There was a recent comment/question posted about the proper never giver ask amounts. I thought I would share my thoughts to all blog readers. Here’s my reply:
My philosophy on Never Giver ask amounts starts with the premise that you must ask three times inside each call to ultimately maximize the productivity potential of such a challenging group of prospects. Without three asks, callers cannot effectively educate and persuade people who have not previously made the annual fund a “philanthropic priority”. So to get in three asks on every call, the callers must start high and work lower in their negotiation process. I’m ok with token levels for the third ask, just not as the first ask. I recommend starting a little higher than the average pledge you might target at the conclusion of calling and working down to more modest amounts for the third ask.
Given three asks, the next question turns to what the primary ask should be for these prospects. There are many factors to consider, but graduation year is one of the most important. In general, for younger graduates (say the GOLD or graduates of the last decade), I like to start a little smaller. For older groups, having a higher primary ask is acceptable because they likely have the financial stability to consider such an amount provided your callers can generate the type of interest that persuades them to give.
Also, you must consider other important factors before choosing your amounts, such as:
Institutional Culture- What does the average graduate make in terms of salary when they leave your institution? For example, Ivy League schools, prominent grad schools, or engineering programs might start off higher than a liberal arts undergraduate segment. While everyone is capable of giving a large gift, conventional wisdom suggest that schools with a history of producing high dollar graduates should start with higher amounts.
Gift Club Levels- Perhaps you have a popular or suggested amount at the $100 or $250 amount? Even if it’s for recognition purposes only, some alumni like to be part of a “club”. Using these clubs or recognition levels helps a caller justify starting at that level. I certainly don’t recommend using gift clubs as the only reason for asking…it must be accompanied by sound reasons for giving. However, it’s a nice additional touch on a phone call and can help the callers feel more comfortable asking that amount.
Current Donor Average Gift- What’s the average pledge of the typical donor? Don’t underestimate the giving potential of your prospect. Remember that the vast majority of never givers choose not to give because of their lack of interest, not their financial ability. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you can throw out a small, token amount for your first level and the prospect automatically becomes interested. Callers must use solid reasons to give…even if the primary (first) ask falls outside the prospect’s financial ability range. Before most prospects commit to anything, they must first be convinced it’s a worthwhile investment. Have confidence in the process and teach your callers how to hang in there after a tough objection. They can work the levels to find an acceptable amount to the prospect, generating interest along the way and using their skills of persuasion to talk somebody into giving something they otherwise wouldn’t give on their own. That’s why we’re fundraisers!
All that said, here’s what I might recommend for the average program for never givers….adjust these according to the thoughts I just shared above.
Recent grads (1-10 years out)
1st Ask- $100
2nd Ask- $50
3rd Ask- $25/35
Older Grads (10+ years out)
1st Ask- $150-$250
2nd Ask- Grad Year Ask (example…$85 for 1985)…symbolic levels tend to work well in some groups, especially reunion segments
3rd Ask- $25 or $50
The biggest mistake I see most institutions make is to start at $25 or $50 for the first ask. Just thinking about it from a negotiation standpoint, there is nowhere to drop to if you start so low…especially $25. There is no chance of asking three times, and since it’s a proven fundraising tactic that it takes three asks for the average never giver to finally donate, you will likely miss out on potential participation chances by starting so low. The trick is to write a good script full of solid reasons to give at each of the three levels and teach your callers how to confidently ask in the negotiation process. Coach and motivate towards this expectation and your program can enjoy success in both participation and average pledge.
As always, your comments are welcome!