How to Negotiate the Gift

There!  You did it!  You asked for the gift.  Good for you!

You asked in a genuine, sincere way, with quiet confidence.  You asked for a dollar amount, to be sure, but you didn’t ask for money.

You asked the donor to help make something important happen at your organization.

That’s the key.

Now what?

Watch, and listen.

Watch carefully the expression on your donor’s face because it will tell you a lot.  Did the person expect this?  Is he or she comfortable with it?  Or uneasy?  Their initial expression will tell you what they are about to say.

If it’s “yes,” break into a great big smile, say thank you and shake their hand.  As we talked about last time, move into your mental checklist of the things to cover such as confirming the gift in writing if need be, when you should expect to receive the gift, do you have the donor’s permission to announce the gift, should you both discuss a naming opportunity, and other related points.

Or, the donor may demur.  “Kathy, I’m not sure.  I want to talk with my spouse (or “my financial advisor” or “my children.”)

Your response to that should be “Absolutely. Would you like me to go over our request with them?”  You should also then work very hard to keep the ball in your court, so to speak.  If the donor says “Let me get back to you soon” and you smile and say “that’s fine, sure, whenever it works for you” it is a pretty good bet the donor is not going to do that.  You are then put in the uncomfortable position, for them and for you, of trying to follow up after the fact.

Do this instead.  If the donor needs time, which is very understandable, say “When would be a good time for me to follow up with you?”  The donor will tell you, and you’ve got their invitation to take the initiative at the appointed time.  “Mary, you suggested I give you a call today to follow up on our last conversation.  May I stop by soon to do that?”

It is the nature of our business that sometimes the donor may show you a reluctance to make the gift you asked for.  They may say “no” outright, or they may say something like “I’m not sure” or “I hesitate to do that.”

You need to address their concern.  The concern or reluctance is based on one of four things.  Here’s how I do that.

“Jerry, most of all, thank you for letting me share this idea with you.  Can I ask, is it our organization?  Is something bothering you?”

“No?  That’s good to know.  I didn’t think so but I wanted to be sure.  Can I ask, is this the wrong project for you?  It is really important to us, but I want to be sure your gift is directed to something you are excited about.  If not, we’ll find something closer to your heart.”

“Okay, I am glad to know you’d like to make this project happen (fund this scholarship, etc.) if you could.  May I ask, is the amount too big a stretch for you?  Would it help if we thought of your gift over more than one calendar year?”

If you don’t know the donor’s hesitancy yet, you will after this question.

“Jerry, is the timing off?  If we could know of your intention now to make this gift to us after the first of the year (or, closer to the end of the year), would that make it easier for you to make this gift?”

Once you find the concern, whatever it may be, say, “If we could reshape that, would you feel better about making this gift?”

Remember, the issue that causes the donor’s concern is one of four things; the organization, the project, the amount, or the timing.

If you have any decent relationship with the donor, she or he will be willing to tell you what it is and to think about how to deal with their concern.

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