Making “The Ask”

November 30, 2015

I think that making “The Ask” is most people’s number one fear in fundraising. But in my experience making “The Ask” has been one of the easiest parts of fundraising. It does not have to be a scary or frustrating thing at all.

Many nonprofits make the mistake of spending all their time planning “The Ask” and no time cultivating and stewarding their donors. The key to making a good ask is proper preparation. Your donor needs to know who you are and have a relationship with you in order to make a good ask. Make sure that you are taking time with your donors individually and as a group to talk with them about who you are and who they are. Know what specific areas they are interested in, why they give, and why they give you your organization. Know when their birthday is or when they get a promotion. Send them a card, make a short phone call, send them an email, all these things are part of proper cultivation and stewardship.

When you get to the point that you have a relationship with your donor making “The Ask” is simple. You should know specific interests of your donor, where else they give their money (and approximately how much, see my article on prospecting), and their past giving as a result of your cultivation and conversation. You are not uncomfortable in relating with them because you have a track record. So all you have to do is ask. Ask for something specific and reasonable and you know interests them. Make sure you are thanking them for their past giving, volunteer work, etc. If your ask involves a sponsorship, grant, or proposal make sure that you have all that information to give them. I have found that many times donors are waiting for “The Ask” to come and that making a good ask is more of a compliment to them. Everyone likes to be asked.

Agree?  Thoughts?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

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I Want to Ask for Money

April 6, 2008

You had some really great responses to my recent article I Don’t Want to Ask for Money. I think that there are many of us in a similar place. I was really encouraged by your wisdom and responses. Linda from Portland Women’s Crisis Line had a really encouraging comment:

I want my donors to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That their check, along with each check we receive, is an indication of their commitment to the values the organization holds true.

In many ways that is exactly what I want fundraising to be about. We have an opportunity to advocate for an idea, or belief, or person, together in a way that is bigger than ourselves. When we “fundraise” we are not just trying to get people to give money we want to see an entire shift in thinking. Linda went onto say, “I have seen this idea bring spark to the eyes of the most reluctant board member who has to ask for money. It’s a shifting of paradigm.” That is so encouraging I love it when donors see that they are making a difference and get excited about it.

With development professionals like you I’m really excited about the future of fundraising. I keep hearing time and time again that fund development is changing into something more personal and more intentional. Stephanie from Community Service for the Blind and Partially Sighted had a great comment too:

Development is about relationship building, not only cultivating the initial relationship, but deepening it. I used to think it was “asking for money” that was the issue. I’ve since revised that thinking somewhat when I realized there are many, many people who fear deepening a relationship.

Do you have anything to add to the conversation? Any stories or examples that keep you going when you are raising money?


Making “The Ask”

December 17, 2007

I think that making “The Ask” is most people’s number one fear in fundraising. But in my experience making “The Ask” has been one of the easiest parts of fundraising. It does not have to be a scary or frustrating thing at all.

Many nonprofits make the mistake of spending all their time planning “The Ask” and no time cultivating and stewarding their donors. The key to making a good ask is proper preparation. Your donor needs to know who you are and have a relationship with you in order to make a good ask. Make sure that you are taking time with your donors individually and as a group to talk with them about who you are and who they are. Know what specific areas they are interested in, why they give, and why they give you your organization. Know when their birthday is or when they get a promotion. Send them a card, make a short phone call, send them an email, all these things are part of proper cultivation and stewardship.

When you get to the point that you have a relationship with your donor making “The Ask” is simple. You should know specific interests of your donor, where else they give their money (and approximately how much, see my article on prospecting), and their past giving as a result of your cultivation and conversation. You are not uncomfortable in relating with them because you have a track record. So all you have to do is ask. Ask for something specific and reasonable and you know interests them. Make sure you are thanking them for their past giving, volunteer work, etc. If your ask involves a sponsorship, grant, or proposal make sure that you have all that information to give them. I have found that many times donors are waiting for “The Ask” to come and that making a good ask is more of a compliment to them. Everyone likes to be asked.


Prospecting New and Existing Donors

December 10, 2007

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Do you ever wonder how to learn new information about your donors? Or even how to find new donors? Well here are a few tips and places that I go when I’m looking for information. It is important when doing prospect research that you have a policy on how you handle this information. A good standard is that you should only keep information that you would be willing to hand over if that donor asked for their own file. Prospect research information is a delicate subject all the methods that I am going to talk about are all publicly accessible using donor names and addresses. Be very careful how you use and keep information you find.

When first researching your donors the best place to go is to look within your existing database. How much do they give, what programs have they historically given too, where do they live? A great start is to use traditional search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN. Here is a great example of a Google name search:
(“Jason Dick”|”Jason Robert Dick”|”Jason R Dick”|”Jason R. Dick”|”Jay Dick”|”Jay Dick”)

One good thing to look for is what other organizations is the donor giving to or involved in. This can help you figure out what level or amount to make “the ask” for and what they might be interested in giving to. It can also help you know who the donor knows to help in talking with them or in getting a meeting with them. A fellow board member, church member, chamber or rotary member are great people to help in networking. Social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook are great to see who your current board members or donors know.

A lot of prospect research for individuals can be done just by using Google. Some organizations will use external businesses to help them comb their database for information examples include Blackbaud Analitics or PIN. There are also online prospecting tools such as ZoomInfo, Foundation Search, or ProPlatinum (a service that combines a number of other prospecting tools). Most counties have public records for homes purchased, this can be a good way to know the wealth demographic of a specific donor via the purchase price of their home (and a great place to learn donors middle names or initials).

Another great place to go for information is OpenSecrets.org a database searching political contributions of people. This site is a public disclosure of all campaign gifts given by individual donors. The use of library periodical searches can be a big help for some of your more well known donors. For your business donors or high-level donors you can do research into their foundations and look at their public 990 form. Website to do research on a 990 are Guidestar and Foundation Finder.

Please comment on other websites that you have used or ideas and strategies you have. I would also be interested in your feedback as to if this kind of information is surprising or offensive to those of you who are donors.

Below is a list of other handy prospecting website to visit:
http://www.zabasearch.com/
King County Parcel Viewer