By Lisa Alvezi • May 7, 2021


    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMYThis post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy: Lisa AlveziYour guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.



    You've done your homework. You are confident in your ask amount and the relationship you have with your donor. And, you've just dropped the big question, asking your donor for a million-dollar gift for the capital campaign. So, what do you say next?

    Here's a thought: absolutely nothing!

    The average person waits only two or three seconds before answering a question. So, if a donor breaks that pattern, we have a human tendency to find a way to fill the conversation. Resist that urge.

    Let's look at some of these uncomfortable moments.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy The Power of Silence

    Anxiety over the gift ask amount.

    It's typical to feel anxiety over how the donor perceives your gift ask. For example, silence may feel like you've insulted the donor by asking too much or that they weren't ready for your ask. But consider this – in my team's long experience, every time we've over-asked donors, they aren't offended. They are astounded.

    In those cases, a response usually includes these phrases: "You must think I have more money than I do." "I may be able to do something, but not that." "I could do (makes a counteroffer)."

    Donors need time to process questions in their minds.

    Whatever your ask amount is, it's relatively significant to the donor in some way. They may need time to consider a few questions silently.

    You may be inclined to explain to the donors that they can pay a million dollars over five years versus a lump sum. Let them ask that question rather than interrupting their thought process.

    You may want to blurt out how funds will be applied, managed, and outcomes reported back to the donor. Let them come to that thought and ask you about it before you explain.

    You still may be uncomfortable with silence.

    Fun fact: feeling uncomfortable with silence is ingrained in U.S. culture. Studies show that Asian and Nordic cultures accept silence twice as long as folks in the U.S., and consider silence in conversations "critical for thinking."

    It's okay to be uncomfortable with silence. But, as I noted earlier, it's a pattern disruption and something you can overcome. Also, consider that making a significant ask of someone is also a pattern disruption of sorts – it might help to know that you set off this pattern disruption chain of events!

    While you're embracing silence, try to remain confident and avoid pondering if the donor understood the ask. Respect that your donors need to collect their thoughts and allow them to collaborate with you and verbalize any thoughts or concerns in their own words. Don't fill in the blanks.

    Silence is one of the most challenging techniques to master but a critical tool in fundraising. think about someone asking you an important question – perhaps for a million-dollar gift. You'd probably need time to process the question, think about its consequences, and then formulate a response, too!  


    If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.



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