Framing Solicitations Around Gift Impact

Posted on 09/15/2019

There’s a restaurant tucked up in the green hills of Vermont that gets it right. As soon as you sit down for dinner, you’re greeted—as you would be at almost any other reputable establishment—by a smiling server prepared to take your drink order. But instead of hearing, “What would you like to drink?” you’ll hear the same question framed in a different way. Here, the server asks, “What would you like to enjoy?”

Asking the question this way makes all the difference. Rather than focusing simply on the beverage itself, it prompts guests to imagine themselves sipping that drink and how doing so will make them feel. A margarita might help someone feel festive. A gin and tonic—sophisticated. A glass of wine—relaxed. An iced tea—refreshed. The way a drink makes you feel is much more important than how it looks or even how it tastes.

This same idea can be applied when working with donors and asking for their support. Too often, the emphasis is placed on the monetary aspects of gifts. Advancement programs tout big campaign goals or celebrate how much money has been raised. It’s not uncommon for gift officers to ask prospective donors, “Would you consider a gift of $100 to help us reach our goal?” as if the goal itself or the money is the most important thing.  

News flash: It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money does

The most effective gift officers focus on the potential impact of a gift. Will it enable students to access an education they otherwise would not have had? Will it create or enhance a physical space on campus and thus create a better environment for learning? Will it empower faculty members to expand their research, solve a common problem, or find a cure?

Just as important, how will that gift make the donor feel? Will the donor feel like a leader, a pioneer, a responsible member of society? Will she feel like she belongs to something important? Will he feel like he’s making a difference?

With this in mind, try thinking about your work, and the way you talk with donors, in a different way. Think about the students, the researchers, and the teachers. Talk about the end result, the impact, and the feelings that arise from philanthropic support. When you shift your focus away from the money—and toward what the money does—you’ll be amazed at how everything seems to fall into place. 


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