Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Much Should Your Ask Be?

When making face-to-face asks of major donors, you invest lots of time and analysis to determine what your ask amount should be. Each ask is highly customized and personal.

Wouldn’t it be great to make personalized asks of your direct mail donors?

Well, you can! Arrowhead Management creates personalized asks for our clients’ donors. Personalized ask amounts ultimately raise more money for your cause.

We use only your database and Excel: we create a query in your database to identify all donors who gave last year and pull the following giving data: highest single gift last year, total dollars given (including events, but not in-kind and silent auction) and number of years donor has given.

We export this data to Excel and title three new headings as Low, Medium and High. Low is the highest single gift in the previous year and the minimum your cause hopes to receive this year. High is the sum of all gifts/ number of years of giving and likely the largest single gift you can realistically expect to receive from this donor.

We take the average of the Low and High values to create the Medium.

Sample donor:


Highest Gift Last Year

Total Given

Total Years Giving




Nate Silver







Nate likely gives a couple gifts and/or attends events each year (since his total giving is $600 and his highest gift last year is smaller than his annual average). So, this range of asks is within his comfort zone of giving, while still encouraging him to upgrade.

Finally, we mail merge these values into your electronic or snail-mail appeal, so Nate Silver is asked to consider making a contribution of $50, $75 or $100.

Shameless Arrowhead Management Plug: Nate is a simple example and we recognize that each organization has specific circumstances that require further personalization. If you have questions about how to handle your year-end appeal, please give us a call!

We’ve found this strategy effectively increases response rates and upgrades donor giving.