Perfecting the art of your ask

Maybe it’s the fast-approaching fiscal year-end. Or perhaps it’s anticipation of the summer giving doldrums that has fundraisers in a frenzy. Whatever the impetus, there’s a lot of asking going on these days. Which likely explains the increased online chatter about THE ASK, including the following examples from my in-box.

Say it with a style. A recent release from Movie Mondays comes with the encouraging reminder that there’s no one perfect way of asking. We all have our own style, and that’s okay – or so says veteran fundraiser and founder of Asking Matters, Brian Saber. In this five-minute clip, Brian shares how he was able to overcome self-doubt, boost his  own confidence as a solicitor, and then help volunteers move beyond their fears of asking.

Negotiation know-how. Although entrepreneurs are her intended audience, business writer Selena Rezvani’s  exhortation about honing negotiating skills is a word to the wise fundraiser as well. So don’t let the hard-driving business lingo in this article put you off.  It’s worth the effort of translating Rezvani’s ideas to the gentler world of nonprofits. I’ve started the process for you with the following two points.

  • Set the pace.  The best [fundraisers] in the world take an active role in shaping a conversation’s cadence. Ideally, you’ll make your ask progressively. . . Be judicious with what you lay on the table, including how quickly you do it. . . Knowledge and preparation give you a huge advantage but there’s an art to unloading that information and weaving it into dialogue.
  • Think co-invest. Negotiating with an eye for more isn’t done just for the sake of [getting more]. . . Be willing to make assertive claims but be equally comfortable giving up or adding on provisions that sweeten the deal for the other side. (To do this, of course, it’s essential that you have determined what’s most important for you to come out of the negotiation with and also have the authority to make the concessions you do.)

Have you heard the one . . .? Gary Cairo over at the ServantNetwork’s Blog has rounded up a bunch of fundraising axioms. I pulled out those that refer specifically to the ask.

  • Connect to hearts and minds before you connect to wallets.
  • Start now. There’s never a “better” time to start the process, whether cultivation or solicitation.
  •  Keep in mind that people give to people, not to causes. Peer solicitation is most effective, and a “team” approach of staff/volunteer can be powerful.
  • Before you ask others, you must give yourself. You will not be successful if you cannot convey your own passion for the cause.
  • Keep it simple. The best way to raise money is to ask, and the best way to ask is face to face.

Which of the sayings ring true to you? What nuggets of wisdom would you add to the list?

What's your take on this topic?

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