For Impact


The Last Piece of the Puzzle Close

For Impact Ideas | | Nick Fellers

This is part of a series of ‘closes’ I’m assembling. I’m posting some on the blog at for your input/feedback and hope to have a full collection of 20+ closes to share with the For Impact readership in the coming months.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle Close is way for you to break down VERY LARGE funding goals into digestible chunks and, ultimately, one remaining chunk that creates your rationale for funding support.

Use The Last Piece of The Puzzle Close when the funding goal seems overwhelming to prospects. With this close you begin with the big goal and then break it down into puzzle pieces – accounting for each piece until you have only one piece remaining. You then ask the prospect: Would it be possible for you to help us with this piece of the puzzle?

Tim Card is one of our field coaches in the Pacific Northwest and he’s particularly effective at using this close. One of my favorite stories is about a re-start to a stalled campaign effort.

We teamed up with a Christian ministry that was two years into a $10M campaign effort. It had only raised $500K from its very best prospects. The campaign chair summed up the effort – they had several one-million-dollar prospects giving $25K – $50K.

We quickly discovered there were two reasons for the disappointingly low gifts. The first problem was a lack of any funding plan. The larger your goal (relative to the confidence of the community) the more important it is to have a funding plan – as part of your case for support. It serves as a road map for HOW you’re going to reach goal WITH the prospect’s support. People aren’t going to come through with big gifts if they can’t see a plan for success… if they are overwhelmed by the size of the goal.

The second problem was a lack of specificity with top asks. At the end of the visit someone would simply ask: Would you prayerfully considering giving whatever you can give? Not only did the $15M seem overwhelming and mysterious, families did not really have a sense of what was needed from them to reach goal.

Tim led a re-tread of the funding effort that began by revisiting top prospects. The message leading into the conversation was essentially, “We’d like to update you on where we are. We’ve learned a few things… one of them being that we need to share the plan for success and revisit support in the context of that plan. Would that be okay?”

Note: Tim was seeking ‘permission to proceed’. I think too, Tim and the organization showed incredible humility, transparency and authenticity in the approach.

Tim immediately set out to draw out the puzzle [read: funding plan].

Leading the visit, Tim would walk the prospects through an updated framework that included a conversation around the vision, funding priorities and then the NEW funding plan. As he transitioned to the funding plan he stood up to use a flip-chart. This became his ‘on-the-fly presentation tool’ where he would literally map out the plan for $13M.

  • “We learned after our initial round of asks that we should try to look at this in phased pieces to make the plan more digestible. We worked with architects to split this into two phases – with the first phase at $8M.”
  • “We have $1M secured and we believe we can raise at least $1M from our broad community – this includes some 800 on our mailing list.”
  • “This leaves about $6M. “Based on our conversations to date, we think there are about 25 committed families and supporters with whom we can have these types of sincere conversations. [Translation – you’re not the only ones that way under gave relative to your capacity.]
  • Tim would then draw out a funding pyramid that required 19 commitments (of the 25) for a total of $6M+.

    1 @ $1M
    2 @ $750K
    3 @ $500K
    5 @ $250K
    8 @ $100K

  • “Last week we met with a family and asked them to consider taking THE LEAD on this project [checkmark next to $1M]. We also met with several families to build some momentum toward the plan [putting checkmarks next to the lower levels. “

Tim continued as needed until he felt a degree of comfort in talking to the family about funding to support the final piece of the puzzle. About ten families into the process he was visiting with a $500K prospect – a widowed woman and long time supporter of the ministry. Tim said, “Ms. Prospect, you’ve been so gracious to us. We need to thank you again for your existing commitment and we would like to ask today if you would be in the position to help us with what we think could be a final piece of this plan.”

This wonderful supporter then said what we’ve heard so many times. “I believe I can consider this. You’ve laid out a very clear plan and I appreciate the thought that’s gone into piecing this together. Does this need to be in one year or can it be over three years?”

That’s a close.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle is a concept that relies on having a funding plan. Using it as a close requires that you have tremendous comfort with the math. On the fly, you need to be able to discuss the numbers and make your best case in accounting for each piece. In fact, whether or not you ever use this as a close it will boost your confidence on the ask.

In many cases we’ll tie the last piece of the puzzle to a program as well as a dollar level. In the case above Tim could’ve asked the prospect to consider funding a specific project for $500,000.

The Takeaway: People will shut down when a goal feels insurmountable. Do the math to communicate the plan. Keep subtracting until you have one piece of the puzzle that needs funded.

Special Note: I am deliberate in choosing a Christian ministry as an example. Having worked with hundreds of faith-based organizations there is a tendency to rely on ‘the prayer close’ exclusively. There are many ways to still communicate A PLAN of some degree and you owe it to communicate what it would take from the prospect to make your project or plan happen. In other words, help the prospect to know what he or she is praying about.