“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”         – Michelangelo

After reading this quote, I am convinced that Michelangelo was not only a gifted sculptor, but also a fundraiser. How else could he possibly understand that sinking feeling during a solicitation when you realize your ask amount is too low because your prospect immediately agrees to the proposed amount? Worse yet, the prospect may even pull out a checkbook and fulfill their commitment on the spot!

How do you aim high, but not too high? How do you set your sights on sacrificial giving without offending donors?

Defining ask amounts is an art form in itself – a carefully sculpted number developed after a thorough analysis of historical data, wealth screening and conversations with key members of your institution or organization.

Never Underestimate the Power of Planning
If you are about to launch a campaign, a sound, in-depth planning study is a logical first step. Not only do you get a range of gift potential, delivered directly from the donor, but you also have an opportunity to determine propensity, a critical factor in defining the final ask amount.

Look Back in Time
Reviewing historical giving patterns is also a key factor in the process. Does the donor continually upgrade from year to year or simply sustain a level of giving? Is there a downward trend? Are there gaps in giving? Understanding the pattern from a historical perspective will shed a bright light on the direction in which you should go for the final ask amount.

Find a Leader: Others will Follow
Setting the norm is another key factor in testing expectations on donors. To do this, you must first get a donation, at a sacrificial level, from a donor you know will respond to your request. Then fill in a few gifts around this level. You then have a group to lead the herd and provide the momentum needed to continue. By naturally raising the bar, you elevate potential for all donors.

A word of caution – do your best to avoid analysis paralysis, that comfortable holding pattern as you continue to scrub and rescrub the data. While you certainly want to approach this process with a well-executed and intentional plan, eventually you must finish your masterpiece and make the ask.

Article written by: Cindy van den Beemt, Assistant Vice President

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The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:25)

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