15 ways to determine “ask” amount

One of the tricky aspects of asking a major donor for a contribution is getting the amount right. Asking for too much can do serious short- and long-term damage. Fundraisers often find themselves getting burned by asking for too little.

During the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual conference, Patty Lonsbary of Bob Carter Companies and Louise Aspin of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation offered advice about asking for, and getting, the right amount from a major donor prospect.

They suggested the following:

  • The amount is based on the individual capacity, interest in the mission and link to the organization.
  • It can be a transformational gift if the prospect is properly motivated.
  • Believe in the amount the prospect is being asked to consider.
  • Use research to determine the asking amount. This can come from:
  • Publicly available information
  • Intelligence from colleagues and associated
  • Insight from volunteers and key stakeholders
  • A look at the largest amount they have ever given, to this organization or any other
  • Inclination: something showing they are invested in the cause.
  • Wealth considerations:
  • Liquidity of assets
  • Industry outlook
  • Stock holdings: at an all-time high/low?
  • Luxurious lifestyle (comes at a luxurious price)
  • Unlikelihood of them donating the principle of a family foundation’s assets.