“I don’t know.” This phrase provides a reason to circle back with the donor (if needed). Just as importantly, this phrase builds trust because it positions the gift officer as a professional who is confident and humble enough to admit there is something they don’t know.
“It occurs to me. . .” This is a conversation-enhancing phrase. It shows that the gift officer is listening to what the donor is saying and invites the donor into a positive brainstorming conversation.
“Would you consider. . . “ Technically, this phrase is not asking someone to do anything so it doesn’t feel blunt or forced. And yet, you deftly are asking.
“We could use your help with. . .” People want to be useful and offer meaningful assistance. If one aim of a relationship is to invite and receive a gift, start by asking for assistance.
“The chancellor/president/dean asked me a question about your giving that I could not answer.” This phrase isn’t used nearly enough with donors. It confirms for the donor that they are the topic of high level conversation at your institution and helps open the door to clarifying future gift intent and amount.
There are no magical phrases or words which always lead to more donor engagement or larger gifts.
But having a few key phrases to help navigate the nuances of donor conversations generally is an indicator of a skilled and effective gift officer.