Month: March 2010

Every “no” is a “yes”

Oh my goodness, a prospective donor said, “no.” Not a “no” that turns out to be an objection that you can resolve. A “no” that’s a “no.” A goose egg.

Do you take it personally? No you don’t.


It’s a numbers game.

In sales parlance, a “no” triggers a “next.” That’s right. “Next.” Move on to the next donor.

On to the next major gift solicitation

No one bats 1,000. In fact, it turns out that major gift fundraising “ask” averages are not very different from Major League Baseball batting averages: going 1 for 3… that’s batting a very respectable .333. Baseball players can’t wait to get back to the plate after a strike out. They live by, “next.”

No strike-outs? No home runs either.

Everyone has a Major Gift Ask RatioSM

A key number in major gift fundraising is the major gift ask ratio: the number of prospective major gift donors (prospects) you’ll ask compared to the number who say, “yes.”

The fundraising profession has researched lots of major gift campaigns and uncovered industry-wide prospect-to-donor ratios. In a $100,000 campaign, for example, you’ll want at least one $25,000 gift—25%-50% of the goal. Obtaining this gift will require anywhere from four to five “asks”—a ratio of 4:1 or 5:1. You will need to ask four or five prospects to secure this gift. As the gift sizes decrease, the ratio falls, working its way down to 2:1.

For starters as a smaller organization, expect to make two or three “asks” to get the major gift

So, depending on how aggressive your “asks” are in relation to prospective donor capacity, you should expect—yes, expect—to make anywhere from two “asks” to five “asks” to get the gift. That’s to hit a specific gift level. Many of these prospects who don’t give you what you ask for are not at zero—they will give you a smaller gift. But even at the more modest “ask” levels, anticipate a 2:1 ratio. There are still plenty of “no’s” in that ratio.

If you are a board member who wants to secure three gifts for your organization, plan on making at least six asks.

Every “no” is a “yes”

On the journey to three gifts, you will make at least six asks. A “no” is one of the six. As an added bonus, every “no” is part of a conversation, and every conversation deepens the relationship. So there’s always a benefit, no matter the dollar outcome of the meeting.

Goals are essential! The goal is not to achieve a 100% “yes” rate. We’d all fail. No one would go to bat.

As a smaller nonprofit just starting a major gift program, consider setting a goal to meet with a certain number of major gift prospects.

The money will follow.