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It’s an integral step in securing a transformational major gift, so take your time and do your research.

major giftsOriginally published April 2019

OK, so you have identified a major gift prospect. They are engaged. They love what you do. They are interested in supporting your campaign. You know who will ask. You know where and when that will happen. Just one question remains… 

How do you know how much to ask them for?

To know this, you need to know your prospective donor. Do your research. Engage them in the day, weeks, months or even years in the lead up to the ask.

One way to start is to consider their support of the causes they are most passionate about and compare to their affinity with your organisation. This can give you an insight into their giving patterns, gift levels and their preferred style of recognition.

Depending on how close the prospective donor is to your cause, you might want to consider an ‘entry level’ ask. Perhaps the donor has capacity to give at a very significant level, but due to this being the first approach by your organisation you may decide to ask for a smaller gift now as a building block to a bigger ask when stronger relationship has been formed in future years.

If you know the donor very well, you will want to ask for a gift that stretches them. Ask them to give a gift they have never given before, a gift that will make them proud. Remember, asking for a gift that is just a little too high can in some cases be flattering with a response like “I would love to give a gift like that, but we are not able – how about $X?”

Of course, asking for a gift that is much too high can be embarrassing, resulting in “You clearly don’t know us, we could never/will never give at that level!”. So be aware of the difference between the two!

At the other end of the scale, the worst outcome is often asking for a gift that is too low. This is disappointing for all involved. There is nothing worse than a quickly written cheque and a parting thought of, “I thought you said my gift would be life-changing…”.

So, plan. Some key questions you should aim to answer before setting a figure.

  • What is their largest known gift?
  • What is their liquid wealth?
  • How connected are they to your cause?
  • How well do you know them, is it an entry level gift or have they been life-long supporters?

And as you plan, remember successful major gift fundraising is based on relationship building and research. The important thing is to take your time. Deciding how much to ask for is an integral step in securing a transformational major gift.

For more on this topic, or a short video to share with your team or board, here’s a 3 minute video I recorded last year.

Teisha Archer is a fundraising coach and consultant specialising in major gifts and campaigns and Director of Teisha Archer Consulting. Teisha is also a Specialist Consultant Member of The Xfactor CollectiveAustralia’s first network of social impact consultants and coaches across 300 areas of specialisation that exists to support social changemakers to achieve their social mission. The Xfactor Collective has the sector’s first CONCIERGE service to help you get your projects off to a flying start, and a sector-first video library THE X-CHANGE., comprising 140 helpful videos for changemakers such as the links above in this article.


Want more on major gifts? Go here for top tips for making the ask. Or here on how to find major gift prospects.

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