When working with natural partners (such as presidents, other administrators, or faculty) and volunteers in major gifts, one of the most troublesome statements I can hear during major gift donor strategy sessions is, “They are going to do something.”
Almost always, what this seemingly positive statement actually means is something akin to the following:
“I didn’t ask the prospect for the specific gift amount we have been discussing, nor did I have a proposal on paper for them to consider. Instead, I briefly mentioned something about the project in an off-handed type of way, they smiled, nodded, and said it was an important initiative.”
You may think that the reason the “they are going to do something,” statement is troublesome is because it usually means that an ask hasn’t actually been made. And, yes, that is a problem. On the whole, if you don’t ask for a specific amount, you won’t receive the prospect’s best possible gift.
But the real troubling aspect of the “they are going to do something,” statement is much worse than simply not asking. When a natural partner or volunteer says of a prospect, “they are going to do something,” they may be attempting to put a positive spin on the fact that they didn’t actually ask for the gift. It can be a statement made to proactively defend a poor solicitation.
So, if a suggestion is made to go back to the prospect and ask for a specific amount, the odds are high that this suggestion will get batted down quickly. “Why would we go back to the prospect with an ask when I talked with them already about their gift? That would be overkill. They know about the project and they are going to do something,” would be a likely response.
The real problem with the “they are going to do something” statement is not that it means that a specific ask probably wasn’t made. The real problem is that it can mean that a specific ask maybe never will be made.