The Importance Of Closing The Ask

Have you closed a gift today?

As fundraising consultants, we spend a lot of our time talking about (wait for it – big surprise!) FUNDRAISING.

Fundraising always prompts for me a mental picture of raising a house—laying the foundation, building the walls, cutting out spaces for the windows and doors and chimney (because any house of mine has to have a fireplace), and, last, putting on the roof.  Without the roof, the house is uninhabitable.  The roof completes the basic structure, so that the interior can be finished and, best of all, someone can move in and starting making the house a real home.

We have done a fairly decent job, I think, of teaching the importance of laying the foundation.  To ask for a gift, you have to have someone to ask—you need to identify prospects/potential donors from among your known universe of friends, Board, alumni, parents, ticket buyers, and/or members.  The house’s foundation is where you identify your prospects and then do some research to find out how best you, your CEO, and/or your volunteers can approach them.

We do a credible job of explaining how to build the walls and where to put the windows and doors – this is the step (or multiple steps) that we call cultivation.  Few people react positively to being asked for a major gift right off the bat—without being given the opportunity to learn about your organization, usually through a personal connection with your leadership.  So building those walls through purposeful cultivation steps is always our mantra.

When it comes to the roof, though—here is where the true opportunity for improvement lies.  Many fundraisers can lay a solid foundation and build the walls—but when it comes to putting on the roof, they pack up their tools and go home.

The roof—in my construction analogy—is asking for the gift and then, in a reasonable timeframe, CLOSING the ask.  “Closing the ask” is when you get an actual, concrete answer directly from the person you have asked to make a gift.

An actual answer is going to be something along the lines of:

Yes, I will! No, I can’t.
Yes, but not at the level you asked. No, but ask me again later on.

Notice that “maybe” is not a part of my matrix of answers.  But the fundraising landscape is littered with way too many “maybes.”  Why?  Because the fundraiser – whether a new development officer or a seasoned CEO – didn’t take the final, essential step of closing the ask.  Not closing the ask is akin to putting on the roof’s materials and not finishing the project.  You have to fasten the roof to the rafters—or all your work is for nothing.

So, without delay, please pull out your prospect list (I certainly hope you have one!) and figure out where your open asks are–which houses are sitting there without those roofs nailed into place.  Then get busy!

Your very next call should be a closing call.

Good luck!