Lesson 13

Gain an understanding of how to approach different prospective donors.

There are three ways to ask a prospect to make a gift:

  • Face to face
  • By telephone
  • By mail/email

The more personal the approach, the better the results, and if you have built a relationship through cultivation you will know when the prospect is ready to be asked.


  • The very best way to ask a person for a gift is in a face-to-face setting and to ask for a specific amount for a specific purpose.
  • The best person to make the “ask” will be determined during your cultivation period and you will be able to gage when the person is ready to be asked.
  • Telephone and Direct Mail solicitations can also be effective if done properly. Visit the topic on Success Stories to see how the United Church Archives did it.
  • In some cases board members and volunteers may be personally asked at a meeting and then personalized pledge cards are given to everyone. The Board Chair would then follow up in person.

A sample personalized pledge card may be downloaded below.

Download Word Doc 11: Sample Pledge Card

Business/Corporate Prospects

The best way to approach a business prospect is to find someone associated with your archive who knows a senior person in the business. Ask that person for advice and also ask if they would make “the ask” on behalf of your archive. Often, businesses respond positively to an “ask” when an employee is associated with the asking organization.

It is difficult to get a personal appointment without a personal connection and in this case you could send a letter to the contributions contact and follow up by telephone. 

When approaching a business the normal practice is to ask for a specific amount for a specific purpose and to offer recognition of the gift in a way the business would like. Often businesses make charitable gifts because they want to be seen in a certain light by their employees or shareholders so recognition that accomplishes this will appeal to them. 

After a personal ask is made you may be asked to submit a request in writing or a short proposal. Please see the section below on Types of Proposals following the Foundation section.

Foundation Prospects 

Foundations normally have a very clear application process that asks for a written letter of inquiry or a full proposal. Remember to give foundation prospects exactly what they ask for and try to keep the proposal as short as possible.

Information about developing a relationship with foundations is available free on the website of the Foundation Centre. foundationcenter.org/

Three Types of Proposals

  1. Letter of Intent
    • 2-3 page summary
    • Focus on how the proposed project fits the priorities of the funder
    • Clearly describe the need and outline the plan to meet it
    • Remember you are only introducing your idea to determine whether there is interest…it is not a request for funds
  2. Letter Proposal
    • Most often requested by corporations
    • 3-4 page description of the project plan, the organization requesting funds, and the actual request
    • This is a request for funds so is different than a letter of intent…don’t confuse them
  3. Long Proposal
  • Cover letter and proposal summary
  • 5-25 pages, but most prefer 7-10 plus appendices
  • Most often requested by foundations and government funders
  • Don’t hide the request...put it in the cover letter & the proposal
  • DO NOT send to corporations unless they ask for it