Making the ask: Is your prospect ready?

Making the ask is the ultimate goal for every development director.  We spend countless days and weeks (sometimes even months or years) getting to this point.  So, making sure your prospect is ready is crucial to getting the “yes” that we all are hoping for.

Of course, each prospect comes to this point at their own pace.

However, if you wait too long you risk over-cultivating them and ultimately wasting precious time and resources. If you ask too soon, your prospect won’t be ready and may be put off from your organization and your mission.

Determining just the right time is an art form, to say the least.

One way to assess your prospect’s readiness is to review what steps you’ve already taken in your relationship with them.  Have they moved from interest, to awareness, and on to engagement?  Usually the next step is investment.  If the answer is yes, start planning the ask.

Another theory involves the engagement pyramid that helps to determine which level of engagement your prospect is at, and which levels they need to move through before they’re ready to contribute to your cause.   Beginning at the bottom of the pyramid, the levels of engagement are as follows:

  • Observing
  • Following
  • Endorsing
  • Contributing
  • Owning
  • Leading

A prospect’s level of engagement increases as you move up the pyramid.  And, as the shape of the pyramid suggests, there are more people involved in the lower levels of engagement.  This is true in any organization.  There are many people mildly engaging at the bottom and a few dedicated and deeply engaged people at the top.

When determining when to make the ask, your prospect should have gone from merely observing, to following, and on to endorsing your organization before they should be considered as candidates for contributing.

While neither of these two methods is foolproof, they do provide at least a guideline to help determine your timing.  Some prospects move quite quickly from being mildly interested to contributing, while others move at a much slower pace.   That’s OK.  That’s why development is more of an art than a science!

If you want to learn more about each step in the engagement pyramid, I invite you to watch the video!


About dknotek2015

I am a Development Director for the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Having worked in the Development and Alumni Relations Department for the past eight years, I have a unique background in development, philanthropy, and relationship building. I am a University of Nevada, Reno alum as well as a current MBA candidate. You could say I am silver and blue through and through! I am passionate about helping others. I understand how important education is to our local community, the nation, and the world. I remember struggling as a student to finish my own education, and how grateful I was when I received support through the generosity of others. As a professional, I excel at securing private donations which support the students, faculty, programs, and research of the College of Science. I am uniquely qualified to bring potential donors together with areas about which they are passionate and feel compelled to support.
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