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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Engaging Board Members & Volunteers

March 4, 2014

Lets talk a little more about getting donors (and board members) involved in your nonprofit. I think that it is important that we do not take a too narrow view of fund development. Every nonprofit has a lot of different needs that vary from simple volunteer tasks like sorting or answering phones all the way to creating an IT infrastructure, crafting a marketing campaign, or advocating on behalf of the organization. Wouldn’t it be incredible if a nonprofit started to view volunteers, donors, and board members all with the same value? How often have the lines been blurred between all of these different areas? A good nonprofit will learn how to use these vested individuals in greater depth.

A reader wrote a great comment in response to my posting, Using Board Members to Fundraise. I think that you can change “board member” to “executive volunteer” and get the same result.

“My claim is that to maximize your board’s effectiveness (at fund raising or whatever else) the organization needs to look at things in reverse. ‘Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring?’”

This represents a profound shift in thinking. What would happen if a nonprofit really thought this way? I think that it would result in some incredible partnerships, new programs, and increased donations.

I really liked the questions that were asked in that post but I might rephrase the question just a little bit. I think that if a nonprofit can really use it’s board members greatest skills they would get a lot further. But, I think that it is important that in doing this they do not lose track of their mission. So my rephrase would be, “Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring to further the mission of the nonprofit?” Maybe that redirection to connect the volunteer work with the nonprofit’s mission is what makes a good fund development staff member.

One last thing. When you start down the path of engaging volunteers in their passions and their skills start small. It is going to take time to create the working relationship between your nonprofit and that specific board member or volunteers. I have known a lot of volunteers that come in really excited and want to do 100 things and they don’t end up doing 1. But the most profound impacts that I’ve seen have been board members that came in to do 1 or 2 things and followed through. Make sure you sit down and talk with this volunteer about what they can do and what they want to do. Before you do anything else go back to your organization and talk to them about what the organization needs to do to be able to use those skills and abilities. Make sure to follow up with the individual (in person or by phone) and talk about how the partnership will work and what the organization is doing to support their work. Continue to check in to thank them, see what kind of additional support this volunteer might need, and see how the project/task/involvement is going. If they want to engage in a deeper way or do some additional things make sure that it will not stop them from being able to finish the task they are on. You can tell them the organization is not ready yet or the need is greatest with the work they are doing right now. Only tell them that if it is true. Explain to the volunteer why you are not ready yet.

Do you have any examples of using volunteers well or and comments? Let me know I think we are starting a great conversation on this topic. Be sure to read the comments as some really insightful things have been said.


More About Using Board Members & Volunteers

December 24, 2007

Lets talk a little more about getting donors (and board members) involved in your nonprofit. I think that it is important that we do not take a too narrow view of fund development. Every nonprofit has a lot of different needs that vary from simple volunteer tasks like sorting or answering phones all the way to creating an IT infrastructure, crafting a marketing campaign, or advocating on behalf of the organization. Wouldn’t it be incredible if a nonprofit started to view volunteers, donors, and board members all with the same value? How often have the lines been blurred between all of these different areas? A good nonprofit will learn how to use these vested individuals in greater depth.

A reader wrote a great comment in response to my posting, Using Board Members to Fundraise. I think that you can change “board member” to “executive volunteer” and get the same result.

“My claim is that to maximize your board’s effectiveness (at fund raising or whatever else) the organization needs to look at things in reverse. ‘Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring?’”

This represents a profound shift in thinking. What would happen if a nonprofit really thought this way? I think that it would result in some incredible partnerships, new programs, and increased donations.

I really liked the questions that were asked in that post but I might rephrase the question just a little bit. I think that if a nonprofit can really use it’s board members greatest skills they would get a lot further. But, I think that it is important that in doing this they do not lose track of their mission. So my rephrase would be, “Who are my board members, why are they here, and how best can we use what they bring to further the mission of the nonprofit?” Maybe that redirection to connect the volunteer work with the nonprofit’s mission is what makes a good fund development staff member.

One last thing. When you start down the path of engaging volunteers in their passions and their skills start small. It is going to take time to create the working relationship between your nonprofit and that specific board member or volunteers. I have known a lot of volunteers that come in really excited and want to do 100 things and they don’t end up doing 1. But the most profound impacts that I’ve seen have been board members that came in to do 1 or 2 things and followed through. Make sure you sit down and talk with this volunteer about what they can do and what they want to do. Before you do anything else go back to your organization and talk to them about what the organization needs to do to be able to use those skills and abilities. Make sure to follow up with the individual (in person or by phone) and talk about how the partnership will work and what the organization is doing to support their work. Continue to check in to thank them, see what kind of additional support this volunteer might need, and see how the project/task/involvement is going. If they want to engage in a deeper way or do some additional things make sure that it will not stop them from being able to finish the task they are on. You can tell them the organization is not ready yet or the need is greatest with the work they are doing right now. Only tell them that if it is true. Explain to the volunteer why you are not ready yet.

Do you have any examples of using volunteers well or and comments? Let me know I think we are starting a great conversation on this topic. Be sure to read the comments as some really insightful things have been said.


Using Board Members to Fundraise: Part 2

December 1, 2007

READ YESTERDAY’S PART 1 BLOG

How do I involve my board? A great way to start a fundraising campaign is to talk with your board about what your non-profit’s specific need is and have them think through what businesses/groups/persons they have a personal connection with. Have those board members commit to making a personal gift themselves and commit to ask 3 to 5 additional people. Sit down with each individual board member and talk with them and help them prepare to talk with those 3 to 5 persons. Then go along with them and help them out.

A great way to help a board member think about talking with donors is to get them to find a story about your organization that means something to them personally. A story about a client you served, or a part of your history. Make that story the piece they share and have them talk about why it means something to them. And make sure that there is something you are asking about or asking for as part of the meeting (plan this ahead of time and know who is going to do it). I like to look at this as providing the donor the opportunity to do something or give something. Donors want the opportunity and they want to be asked. (Let me know if you have specific questions about the ask and I’d love to talk about or get a friend to talk about that topic.)

Well I won’t go on forever… some other topics to talk about at some point include: the importance that your board members are giving and frequently asked questions from donors. One final note I want to say a great big thank you to board members & community volunteers. We could not do it without you it is your countless hours of help and support that keep us going.

Am I talking about things that interest you? If not let me know what you want to here visit my “Ideas, Questions & Answers” page.


Using Board Members to Fundraise: Part 1

November 29, 2007

From conversations that I’ve had with many board members of non-profits there is a bit of a fear about fundraising. (See my article about being afraid of fundraising.) Fundraising does not have to be a scary thing for your board it is all about setting attainable and reasonable goals and having reasonable expectations of your board members.

One of the most important parts of successful fundraising is getting the board involved. Your board no matter how big or how successful needs to be involved in helping you with fundraising. If your board is not behind you and is not willing to help with fundraising it will be very hard to succeed.

I’d love to hear from some of you on stories of creative ways that your board has been involved in fundraising. Every member of your board has connections into the community and a network of friends. Some of your board members may know local businesses or churches or other community groups. Make sure that you are collecting information about other business and groups that your board members are part of.

If you have never used your board to fundraise the important thing is to get them involved. If you have board members that are nervous about fundraising but want to help, a great starting point for them is to have them go with you to talk with a donor or to give them a list of donors to call and say thank you.

MORE TOMORROW- including: How do I involve my board?

Am I talking about things that interest you? If not let me know what you want to here visit my “Ideas, Questions & Answers” page.