The right amount: a volunteer solicitor’s view

publication date: Nov 21, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
With all the advice professional fundraisers hear about asking for the "right" amount, and all the angst that accompanies that decision, it may be time to find out what volunteer solicitors experience. Business leader and philanthropist James Fleck shared his wisdom on that subject with the Rotary Club of Toronto at the beginning of November.

The "Fleck Flinch Test" 

"One unsophisticated method to determine capacity that has been attributed to me is the Fleck Flinch Test," he told the club. "When the prospective donor asks, ‘How much are you looking for, you look them in the eye and say, ‘$25,000.' If there is no perceptible flinch, you add, ‘A year for five years.' On the other hand, if they get all wobbly, you add, ‘Of course, that's spread over five years.'" 

Though meant in jest, Fleck's advice illustrates one vital principle. No matter what your research tells you, be sensitive to the prospect's reaction during the ask, and adjust where necessary. 

Do your homework 

Fleck acknowledged the role of research in successful fundraising. Citing Jon Dellandrea, who once told him that if he had a bigger budget he would hire another researcher rather than another solicitor, he emphasized the importance of assessing the prospect's ability to give before asking for a gift. "Determining capacity is key," he stressed. "You do not want to ask for too much or too little." 

Professional prodders 

Fleck's been asking for money long enough to say that the professional fundraiser's role is to provide the prodding and backup to motivate volunteer solicitors. 

"The prodding is important," he reflected, "because most of us are procrastinators when it comes to doing something that is not always a pleasure. Many hate fundraising. I have found that it helps if you develop the mindset that says, ‘I am giving my prospect an opportunity to be exposed to and support a worthy cause, and receive some psychic income.'" 

Now there's an attitude that just might transform your board members' feelings about asking for money!    

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