Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Even if you’ve done enough fundraising for your nonprofit to feel comfortable with soliciting money, there’s still something about “the big ask” that can cause a few butterflies.

Relax. If you’re well prepared, asking a donor for a large sum of money (that you know he can afford) doesn’t have to be scary. For someone who’s very wealthy, a gift worth hundreds of thousands of dollars can be just a small fraction of his net worth. Remember: Wealth is relative. A donor who gives you $20 could be making a bigger sacrifice (by donating a larger percentage of his net worth) than someone who gives you $20,000. So don’t get tripped up on amounts.

The important thing for you is to do your homework before you make the ask. Know what you’re getting into. Before you reach out to your donor, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Does your donor already feel like he’s part of your team?
    If you’ve engaged with him regularly via email, phone calls or in-person meetings, invited him to fundraising events—basically cultivated an ongoing relationship with him—then you’re off to a good start. Before you approach anyone about giving a large sum of money, you want to be sure that person is comfortable and familiar with your nonprofit organization. If you have an established relationship with a loyal donor, making a sizable gift may be just one of many ways that person is expecting to support you. 
  2. Has the donor been agreeable to supporting you in the past?
    If you’re ready to make a big donation request, chances are that donor has already said “yes” to something else, whether it was a financial gift, a volunteer opportunity or a fundraising event. If she’s already said yes to a small thing, there’s every reason to believe that she’ll say yes to something larger.

    If the donor hasn’t yet said yes to anything, then she isn’t ready for a big ask. First establish a solid interest and partnership on a small scale, then consider asking for something larger. The small yesses should come first.
  3. Will your relationship change if the donor says no?
    One of the things that makes nonprofit fundraising professionals most nervous about asking for money—particularly a large sum—is they feel like things will be awkward if the donor says “no.” But remember this: Any ask, even a big one, is not an ultimatum. You should never approach a donor with the attitude, “If you don’t say yes, then we’re breaking up because it will be awkward.”

    An ask is just a question that’s ultimately part of a larger conversation. That’s it. Asking for donations doesn’t start relationships, and it shouldn’t end them. If you ask for money, and the person isn’t ready to give, that’s okay. Thank them for their consideration and move on. Keep the relationship alive. Continue the conversation down the road. But don’t make things awkward or go silent. The “no” you just received may be a “not right now” or “not for that project.” The next time you present a need, you may be met with a resounding “yes!”

Any ask, whether big or small, should always be made once you’ve laid the right kind of foundation with your constituents. Do you communicate with them well and often? Do you offer the tools they need to engage with you online or on their mobile devices? With all the latest technological advances, supporters’ expectations have changed, and we can help you meet them. Firespring provides beautiful websites and all the essential tools nonprofits need to tell their story, manage events and raise significant funds. Start your free trial by visiting or call 877.447.8941.