The Importance of a Specific Ask

By Dan Reese

In most of my campaigns to date, one of the areas of greatest anxiety is the “Ask”. For many, it is counter intuitive or just plain scary to think of asking someone to pledge a specific amount. So, let’s unpack this and explore why the specific ask is one of the most powerful components of a successful capital campaign.

For simplicity, we will examine these two questions:

  1. Why is a specific ask amount successful?
  2. How is the ask amount derived?

A Scale of Gifts necessary to achieve your needs. The scale is a listing of dollar amount in pledges that are required to reach a particular goal. In all our campaigns, we strive to get a lead gift of 10 to 20 percent, and we have always been successful in reaching that goal. Then there should be two gifts of 5 percent each of the goal. The next two to three gifts should be in the 2 to 3 percent range, and so on.

Why is a specific ask amount successful?

Just as a ship’s anchor grounds a seagoing vessel, a specific ask amount gives an anchor or reference point for your friend to seriously consider what they can pledge. The ask amount acts as a pivot point and enables your prospect to consider questions like, “Can I give this amount?”; “Can I give more than this amount?”; “Should I give less than this amount?”

Often, people tell me that before receiving an amount to consider, they had no idea where to begin thinking about what their pledge should be. Should they give $100 or $10,000? Should they give $10,000 or $100,000? Without a target to consider, research shows that only token amounts will be pledged, and the effectiveness of a campaign is negatively impacted. When individuals are given an amount to consider, that is in line with the needs of the campaign, they are more likely to give sacrificially and exceed what they would have given without the suggested amount. There are a vast number of stories from our campaigns backing up this fact.

Being specific in our ask amount is also Biblical. God expects us to be specific in our requests of Him. “You have not because you ask not…”, “Whatever you ask for, in my name…”, “Ask and it shall be given to you…” Do you see the common thread? “Ask”. To ask for something, you need to be intentional and specific. God is specific and we honor Him when we are specific.

How is the Ask amount derived?

A complete review process should be conducted to help determine what potential donors might consider contributing if they desired to make a commitment to the best of their ability. This can be a difficult process since no one really knows what anyone else’s true ability is to contribute to a campaign. We need to encourage inspirational and sacrificial giving during a Capital Campaign. Therefore, persons must know what range of gift to “consider” to best help reach the goal. Only by presenting the request for gifts at specific levels can you succeed, because only by presenting target figures will you receive more than token contributions.

We are stressing equal levels of sacrifice, not equal giving. All families have different circumstances. By asking families to consider gifts of various amounts, this reflects our sensitivity. Per capita giving is not productive for fund raising nor is it right to ask all families, regardless of their circumstances, to consider giving the same amount.

The “asking amount” is neither an assessment nor a requirement; it is a level of gift to consider that will help families and individuals make an educated decision regarding their gift. As visitors learn in our coaching sessions, “consider” is the key word in asking properly.

It should be noted that capacity to give may not always equal “Willingness” to give or “Ability” to give. Some families are already giving to many other charities or have other commitments that we are unaware of. Some are asset rich and cash poor. However, the ask amount derived through this process is a good starting point, giving the prospect an opportunity to consider their involvement in the capital campaign.

The bottom line is this, when we get past the initial fear, and embrace the process, there is no substitute for a specific ask amount. Remember, we are not asking for ourselves, but for the Lord’s work. We honor our friends and encourage cheerful, stretched giving toward our goal. We honor the Lord through our specific request.

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