Bright Spot Fundraising

Tried and tested fundraising techniques
that help you raise more money.

The little-known trick that makes it easier to ask for big gifts

dreamstime_s_42535614How can we make the moment of asking for a large gift, easier?


The most crucial thing to solve is how you feel about asking someone to give – ie literally, get clear what it means to you, to present someone with the opportunity to give generously to a cause they care about.


And obviously it helps if you have properly understood and appreciated their world first, and developed a level of trust, so that on the day you present this opportunity, you do so in terms that are genuinely interesting to them.


But I meet some fundraisers who have improved their skills in these areas and still struggle with the moment of asking. How on earth do you shift gear from chatting about the project, to actually asking for a gift?


Try this question…


What I call the confirm question is the best way to bridge the gap. It is a closed question, by which I mean it’s not an open, ‘what do you think?’ question, but one to which the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’.


It happens after you have been explaining things about your future project that would solve something that the donor cares about; and at a point where you have decided it would now be appropriate to ask (ie invite the donor to consider making a gift).


At its simplest, the confirm question is something like ‘…Do you think it makes sense to build this school / provide this helpline / invest in this specific kind of research?’ Or you could soften it into something like ‘…Mrs Donor, my sense is that you think we’re right to be doing this…Have I understood you correctly?’


If she says ‘yes’, asking for the gift is much easier


If Mrs Donor’s answer is broadly a ‘yes it’s a good project’, then (assuming there is now enough rapport between us) it’s relatively easy to say ‘and is it the sort of thing that you would consider making a gift towards?’ Note, I would much rather ask this simple question about giving in principle, and allow her to ask me how much, than to try and cram in all the detail of what needs funding / its price-tag in this initial ask question.


But what if Mrs Donor says no, she has reservations about the project? Well then the confirm question was just as valuable. Because thank goodness I’ve found out that Mrs Donor does not really like the project (yet?), before I asked for a donation. Because if I had steamed ahead and asked for a gift, she would certainly have said ‘no’ but she may never have told me why. As it is, if she tells me she has reservations, I can find out exactly what they are, and hopefully solve them. I could then either invite her to consider giving to this same project, or if need be, to a different one.




I recently studied the various techniques used by one hugely successful Director of Development at a school. (She has already smashed her year’s target by 35%). She told me she found a big improvement in her results when she added this confirm question at the appropriate point in her donor conversations: ‘Is the bursary campaign something you think is valuable?’


As you might expect, I now have two questions for you:


  • Do you think the confirm question may be a useful tool to make it easier to ask for large gifts?
  • If you have not consciously been using a confirm question up to this point, what confirm question could you try next time?

On June 22, 2015 / Uncategorized

Client Testimonials 
‘What I love about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is it’s so practical. I’ve seen loads of monetary value come from what we learned, including a gift of £200,000 from a trust that came about because of the learnings in the course. If you want to raise more money, I’d urge you to do the Programme.’

Paul McKenzie, Head of Major Giving and Corporate Partnerships, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Rob's outstanding pitch training helped me secure a partnership worth £380,000 over three years. One of the crucial things he helped me do was to better understand the psychology of who I needed to convince, and use this to craft my influencing strategies, structure and stories to help them say YES. If you need to win more partnerships, I would absolutely recommend you get on Rob's training.

Karen Arkell, Senior Officer, Corporate Partnerships, Teach First

'We recently had a pitch we just had to win. I'm absolutely clear that what we learned from Rob helped us get the deal, which is a partnership that's going to raise £1 million. Rob is better at helping you influence your donor to get the gift than anyone I've met.

Ben Swart, Head of Corporate New Business, NSPCC

Rob's exceptional training has taken our programme to the next level. One example was a colleague re-connecting with a lapsed donor on the phone, resulting in a £100k+ gift; his first in four years. I would absolutely recommend Rob's training programme as an invaluable investment for any fundraising team.

Victoria Stephenson, Head of Major Donors, UNICEF UK

Following the course, Major Gift Fundraisers at the NSPCC increased gift income by 29%

Citation by UK Skills National Training Award

We're currently involved in our largest ever Campaign, with a target of £500 million, so we've invested in the best training available. Rob's courses have been an essential part of our annual King's Knowledge learning programme for the last five years, because he continues to help us get outstanding results.

Gemma Peters, Director of Development, King's College London

I’ve found the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme hugely helpful already. It’s helped me in so many ways, but as an example, I applied one of Rob’s pitching techniques and it completely wowed the panel, and has resulted in a partnership worth over £100,000.

Kieran Cornwall, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

I was on the pitch team to win a partnership worth £1,000,000. I was determined to pitch to the best of my ability. Rob helped me present with confidence, persuasiveness and enthusiasm, enabling me to connect with the pitch panel – and we won the partnership.

Kirsty Lawson, Corporate Account Team Manager, (Head of) at Alzheimer’s Society

Rob showed my corporate fundraising team lots of excellent new business strategies. The techniques made a made a MASSIVE difference to our financial results, including helping to win a partnership worth £2 million

Jess Coombs, Head of Corporate Fundraising, Teenage Cancer Trust and formerly at Action for Children