We’re right in the midst of the Major Gifts Challenge. If you’re unfamiliar with the Challenge, check out the introductory video here.
Every conversation, negotiation and meeting has a close. While I’m not talking about closing a deal, I am talking about closing the ask meeting. Regardless of the donor’s decision, you need to leave the meeting as perfectly as you prepared for it.
Hopefully by now you’ve scheduled some meetings to ask for a gift, and you’ve started to prepare for those meetings.
In addition to preparing how to ask, it’s important to know how you will respond to the donor’s decision!
In other words, what will you do if the donor says yes, no or maybe?
The good news is it’s going to be one of those three. You don’t need to prepare for lots of possible decisions, only three.
That being said, if you are unprepared for the donor’s decision, shame on you!
Responding to YES
“Yes,” is a wonderful answer — it’s the one you’re hoping for.
If you get a yes, you’ll do three things:
- Thank the donor.
- Find out how they would like to make their gift.
- Get out.
After you leave, you can pat yourself on the back and do a little dance in the parking lot (but out of sight of the donor). Then, make a note that you probably didn’t ask for enough, and you might be able to ask for more next year.
Don’t beat yourself up though, you got what you asked for and you did a great job. 🙂
Responding to MAYBE
“Maybe” can be a bit more confusing. It can come out of the donors mouth in many different ways. “Maybe” can sound like:
- It’s more than I was expecting to give.
- This isn’t a great time.
- I need to think about it.
When you get a “maybe,” your job is to turn it into a “yes.” You do this by continuing the conversation (not necessarily that day, but in the near future).
Tell the donor you’re thrilled they’d even consider such a large request. Ask them if they need any additional information or have any remaining questions they need answered before making a final decision. Most importantly, ask when it would be a good time to continue the conversation, preferably within the next week or two.
Lastly, remind them anything they decide to do will be greatly appreciated and put to good use.
If you don’t follow up, it’s like you never asked, so make a follow up plan and stick to it.
Responding to NO
Sometimes you’ll get a “no” or something that sounds close to a “no.”
When this happens, it’s still up to you to continue the conversation. Thank the donor for their consideration and ask them what they had in mind.
I like to think about “no” in two different ways. A hard no and a soft no.
A Hard NO…
A hard no is a “not now, not ever” decision, and I don’t think you’ll hear any no’s like this unless something has gone terribly wrong during the cultivation process.
A Soft NO…
It’s more likely you’ll be hearing a “soft no” which more likely means something in the ask was off.
Things that can be off in the ask include:
- Bad timing
- Wrong amount
- Wrong program
- Wrong asker
Maybe they had something else in mind, or are waiting to be asked by someone else. Your job is to be a detective and find out what’s the problem.
You can respond with something like:
“I appreciate your time and attention. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what you had in mind?”
Regardless of the answer you get, your job is to make a follow up plan to continue the conversation at a later date.
Challenge Yourself Action Item
Step 1: Prepare for Yes, No and Maybe.
Write out bullets for what you will say to the donor for each of these three responses. Also consider possible next steps in each scenario.
Step 2: Practice your responses.
Do some roleplaying and practice each scenario and your response with the person you will be going to ask with, or with your office mates. The more you practice, the smoother your meeting will go.
Going Further with Major Gifts
If you’re ready to take the next step in raising major gifts, check out my online course, Mastering Major Gifts. In this course, we dive into greater detail for all donor decisions to an ask. In the course, students learn how to specifically respond to Yes, No, and Maybe — the exact language to use.
Act, Comment and Participate
Now it’s your turn to share your progress with the Major Gifts Challenge.
What type of responses have you gotten from donors and how did you react? Let me know about your experiences with responding to donors in the comments.