There is an art and science to fundraising. Knowing what to say and how to say it is not an easy task for anyone doing a fundraising event. In this brief but insightful video, Lindsay Simonds breaks down the fundraising fundamental five of making the ask. Lindsay’s great tips will bring you the clarity and confidence you need to tackle on the task ahead, showing your donors the sincerity and how much you can impact through their support. So grab a pen and paper and take notes!
Making The Ask: The Five Fundamentals Of Fundraising
How To Prepare, What To Bring, And What To Say When Making A Fundraising Solicitation
Fundraising is an art and a science. Talking about money is deeply personal. Many people are extremely private about finances. Money triggers feelings and beliefs. It can be hard to talk about money for your donors. Talking about money can be difficult for fundraisers as well.
Whether you are asking a one-time supporter to consider a recurring annual donation or asking a major donor to sponsor a new building, there are five fundamentals to every ask:
- Be Your Best Self
- Come Prepared
- Manage the Clock/Time the Ask
- Make the Ask
- Close Strong!
Be Your Best Self
Let’s begin with how you show up. Being yourself promotes confidence. Try a power pose or a breathing exercise behind the scenes before the meeting starts. Make sure you lighten up. When you’re your authentic self, you present a sense of calm and confidence. That puts your counterpart at ease as well. Be accountable. Tell your prospective donor why you’re there. You can try something like this, “Thanks for meeting with me. My plan for the hour we have together is to follow-up on the details we discussed at our last meeting, update you on progress towards our shared vision and discuss how we might partner together to have the greatest impact. How does that sound to you?”
Once you get into the conversation and after you’ve shared relevant updates, you can ask for feedback and you may inquire about the interests and priorities of your counterpart. You get deep in the conversation with a high-value question like this, “I know you cared deeply about our mission and you want to see progress in this project. Tell me about a time when you saw your philanthropy has a great impact on our organization in the past.” With such a question, you encourage your donor to think positively about your organization. At the same time, you’re discovering how a successful relationship with this donor could be developed in the future.
What to bring? Bring anything you’ve promised or discussed in the past, such as an impact report or interesting article. Additionally, you should bring your case for support and/or a solicitation letter that includes information about why your organization, why it’s important and how specific funds would be used in advance to advance the mission of this organization. Finally, make sure you have a gift documentation form or a pledge card to confirm the donation if appropriate. Number three, how to manage the clock. Assume you have 45 minutes with your donor even if your meeting is scheduled for an hour.
Manage the Clock and Time Your Ask
Start your meeting with some gentle icebreakers and warmup conversation then move into telling your counterpart the plan for your time together. By that time, you’ll likely have used 10 to 15 minutes of your meeting. Spend the remaining 15 to 20 minutes in discussion. Finally, make your solicitation when you have about 15 minutes left on the clock. This way, you’ll be able to have reestablished rapport, covered critical elements of the case for support, and ultimately come to the resolution that your prospective donor can have an impact with philanthropic support.
When you’re transitioning into the time for the solicitation or the ask, say something like this, “Now that we’ve discussed the impact of this project, I’d like to transition the conversation to how you can help. Is this a good time for that?” Hopefully, your prospect says, “Yes, of course.” You’ll move right into the ask. If not, resolve any resistance and try again. Number four, what’s the said word for word. In your preamble, use and listen for the use of unifying language like the words we and us. During your transition into the ask, summarize 1 to 3 benefits of the program that you’re hoping to fund then go for the ask.Being yourself promotes confidence. Click To Tweet
Make the Ask
A solicitation is a careful dance that requires delicate balance. This is an opportunity to share your story and to learn your prospect’s story. The most crucial element of a successful solicitation is to keep the mission as the center. This is no time to shy away! Leave your ego behind and champion the cause. By asking others to help support a shared goal, you’re living out your mission. That’s what it’s all about!
When it comes time for the ask, be sure to request a specific amount, purpose, and timeline of the gift. You will benefit from memorizing those lines. After the ask, remain silent. Be prepared to handle responses like yes or not now, but maybe later or yes, but not that much. Here’s an example of how to make the ask, “Sue, thank you for your longtime support of our annual fund. You’ve been an incredible part of our success by providing $10,000 each year. We’ve discussed over the next five years that we hope to double our number of students served through our new teaching model and philanthropy is a critical element to that future. Would you be a lead donor with a $25,000 gift this year and for the next four years for a total of $125,000?” Stop, remain silent until she responds first.
If your donor says yes, present her with the gift confirmation form or pledge card and ask her to review it then and there, and sign it on the spot. If she doesn’t say yes right away, tell her you don’t need an answer now. Encourage her to take her time, “Take your time over the next week to consider this extraordinary ask,” lineup a follow-up meeting or phone call, that’s fine too. There and then, finalize that time of meeting to discuss then and finalize her decision.
Lastly, be sure to thank your prospective donor for her time, candor, and consideration within about 12 hours of the meeting. A few more tips, it’s helpful to practice these conversations with peers. Remember, your prospect is meeting with you and she or he will know that there’s a purpose for why they’re meeting you. Stop analysis paralysis. You don’t know what you don’t know, so ask questions and listen carefully. Keep your focus on having conversations with your donor and moving the ball forward. Pick up the phone, send an email, maybe even send a text. Fundraising is all about your commitment to the organization with a great mission. You should be proud to represent that organization and your donors should be proud and happy to support this great cause too.
There are four ways to respond to a fundraising solicitation:
- “Let me think about it.”
- “I know what I’m giving, and it’s less than that.”
No one likes an awkward conversation or uncomfortable silence, but there’s no reason to let that fear stifle your mission. Once you know how to field each of these possible responses, you can steer the conversation with confidence. The most important nuance: Be silent after you’ve asked; let them respond first!
You: “Fantastic! Thank you for your generosity and support of XYZ! Please sign this letter of intent, and I will share more about how we track the impact of your contribution.”
Them: “Let me think about it.”
You: “We did not come here today expecting you would give us an answer. We simply wanted to share our story and invite you to participate. We’d love it if you took some time to think about our request. Can we talk in a week or two after you’ve had time to consider the opportunity?”
Them: “I already know what I’m giving, and it’s less than that.”
You: “Look for thoughtful consideration of your ask. Even if the gift is far less than you asked for, if it is clear that the donor has considered what they can do, thank them and move forward. If the response seems hasty or lacks confidence, invite further consideration: Thank you for your agreement to fund this project! I’m not looking for an answer today, would you be willing to consider and make a final decision next week?”
You: “Thank you for your time and willingness to hear our case. Is there anything we could be doing differently to gain your financial support in the future?”