Fundraising 101

The Power of Asking

I’ve been working with a newer organization for a few months and have increased their revenue by over 20%. I promise this isn’t about me being good at my job. It’s a testament to the power of asking.

This small nonprofit hadn’t asked for a gift since March when the pandemic started.

They were navigating the challenges of the moment and feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do – check in with their program participants, shift their program offerings to a virtual setting, keep up with regular communications to their email list, and much more. You know the drill.

They have a lean team that had all taken on extra items in their portfolios, and fundraising wasn’t anyone’s real focus.

They had cancelled their spring event and didn’t know how else to raise money – what was the ask going to be if there wasn’t an experience to give donors in return?

Plus, they didn’t have a fundraising plan or concrete revenue goals to hold them accountable. All of a sudden, it was close to the end of the calendar year and they hadn’t raised the money they had hoped to raise. They had spent hours cultivating and stewardship relationships, yet they hadn’t uttered those important words to ask for support.

My team reminded them of two important things:

  1. Donors want to help
  2. Donors don’t know how to help unless they are asked

This dynamic might sound familiar to you: nonprofit organizations are hoping that donations magically start coming in while donors are wondering how they can help make a difference. I have seen this over and over.

The solution: asking for a gift. It really is that simple.

But where to start? That felt overwhelming for my client too.

The Executive Director and I sat down to come up with a list of people he thought he should talk to. This ranged from past donors to people in his personal network. Every week we reviewed the list and chose 3-5 people for him to call. And he started calling and asking.

You know what happened next?

He found that the people he spoke to were so happy to hear from him and appreciated having a conversation about the organization’s progress and current challenges. Through these personal interactions, they felt connected to the nonprofit and reminded of why they cared about its mission. And so when my client asked for their support, they were eager to help and the gifts started rolling in.

It was really that simple.

By having a clear plan of action, this organization saw some serious results. Within 3 weeks, they had increased their individual giving revenue by 20% for the year.

There is power in a person-to-person ask. Not an email, not a social media post… a real live solicitation. We all like to feel special and to be heard, so picking up the phone to talk to a donor, check in with them, and share information about the organization is a win-win.

Donors who feel appreciated and respected are more likely to give and to give consistently. Relationship-based fundraising is all about building those meaningful connections so that your donors know why and how to support you when they are looking to give back. The individual conversations go a long way in getting results while creating long-lasting ties.

Sometimes getting started is half the battle. Overcoming the “stuck factor” can be incredibly hard. To help you think through the best plan of action, I’ve put together the 6 steps you can take to start asking for money today.