A recurring theme in many nonprofit board rooms is the reluctance of many people to ask other people for money. There is generalized discomfort around asking for money anyway; the fear of rejection or being seen as begging makes lots of us a bit nervous about fundraising.
But fundraising is a way of life for everyone, whether you call it sales or advancement or resource acquisition, bringing in the necessary dollars is critical to do your work and deliver your mission.
There are a few steps that you can take to prepare yourself and your fundraising partners to make this prospect a little less terrifying and provide some confidence for talking to donors about gifts, big or small.
1. Do Your Homework
Know who you are speaking with, are they new to you? If so, what brought them to you and what is it they seek from your organization? Don’t know the answers? Ask them, and let them tell you what is of key interest to them.
If they are not new, how much have they given to you before; what is their capacity to give? What compels their generosity towards your organization? What are you doing right in their eyes, and what would they like to see happen next? Ask and listen to what they need to see and hear to continue and increase their support.
2. Share Your Real World Stories
Statistics and metrics are all well and good, but as humans we connect to human stories. Have a couple of real world examples of how your mission is working in your community; talk about real people and places and problems, obstacles they faced and what your nonprofit was able to do.
Invest in something printed, whether a card or flyer or brochure, that you can provide and leave with them; use images and smart design to make people want to look at it. This short reminder can linger on a desk and will not disappear with the next email.
3. You Have to Actually Ask
Here you must be more than a storyteller, here is the time to actually ask for support. Why? You’ve provided statistics and numbers, you have pictures of the difference the organization has made. You’ve prepared, you have shared and engaged, shouldn’t they know that you need help? No, sorry, you can’t get out of this that easily.
How good do you feel when you get to say yes to a request? It is important to allow your donor to have that same wish-granting, Santa Claus feeling; it will make you both feel better. But you have to form the words of the request and say them out loud. Once you have, then it is time to be quiet. Give your donor the opportunity to be an agent of change, ask for what you seek.
4. Build a Bridge
Once you have actually made the request for money, build on that relationship, even if you get turned down. Be gracious and grateful, and thank them for their time. Many donors may want to test you: they want to see if you will make the ask, they want to see if you will show the respect they feel they should receive as a possible donor.
No matter what the outcome, be profuse, but not obsequious, in your thanks. There is a statistic floating around that says that there must be 7 thanks prior to an ask. I am not sure that is true or even how someone came up with that number, but I do know that the more authentically grateful you are, the better the relationship can be between your organization and its supporters.
While at first, preparing to make a request of a substantial gift can be frightening– even the best fundraisers out there will tell you that they, too, are nervous before a big ask– preparing and considering how your request sounds and feels on their side of the table will make this process go more smoothly for you both.
But, most importantly, remember why and for whom you are asking for money. What you do is important, and your work makes a difference. Be proud of the fact you are willing to do what is necessary to see the changes in the world you envision. No statistic in the world can substitute for the passion you have for your mission.
Would like like to practice your asking technique? Pick up the phone and try it out 310 828 6979, practice makes perfect!
image credit: http://askingmatters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/513071995_295x1661.jpg