It seems like every year, stores decorate for the holidays earlier than they did the year before. Walking into a grocery store expecting to find Halloween candy, it can be startling to find candy canes in the next aisle! Everybody has an opinion about when the right time is to start holiday celebrations—the answer really does depend on whom you ask!

Similarly, there can be a temptation to be so enthusiastic about the contribution a donor is evaluating that we hurry the donor’s preferred timing and risk creating an uncomfortable situation for everyone. Conversely, there can be a temptation to get all of your ducks in a row or to wait for the stars to align just right before making the ask, and miss opportunities as a result.

Our newest research on making the major-gift ask has revealed that several key factors influence a donor’s decision-making, one of which is appropriate timing. Donors consider questions like: When is the right time to make a contribution based on my other obligations?; How should the contribution be structured to best fit my financial situation and anticipated needs?; and What do I need to know or do before I’ll be ready to make this commitment?

As a development professional, your job is to uncover the donor’s answers to those questions so your ask will be timed and structured appropriately.

And, if you ever feel like you are hitting a wall, don’t be afraid to ask the donor, “When is the right time to have this conversation?”

When a donor makes a contribution that is meaningful to him or her and significant to the organization, it is certainly cause for celebration. Yet we must remember that the donor always determines when the party starts.

Contact us to learn more about asking for major-gift commitment.