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How often can you ask for a gift from a donor?

Posted November 15, 2022 by Virginia Davidson

It’s important to retain donors, but how often can you ask a donor for a gift? Is it okay to ask more than once in a year? If you’re not sure, you’re in good company.  When Little Green Light hosted its Meet the Author webinar with author Erik Hanberg, attendees submitted so many great questions for the Q & A portion that we couldn’t answer them all in our allotted time. Thankfully, Erik was available to respond to additional questions on our blog. We’re excited to continue sharing his practical nonprofit expertise with you in our Ask the Expert series.

In this post Erik will be answering Tamara, who asked:

How many times per year can you ask the same donor for a gift?

Hi Tamara,

This is a great question. I’ve consulted with the oracle, and the definitive answer is…three. Three times.

Actually, I kid, because the answer—like many things in the world of nonprofits—is “it depends.” But sometimes I get tired of saying that.

Here’s a more complete answer than “it depends.”

If a donor gives you a check and it’s an unrestricted gift (meaning that the donor didn’t say “this is for a new furnace” or “this is for scholarships”) then, in general, you don’t get to ask that same donor for another unrestricted gift in the same year.

But, just because you can’t ask a donor for another unrestricted gift, that doesn’t mean the donor is entirely off-limits.

The most common way nonprofits get donors to give a second gift in a calendar year is with an event. If you invite your best donors to a fundraising breakfast, that is a wonderful opportunity to get another gift.

You may also be able to create another opportunity for donors to give, such as a campaign for a special project. That could be a large capital gift, or it just might be a small mini-campaign for a tangible good outside your normal operations. (A database like Little Green Light is so important here, so you can track these different gifts from the same constituent!)

Actually, there might be on exception for getting a second unrestricted gift. You might be able to include that donor in an appeal for an “end-of-year” gift in very late December, in that week Christmas. That can sometimes motivate a donor to get a final donation out the door, even if it’s another unrestricted gift, and it usually won’t feel like you’re double-dipping.

But by this point, if you’ve gotten an unrestricted gift, a gift at a fundraising event, and a gift for special project, you might want to keep your powder dry and just ask for a bigger gift the next year.

Hey, look at that. The answer was three all along. 😉

Good luck, Tamara!


Looking for more advice?

If you missed our webinar with Erik, be sure to check it out here. And, if you’re looking for more great advice, we encourage you to read Erik’s book, The Little Book of Gold. Forbes rated it as a Top 12 Must-Read Book for Nonprofit Employees, and it’s full of practical, actionable fundraising wisdom.

If you’re using Little Green Light, we also want to point you to LGL’s Companion Guide to The Little Book of Gold. Each chapter of Erik’s book covers an essential aspect of fundraising. In our companion guide, we’ve written corresponding chapters to show you how to use Little Green Light to implement Erik’s advice.

How to access The Little Book of Gold and LGL’s Companion Guide

Download a FREE digital copy of The Little Book of Gold here along with LGL’s Companion Guide (available further down on the same page).

Your free digital copy of The Little Book of Gold is available throughout 2022.


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