By Drew Fox Jordan • January 20, 2020

Are You Waiting Too Long to Ask for Gifts?

When is the right time to reach out to a donor? There’s no single answer. Every case is different. The size of the donor’s last gift, the relationship to your organization, the relationship with your gift officer, and many more variables come into play. However, a recent study from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania suggests there may be a wrong time to ask.

The study finds that adding an extra 30-day delay between the provision of services and gift solicitation decreases the likelihood of inspiring a gift by 30 percent. For example, if a patient received care from a hospital and it took a gift officer more than 30 days to solicit a gift, that fundraiser is already playing chicken with the odds.


But, can you ask for a gift too early? Interestingly, the study finds there are no damaging consequences to not ask.

So, why do we wait? Think of the psychology at play. Many fear that reaching out too early comes across as opportunistic or manipulative. However, the study points out that is only a psychological theory and has not been shown to be true.

There must be a logical cadence to solicitations. But, what is the right formula? In fact, perhaps holding on outreach until the timing feels perfect is actually halting progress that could fund your mission. Perhaps, taking the action to reach out is more important that the timing of that outreach.


Philanthropic giving is not exclusive to specific times where people will feel more generous, like the end of the calendar year, Giving Tuesday, or Christmas. Giving is more likely correlated to recent services that a nonprofit organization provides to supporters. Memories fade, as do intentions to give.

“Organizations that provide a service or otherwise interact with potential donors may be able to dramatically increase donation rates and fundraising revenue by decreasing the delay between an interaction with a prospective donor and a donation request.”--Field Study Of Charitable Giving Reveals That Reciprocity Decays Over Time, 2018

This appears as a heavy ask for fundraisers. Daily workloads demand engaging with managed donors, solicitations, touch points intended to deepen relationships, prospecting for new donors, travel, and more. And now we’re suggesting that they increase the cadence of these activities? How is that possible?

To ensure that no donor outreach falls through the cracks, many nonprofits are turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Fundraiser enablement tools, powered by AI, can expand the capacity of gift officers, allowing them to have quality touch points with their entire portfolio, as well as prompting them to reach out to potential donors in a timely manner. By reducing the potential for human error, that crucial 30-day window becomes more achievable for fundraisers to open a line of communication with the donor.

See How Cure Alzheimer's Fund Maintains a High-Touch Donor Environment with AI

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