Double or Nothing

on in Fundraising

I got a call last week from a nervous college student.

We had a great talk about what he was majoring in (political science), what he thought he’d do with that major (no idea), and what extracurriculars he was involved in. We talked about the college radio station, what I had majored in eons ago, and the path my life had taken.

Then he made the ask.

For double what I’d given last Fall.

And he lost me, in my shock.

I chided him, informing him that I was in fundraising and that was a pretty big lift. So he told me the “string” that was in his script: Double after the first gift, retain on the subsequent ask, then go up 50%.

Okay, I can see the logic there, but it sure didn’t work with me!


Did I matter that I was “in the business” – that I knew there was supposed to be a rationale behind the request? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I was certainly drawn in by the conversation, delighted to converse with a genuine 20-year-old, whereas I’d have gotten right off the phone with a professional solicitor. He disarmed me so much I actually wondered for a second if this was a pure and simple thank-you call, but I know I don’t give enough to be worth that kind of call from a major university!

Maybe that disarming, that loss of my guard, made the dollar leap all the more jarring.

Does this work? You’d think, with all this money going into university asking (I’ve no doubt he was getting paid), that they’d know it did.

But how?

Do people simply forget how much they gave 6 months earlier?

Do they give a first gift as a “teaser” to see how they’re treated, as a sign they’d like to be asked for much, much more?

(A little research would have shown that I gave at a level that was pretty darned close to my standard giving.)

It seemed to me that a request to double my first gift, was pretty aggressive.

Was it? Or was it business as usual?

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