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A five minute guide to making better fundraising asks

Lots of fundraisers get worried about making fundraising asks... they’re not sure of the best way to do it, they feel under-prepared for making in-person asks, and they get nervous when it comes time to “pop the question”.

Making asks in-person (and on the phone) is one of the most valuable skills any non-profit fundraiser can possess... and nothing moves a non-profit forward like sitting down with your donors to ask them for major gifts to your organisation.

If you’re not quite sure whether or not you are making the best asks possible... or you get nervous whenever you have to make an ask... here’s a quick, five minute guide to making better fundraising asks:

Always ask a question

If there’s one change you can make to your asking strategy that will have the most impact, this is it. Far too many fundraisers “make asks” without every really asking a question.

Have you ever found yourself making statements instead of asks? If you say things like, “I really hope you’ll consider making a gift to our organisation,” or, “please think about making a donation” then you are not making asks, you are making statements.

In order to be effective, asks need to be questions. After you make an ask, the donor should feel like he or she needs to respond with “yes” or “no.” If you’ve gotten into the habit of making statements, instead of asking a real, honest to goodness question, making this change could double the number of donations your organisation receives.

Always give a number

A second key component of making strong fundraising asks is always giving a number. This means that when you make an ask, you should be asking for a set amount.

Far too many fundraisers will ask a question like, “Would you be able to make a donation to our organisation today?” This is good, because it is a question (not a statement) but because you aren’t asking for a set amount, chances are that when donors say yes they will end up donating far less than you had hoped.

How much should you ask for? That depends on your non-profit and what you know about the donor and his or her financial capacity.

Stop talking after your ask

Here’s a little secret from the business world: after you make your ask, stop talking. Don’t say a word. Let the donor be the next person to speak.

In fundraising, as in sales, the next person to talk after the ask usually “loses”. This means that if the donor is the next person to talk, they will usually say “yes”, even if it is to a lower amount or to making a gift over time. If the fundraiser is the next person to talk, they will usually start talking themselves out of a gift by backpedaling on the ask.

Remember – when a donor doesn’t immediately say something after an ask, it isn’t because they are mad or trying to squirm out of it. As a rule, they are almost always thinking about a way to say “yes”. They are thinking about whether they can afford the gift, whether or not they need to check with their spouse or business partner, where the money will come from, etc.

After you make your ask, stop talking, even if it seems uncomfortable, and let the donor think and answer.

Practice, practice, practice

My final tip is that if you feel nervous when making asks in-person or on the phone, the best way to get more comfortable is to practice. This means running through ask conversations in your head, practicing in front of a mirror, and holding practice conversations with your friends or other staff members.


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