The "Ask"SM Blog - Post

Major Gifts: When a donor says, "Let me think about it," don't negotiate against yourself.

by Diane Remin | Fri, 1 May 2015

You've just presented a donor with a big opportunity—whatever that means for your organization. "Let me think about it" is a perfectly natural response.

Without knowing more, do not jump into negotiations (you will be negotiating against yourself) or rush to end the visit.

P.A.T. Yourself on the Back (Program, Amount, Timing)

Your goal at that moment is to better understand what the donor is thinking. It may be about the amount – but it also may be the timing or even about the project, itself. Project/program, amount and timing encompass much of the possible terrain. It is also possible that "Let me think about it" is a brush-off. If it is, you want to know that, too.

Step 1: Acknowledge the reply: "Yes, Susan, I understand you want to think about a gift like this. I would, too. But I would like to be sure that I have it right that: "

Step 2: Confirm that the donor is enthused about the project/program. Game over, if not. That said, it is unlikely that you have arrived at this point only to discover the donor doesn't value the opportunity. Most of the time, this question will elicit a "yes," returning the donor to positive ground. (There is a sales element to this work!)

Step 3: Is the amount a figure the donor will, indeed, consider, e.g., "I suggested $50,000/year for five years as an amount that you would consider for this project.  Am I right that $250K is a possibility here once you've given it some thought?"

  • You are listening for any form of "yes, I just need to think it over" (or talk to my spouse, accountant, etc.). With a "yes," move to step 4.
  • Only negotiate if you get an absolute "no" about the amount, i.e., "There is no way we can/will do $50,000/year." In response to a clear "no," do a re-ask: "Let's talk about the amount, then. Is $30,000/year for five years for a total of $150,000 an amount you would consider?"

Step 4: Timing issues sometimes pop right up when you make the "ask," i.e., my daughter is getting married, I have two kids in college, I have other commitments, etc. If not: "Given your interest, I want to be sure the timing is not getting in the way." If a timing issue is raised, try offering a start-date that is one year out or expanding the payment horizon, depending on the donor's situation. Not everyone wants to make commitments out into the future. No matter what, you want to get permission to keep the donor updated and come back for another visit.

Step 5: Do not leave without a specific follow-up plan or you will find yourself chasing the donor. This is a certain path to frustration – for everyone.

  • Propose an in-person follow-up meeting to answer any questions that may have arisen and find out what the donor is thinking.
  • If the donor pushes back on an in-person follow-up visit, come to agreement on a time for a follow-up phone call.

Note: If the donor won't agree to a specific time for follow-up, you may be getting the brush-off.

Conclusion

Continue the conversation when a donor says, "Let me think about it." "P.A.T. yourself on the back" and learn more about what is on the donor's mind – is it the Project, the Amount, and/or the Timing —while acknowledging that a gift like this certainly merits some thinking. Then, set-up a follow-up visit. 

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