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5 Truths of Fundraising: How to Win the Face-to-Face Ask

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Many people are terrified of making a face-to-face fundraising ask. I’ve even had people tell me they are “allergic” to fundraising. This is why I love to train people to be great fundraisers and overcome their fear of asking. There’s a recipe to solicit a gift: the right person asks the right prospect for the right amount for the right project the right way. That’s a mouthful, but the truth about fundraising is that if you cultivate your prospect correctly the ask is easy. Here are 5 fundraising truths you need to know to nail the ask.

Handshake1. 95% of the ask happens before the solicitation.

People have the greatest anxiety about the ask but the truth is all the heavy lifting comes in the cultivation. The ask is the easy part! It’s also the shortest part. Cultivation can happen over months or years while the ask takes several minutes. Cultivation done right reveals:

  • What your donor is passionate about, which helps you determine what project to ask them to fund.
  • What they need to know about you and experience before they are ready to make their gift.
  • Who should ask them for the gift and if they want to be asked with another person (such as their spouse, partner, child).
  • What their communication preferences are (such as email, calls, personal visits) which tells you how you should steward them properly after they make the gift.
  • If they have desires to receive something in return for their gift, such as recognition.

The truth is great examples of cultivation are all around us. We get to enjoy them when we shop at our favorite brands, such as Nordstom’s, Zappos, and  Amazon. Let’s face it; as Americans we are not ambivalent about great customer service. Neither are your donors! Giving them personalization feels like the white glove treatment and helps you keep them for life. We can learn a lot about keeping our donors from our favorite brands! If you want to learn how I recommend this whitepaper on what customer lifecycle management can teach us about fundraising.

2. Asking is the easy part. The hardest part is getting the visit.

Most people have the greatest anxiety about making the ask but the hardest part is actually getting the visit. At Pursuant I train people to be successful confident fundraisers and I spend time in each training exploring all possible objections people might give you to taking a visit, have people address how they’d overcome each potential objection, and finally role play each scenario with a partner as an actual telephone conversation.

3. Donors aren’t motivated by the act of giving away money. They want to invest in your cause.

Like many parents, my kids sometimes ask me for money. Why? They just want it. They’re seven.

(yes, I  said “ they” – I have twins!)

Their ask does not inspire to me to give. Our donors are not sitting around with big piles of money they might easily use as firewood. They are intelligent successful people who voluntarily part with their wealth because they are motivated to make the world a better place. It’s up to you to motivate them. It’s up to you to sell your solution. You are coming to a person with means and giving them an opportunity to solve a problem.

4. Donors want to solve problems. Don’t sell your needs, sell your solution.

Our donors want to make a difference. They are not motivated to give if they feel like their gift is a tiny drop in a bottomless well. Telling your donors a litany of needs can feel overwhelming and uninspiring. Tell them your bold, inspiring solution. Give them the answer. Invite them to be the solution.

5. Praise your donor as the hero who solved the problem. Make your success their success: “Look what you made possible!”

The moment your donor makes their gift to you they cease being an interested observer and they become an investor in your cause. Treat them like one. They are the hero, not you. They make your work possible. Tell them often. If you are holding back on this because their gift was small remember that your donor doesn’t know what lavish treatment awaits them at higher gift levels. Describe their generous gift at work and detail what it is accomplishing. In every description make sure the donor is front and center as the hero of this transformational change:

  • “Because of you…”
  • “Thanks to you…”
  • “With your help…”

If you had the pleasure, like I did, of seeing Tom Ahern at AFP ICON at his “Loverizing: The Lucrative Difference a Few Well Chosen Words Will Make in Your Donor Communications” session then you already know what an emotional trigger the word “you” is. Use it and literally unleash your donors giving to your cause. It is truly the secret sauce!

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