A seasoned and effective development leader once told me, “never leave a visit – even a first visit – without asking for something.” His rationale was that the prospective donor understands your role and is expecting some sort of ask. If you don’t ask for something, you don’t appear to be doing your job.
Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. “Is it wise to ask for a gift, even on the first visit?” Over time I’ve become convinced that – in most instances – it is wise to ask for an annual gift during a first visit with a prospect. Such a solicitation assumes, of course, that they’ve not yet made an annual gift. And in situations where an annual gift has already been made there are clever approaches to have other discussions around giving as well.
For instance, that same development leader quoted above told me that he would regularly end a positive first visit by turning back to the prospect just as he was walking to the door and say:
“A thought just occurred to me that someone who cares as much about our institution as you do may have already made estate plans that benefit our institution – is this something that you’ve already done or have considered doing?”
An afterthought – or so it seems. A non-threatening, easy way to slip into an initial discussion of planned giving. And a way to ask the prospective donor something important about her giving, without appearing clumsy or pushy. Yes, asking is a hallmark of a development professional. And asking artfully is a sign of an effective development professional.