Author: Alex Wortley, Charity Website Specialist
As fundraisers, there can be a lot of pressure to make ‘the ask’ and bring the money in. People think it’s easy. It isn’t. More art than science, when and how you pop the question is going to depend on a number of factors. Not least, who you’re asking. Sometimes there’s a map. Trusts. Foundations. Corporates. They often have a grant cycle, application process and deadlines. Individual giving is less clear cut. So when is the best time to make that ask?
"Pitching your ask isn’t just about finding the right time of year. It’s about finding the right time for your donors"
Thinking literally, public giving generally peaks in June, during the end of the financial year, or November and December for the 'season of goodwill'. But this is the tip of a very complicated iceberg. Whilst it’s important to make the most of these peak giving times (think Giving Tuesday, for one) if your strategy is only rooted in general rules then you will likely come up short. Because pitching your ask isn’t just about finding the right time of year. It’s about finding the right time for your donors.
Let’s imagine you’ve just run a successful emergency appeal. You’ve got thousands of new donors on your books, and the consent you need to move forward. What next? Research suggests that charities should wait 6-12 months before making a new ask. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is letting your donors go cold in this time. Put yourselves in their shoes. You hear nothing for six months. Until you get a letter asking you for more money.
Are you inspired or insulted?
Say thank you
It is a well-known fact that donors thanked within 48 hours are far more likely to give again. So if you want to set the stage for a new ask, make sure you’ve at least said THANK YOU. But really, from the moment that donation hits your account, you need to take your donor on a journey – one that shows them the value of their gift, shares stories of real-life impact and inspires them to give again. There is no-one channel to achieve this, rather a combination of several. Direct mail. Social media. Email. Your website. The phone. Coffee. It is important to build a rapport with your donors and find out as much about them as you (reasonably) can. Why did they give to you? What are their motivations, their inspirations, their preferred way, or time, to give?
Use your data
You will be surprised how much it can tell you - and the more you understand, the better designed your donor journey will be. There is no silver bullet, but as a general rule you should always be looking to prioritise relationships, and this means giving yourself the time and space you need to lay the groundwork and create opportunities for engagement. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t ask, include a link to your donate page or call to action. But don’t let this drive your communications. Donors will see right through it!
"From the moment that donation hits your account, you need to take your donor on a journey"
If you shift your focus to relationship building, you will find it much easier to make the ask – that is, if you donor hasn’t already sent a second donation ‘just because’ (it happens!). If they don’t respond, it is important to know when to stop. Because asking the same question over and over again isn’t asking. It’s pestering. And your job is to create a healthy, engaging and constructive giving environment that inspires action through real-life stories, strong communications and a mix of hard and soft asks. Get that right, and the rest will soon start to follow.