Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tips for a Successful Ask

Look that Prospective Donor in the Eye and Say…
If you ask, you might fail.  But if you don't ask, you certainly fail.

            Asking for money strikes fear in the hearts of most volunteers, usually because they fear failure.  In addition to constantly reminding yourself that the worst that can happen is the prospect will say "no," there are some basic steps you can take to increase the likelihood of success. 

            First, know your prospect.  What, if any, is his/her interest in your cause?  If it’s a business, what benefit can the business derive by supporting your organization?  Just because a person can afford to give, and just because a person gives generously to other causes, doesn't mean that he or she will give to you.  What are his/her interests, motivations or desires?  Before making a fundraising call on an individual or business, learn as much as possible about the person who will make the decision.

            Select the right solicitor.  In general, people give to people, NOT to causes.  Your chances of success are greatly increased if the solicitor is known to the prospect.  As a volunteer, try to pick prospects you know -- or who know you.    But, if you do not know the prospect, spend some time getting acquainted.  Share why you are a volunteer, why you think your cause is important, and, especially, WHY YOU SUPPORT THIS ORGANIZATION!
            Know what you want, how much, and why you think the prospect would want to participate.  Be sure to specify an amount.  Avoid the temptation to ask for “...whatever you might contribute.”  And, it's better to ask for too much than too little.  You can always reduce your request ("... if that's too much, would you consider $___ ?"), but you can't raise it after you realize you might have asked for too little. 

            Most prospects are expecting to be asked to participate, and have usually made a decision before you arrive. Very seldom (never say “never”) will a prospect say, “Actually, I was thinking of a higher amount.”

            Just because a prospect says "no" the first time, doesn't mean the answer will always be the same.  Listen very carefully to what the prospect has to say.  Find ways to inform, interest, and get that person involved in your activities.  Cultivate a relationship.  When the time, circumstances and/or reason are right, ask again.

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to   

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