Deferring Fundraising Gifts: Close the Largest Gift Possible

Posted by admin on Aug 10, 2018 9:46:49 AM

Most of us are familiar with the scenario above by which a promising donor prospect delivers a far less than expected (and respected) gift. By deferring a gift commitment under proscribed circumstances, you can often increase (even double) your prospect's level of charitable support. Asking for a major gift is only half the equation; you must be prepared to respond appropriately to close a gift at the highest possible level.

Closing the major gift by means of deferring the commitment might be a less familiar response to a gift offer for many volunteer leaders and staff. What exactly is meant by deferring a gift? When and how would you employ this approach? This article will provide the background you need to answer these questions and help you to realize the true potential of your larger gift commitments.

Deferring a gift is simply postponing final acceptance of a donor's intended major gift for further consideration. Your hope is that pending further consideration, education, and persuasion your donor prospect will make a larger gift. This approach requires tact, sensitivity, passionate belief in your cause, and a determination to fully fund your project. Under what circumstances would you want to defer a gift?

You may wish to defer a gift if your donor prospect meets the following criteria:

  • You believe the donor prospect could do much more than they are offering.
  • Peers would expect the donor prospect to play a much larger role in giving.
  • The donor prospect will set the standard and influence subsequent giving from peer groups.
  • The donor prospect sincerely wants the project or your organization to succeed.
  • You will need greater giving and leadership to fully fund your project.
  • You have limited prospects capable of giving at, or near, the level you requested.


  1. Thank the Prospect First. After all, they are giving voluntarily to your organization funds you would not otherwise have. Be sure to recognize their current decision to give to the project and recount their history of support to the organization.
  2. Re-Sell the Project and Opportunity. Be sure to illustrate how their support directly and indirectly impacts the project and influences subsequent giving. Describe how you envision their role in the effort, how they could influence the project and other donors, the merits of the project and organization, and how they can help transform the lives of your constituents with their generous pledge commitment. Be sure to address each point clearly.
  3. Confirm a revised request amount that is challenging, yet reasonable. This is essentially your comeback offer. Decide whether or not to maintain your initial request or suggest a more moderate compromise. The amount of this figure will be determined by what you need to be successful and what you now believe the prospect is capable of giving. Don't ask for their house just because they have one. Yet seek a "stretch" gift - one that is well above the ordinary and will inspire others.
  4. Offer to recognize their giving in a meaningful way. If the prospect is a business, present plans to publicly recognize the company through newspaper articles, naming opportunities, and appropriate special events. With individuals, request giving to commemorate a space (building, room, garden, etc.) after a family or in memory of a loved one. Recognize your donors in a way that is both meaningful to them and consistent with your plans.
  5. Offer flexibility in planning gift installments and demonstrate resourcefulness in considering income sources. Negotiate your best commitment from your donor. If they are still short of the desired amount, ask if there are relatives who might wish to join in a family or memorial gift. Let them know if there is flexibility in the time and structure of pledge payments. Let them know if you accept gifts other than cash and securities - gifts such as land, supplies, or services. Inspire their imagination and encourage their resourcefulness.
  6. Follow-up in person. Set a follow-up date. Consider asking select peers to write a brief letter of encouragement (the writer should not mention the request amount, but referencing the reason behind their personal "stretch" gift can be moving). Always, close pledge commitments in person.

We all know someone close to our organization who, if evaluated based upon their position and capacity, should be a leader in giving, but offers a less than inspiring gift. What can you do? Although your first instinct might be to accept the proverbial "bird in the hand" and move on, you must decide if you believe the donor has the capacity and inclination to do more if presented with the right opportunity and encouragement.

You wish to ask the donor prospect politely and compellingly to consider raising their level of support. To be successful you will have to describe a clear leadership role (formal or informal) for them, present compelling reasons why this project and these constituents deserve our utmost support, articulate the transformational nature of this opportunity, and be resourceful in presenting options to fulfill their gift. At the worst, the donor will not increase their gift (at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing you secured the maximum they were willing to give). At best, several key deferred closes could result in gift increases that will significantly impact the success of your fundraising efforts and project funding. Isn't that worth further consideration?

Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to

Topics: Capital Campaigns, Fundraising Principles, fundraising strategy, fundraising tips, Major Gifts

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