When it comes to ‘how to ask for a gift,’ you’ll see there’s a parallel between how we conduct sales here at MarketSmart and how nonprofits should raise funds.
First, please know this: At MarketSmart, we don’t close sales and we don’t close deals. Rather, the deals close themselves because our clients sell themselves after we engage them properly.
Furthermore, we don’t have sales people and we don’t pay anyone a commission.
Instead, we have Solutionists. Solutionists listen and help prospects (and clients) understand how our products and services can help solve their problems and reduce their “pains”. Our Solutionists help them decide whether or not they should buy from us. There’s no pressure— ever.
But we DO, however, provide our prospects and clients with options. We DO show them a menu of proposed solutions. We DO offer them opportunities to make a decision. We DO ask them when they think they will make a decision. We DO follow-up with them based on their requests. We DO (sometimes) include a deadline to help provide them with a sense of urgency. And, we do, sometimes, straight-up ask for the order.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because I think the days are over when a salesperson nervously looked a prospect in the eye, asked for the order, pressured and cajoled a bit, and then closed the deal.
Yes, sometimes our Solutionists come out and just ask. But most of our clients don’t need that final nudge. Most of them close their own deals for us. Most of them ask us for a contract so they can sign it right away.
So what about fundraising? What about asking for donations? Do you really have to “make an ask” these days?
When I say no to a fundraiser’s request, it’s usually because I’m not ready. I haven’t been properly educated, informed or counseled. Their timing is usually way off and I feel they should have a sense of that. If they are true professionals, I tend to feel that they should know better.
Now, having said that…
I can see “making an ask” when you need a lead gift for a capital campaign. Of course by then you’ve probably already built a solid relationship with a very wealthy person who believes in your mission. Someone with confidence in your organization’s leadership and staff. Sure. Go ahead. Make that ask! It will make sense to that supporter.
But for the other major donor who gave $10,000 last year, do you really have to make a high-stakes ask?
Shouldn’t you simply engage and involve them all year long in ways that make them feel good and help them understand the problem(s) enough so they will ask themselves?
And, when you visit them, shouldn’t you simply let them know that you want to help them navigate through a variety of solutions they might want to consider supporting? And, shouldn’t they, sometimes be offered the opportunity to maneuver through those solutions on their own (conveniently online in the privacy of their own homes)?
What I’m saying is this:
I think if you do everything right online and offline…
If you thank your supporters, show them that you appreciate them, recognize them…
If you show them what you did with their money last time they gave…
And, if you provide them with offers to engage and involve themselves more deeply with your mission…
won’t many of them give on their own and trip over themselves to give after you’ve laid out a handful of giving opportunities?
I think they will.
Then, they’ll also cry tears of joy while thanking you profusely for giving them the opportunity to help make the world a better place.
So you too, like our Solutionists, should provide your supporters with options. You should show them a menu of proposed solutions. You should offer them opportunities to make a decision. You should ask them when they think they will make a decision. You should follow-up with them appropriately based on their requests and timelines. You should consider including a deadline to help provide them with a sense of urgency. And, sometimes, YES! You should straight-up ask for the gift. But not because your organization needs the money. Rather, you should do it because first and foremost you know the supporter would benefit from such a straightforward nudge.
After all, fundraisers are facilitators.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and recognize that some supporters despise the word “fundraiser” as much as the word “salesperson.” Unfortunately, both words have been tainted because of unscrupulous practitioners in fundraising and sales who preceded all of us.
Let’s recognize that your supporters don’t want to be persuaded, pushed or pressured. No! They want to be engaged and involved. They want to collaborate with you. They want to participate. And, quite often, they can do all of that online at a time and place of their choosing. So they can feel good when they want to feel good— period! After all, that IS why people give… to feel good!
And, that’s precisely why coercion, cajolery, and coaxing won’t work. Those approaches simply make people feel bad.
Supporters want you to facilitate the giving process— not force it.
And besides, isn’t “making an ask” nerve-racking?
Too often it’s uncomfortable for both you and your supporter. Yet, it shouldn’t be.
However, you can avoid all the anxiety placed on both sides if you lay the proper groundwork in advance. If the relationship is solid. If the supporter has belief in the mission. If they have a close personal connection. If they have been involved. If they feel appreciated. If they have confidence in the leadership team and staff. If they see the value in their exchange of money for impact.
So why not empower your supporters with an online experience that helps to support all that? Why not let it support what you do just as the Air Force supports the boots on the ground?
If you do, many of your supporters will ask themselves to give and you’ll simply be facilitating the exchange. How to ask for a gift has drastically changed.