Once a board member makes an introduction, they are likely to join the executive director on an exploratory or ask visit. With an appropriate amount of time devoted to cultivating the prospective major donor, it’s time to ask for their support. When the board member joins you on the visit, it is helpful to provide them with direction.

One way to ensure a successful visit is to provide a sample script for board members to review before they go on a donor ask visit. Providing board members with a sample script and materials sets the board member up for meaningful visits. Some of your board members are very familiar and comfortable with a donor ask visit. Others are not.

A sample “asking for gifts” script is provided here.

Whether a board member goes on a donor ask visit with you, with other board members, or by themselves, they need guidance.

Let’s talk about what that visit might look like for a board member.

See 13 Essentials on Major Donor Ask Visits.

Asking for major gifts deserves a face-to-face visit. Donors appreciate board members taking the time to visit them. Most of the time, the donors are people your board members know personally or professionally.

Below are the top four most important points for board members to know on donor visits. I have directed the conversation to the board members, so you can share it with them!

1. Say Thank-You

It is likely the prospect has been supporting the organization. Let them know how much you appreciate their support. Show how grateful you are for their on-going support.

State you are on the board, want to hear why they support ABC Nonprofit, and hope they will continue to join you in supporting ABC Nonprofit.

If they are not supporters, thank them for something they have done recently for your nonprofit or the community. Recognize them for their unique contributions to a project, award, business venture, or community initiative, for example.

2.  Share a Story of Impact.

Identify a story meaningful to you. Your passion will show through when you tell a story meaningful to you. Share a story in which you have seen the impact first-hand, talked with individuals whose life was changed, or experienced the transformation yourself.

Stories of transformation bring your donors closer to your mission. Help them feel the transformation of your work.

Include these three points in all of your messages: Share the:

  • problem your organization is addressing
  • unique, proven solution
  • transformation and how a person/place has changed

With storytelling, you can help potential donors understand who you are as an organization, what you do, and what contribution your organization makes to your community.

Let the donor see how deeply passionate you are about your nonprofit. This is your nonprofit. Your passion will be contagious. Be enthusiastic and excited to be there.

Your goal is to draw the donor in and for them to see themselves as part of the solution, the hero. 

 3.  Know Your Ask Amount

This is probably the toughest part of fundraising. We don’t know a person’s financial condition. We have to make a best effort guess. Large nonprofits have access to software and research departments to help determine the ask amount. Small nonprofits don’t!

Don’t make this difficult. Here’s a simple approach: Know what the donor has supported in your community and at what amount. Use that as your guide. If the donor has been supporting your organization for three or more years, they may be ready for a more significant ask. Decide on that ask with a specific amount (not a range) and double what you think they will give.

Important: Make sure you have identified the donor’s passion with the project before the visit! Read: How to Determine Your Major Donors’ Passions

 Read3 Most Important Criteria When Identifying Your Ideal Major Donors.

4.  Ask for a Multi-Year Gift

Ask if they would consider making a multi-year gift. Explain your three-year strategic plan, and you would like to count on their gift over the next couple of years. If the amount you ask seems high, suggesting a multi-year pledge is a perfect response when you ask for a gift.

Ask the donor to continue to make a difference with a contribution and join you in supporting the organization.

Most important, board members are to make the conversation their own, be sincere, and connect with donors.

Click here to receive the sample script to get your board started. Edit the language to capture your organization’s language, unique voice, and mission.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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