When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, you should have a confident, manifest mindset. But if you don’t ask, you won’t receive much.
Yes, some people are going to be so into your cause, that its mere existence will spark giving. Or someone will act on impulse and give because they are swept up in the moment (just ask my spouse about that…)
But is that sustainable? Scalable?
Are you willing to put the future of your organization in the hands of cosmic vibration or someone having a moment, at the very right moment?
I would much rather look someone in the eye and say, “I know our values and beliefs align. This is how we can create impactful change, together; will you invest X?” Then stop, be quiet, and let the cosmos do their thing.
Yes, cosmic vibrations and impulses are way easier; asking is HARD. It is treacherous, it can be disappointing when you hear the word ‘no’ but it is so worth it. It is worth all of the hard work, the uncertainty, and the risk. Because it means you are in control of your own destiny. You have gained a collaborator in your work; you’ve identified a fellow traveler who sincerely believes in your cause and wants to have an impact through it.
Asking starts with understanding your donor’s interests and motives; how those align with your organization’s values needs, and mission – if they don’t, move on. Fast. This is not a zero-sum game. That’s not the only donor. You don’t need them if it means twisting and contorting yourself and your organization to meet that donor’s needs. Not to sound too cosmic-y, but the support will be there.
Asking is pretty straightforward. Shocker: there is no magic.
You have to identify who. Then you have to start the process of getting to know them, and them you. You must build trust, to invite them into the community that is your nonprofit. They have to see themselves in the work – and you have to be confident that when it comes time to talk about a charitable investment, they are going to have similar goals. Talk about how they can propel your mission forward, or what they envision for the community. As you get to know someone and they get to know you, when to ask, and for how much will become clear. This is also a way to determine whether someone is going to be a real partner in the work, or if they are going to insist that you do their bidding. Or else.
A lot gets made about how much to ask for. There isn’t a clear answer, but never, NEVER, ask for less than you truly need. Don’t assume that someone won’t go there with you. If it isn’t right, they will tell you. They may surprise you.
Then ask. And stop. Let them take it in and process it. Not only is asking hard but being asked is fraught with its own issues. Give someone the space to consider what you’ve said, the connection you have, and how they see themselves in the vision. You are NOT selling. Nor are you negotiating the cost of a used car. If the ask you’ve made isn’t comfortable, if asking them to renew at a previous level, or perhaps a portion of the amount you’ve requested doesn’t seem plausible then it’s a no for now. Continue to develop the connection and the relationship, and you’ll know when to return to the conversation. As an early mentor said after a string of no’s had me questioning whether I was cut out for this work, “No is never forever.”
When they say yes, the next easy step is to continue to the conversation, deepen the partnership and it really does become magic.
Paul F Morris, has spent nearly 30 years raising money for a variety of causes. His work spans the spectrum from Foundation and Corporate support to working with individuals at all giving levels.