Fundraising is a dance that requires solid preparation, good timing, and attention to detail. When working with new volunteers, solicitation training always brings up a great deal of anxiety. It can be daunting to initiate a conversation about money! Knowing what to say and how to say it is not easy, but by studying the Five Fundamentals of Making the Ask and channeling your courageous energy, you will gain the clarity and confidence you need to guide your donors toward their greatest impact.


What are the Five Fundamentals of Making the Ask?

It’s easy to get worked up over making the ask. What if your counterpart is caught off guard? What if they say no? What if it’s awkward? The best way to stay cool as a cucumber is to be prepared. Some consultants may instruct you to study hundreds of pages of solicitation manuals, but I will tell you that it doesn’t need to take more than seven minutes, or five fundamentals. (Be sure to click the link and watch my video for detailed script templates!)


Fundamental 1: Show up so that you’re your best self

Two words: Calm confidence. What will it take for you to show up feeling calm and confident? Sometimes it’s as simple as a power-pose before the meeting, other times you may need to do a breathing exercise, get a car wash, or review your agenda.


Fundamental 2: Come prepared

Never show up empty-handed. Make sure that you have copies of all relevant documents—including but not limited to the solicitation letter, case for support, and gift documentation form. If you have referenced a report or article in the past, it never hurts to bring it!


Fundamental 3: Manage the clock and time the ask

Make good use of time. Warm up the conversation, offer an overview of your plan, and make sure to keep the donor’s potential impact at the center of attention. I recommend making the ask with about fifteen minutes left on the clock.


Fundamental 4: Say it well

Can you list 1-3 benefits of the program you’re hoping to fund off of the top of your head? Have your elevator pitch and personal anecdotes ready. Throughout the conversation and the ask, try to use unifying language like “we” and “us.”

If you want specific tips on how to word your ask, check out my seven minute tutorial, my podcast conversation with Julie Ordoñez, or my podcast conversation with We Are For Good. You can also try these out:

  • I am seeking philanthropic funding from families at the highest level to represent the impactful and meaningful contribution that will be made in a lifetime
  • Asking for this level of support has never been done before. And it is not easy. But the mission is bigger than me or any feelings I have around it.
  • I want you to give your very best gift.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t go big.
  • Have you had a chance to decide what you will do to contribute to the future of XXX through this XXX project?
  • I was really hoping that you would step up in a new way this year.
  • I am hoping you will give your best guest over the course of the next three years.
  • This is an effort we are asking our most loyal and generous donors to commit to.
  • The majority of the folks we spoke to so far have agreed to meet us at the request amount.
  • You are like family, I know that this is not a safe way for you. And that’s why I’m inviting you to have an indelible impact on the future together.


Fundamental 5: Close strong

One strong conversation is rarely enough. 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. Be sure to thank your prospective donor for her time, candor, and consideration within about 12 hours of the meeting. Stay persistent!


You don’t have to be fearless, you just have to be courageous 

There is one small catch to the Five Fundamentals; they require courage. As Julie Ordoñez taught me on Creating Community for Good, courage and fearlessness are not the same thing. No one is expecting you to get rid of your fears. The key is to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Remember that making the ask is not about you. Too often we allow our fear of how we will be perceived limit our interaction, but is that how we want to represent the mission of our organization? No! You want to be bold and strong because we believe in the importance of what you are doing. Be bold! Use the Five Fundamentals and tap into your courage to challenge your prospective donors to consider an investment-level gift and watch your annual numbers skyrocket.