For Impact


Using an Action Forcing Event to close gift commitments

Funding | | Nick Fellers

When we find ourselves struggling to firm up pending commitments, we often look at ways to use an Action Forcing Event as part of our follow-up strategy.

The concept was first introduced to me by someone who had spent his career in the U.S. State Department. He served as a committed board member and we were working together on a campaign. At the time, we’d had many great gift conversations, but most of them had dragged on for months and months. He said, “Nick, I think what we need in this instance is an Action Forcing Event. Working in the State Department, nothing was ever accomplished without an Action Forcing Event. You see… we would just make up events and special ceremonies to create deadlines… to get people to complete work, or make decisions (by the date of the event).”

The Action Forcing Event brings a timing rationale – and a deadline – into the ask conversation. Examples:

  • “We have a board meeting on May 26. At that time, we’re hoping to announce our key leadership commitments. Would it be possible to have a decision by that date?”
  • “We’re going to make a decision on this program’s start date on September 1. If we have the commitments in place, we’ll start this winter; otherwise we will push back one year. Would it be okay to work with you to come to a decision before this date?”
  • “We’re going to close this round of funding on December 15th. If I haven’t heard anything, could I meet with you again in late November (mindful of this date)?”
  • “Nick has agreed to match all pledges (up to a total of $1M) that we secure before July 1. I would like to follow-up with you ahead of this date because we could DOUBLE your commitment.”

Include a ‘timing rationale’ in your request, or in your follow-up, that you can use as a deadline for a decision. Not only does this help you manage a timeline, it has two other benefits. First, committing to a timeline is often a simpler stepwise commitment for a prospect to make. Second, by confirming a timeline, they are affirming their serious interest in the project or cause.