It happens to everyone, even the most seasoned fundraisers: you’re getting ready to go to a lunch meeting, to talk to a donor you have known for several years. The person has always been supportive, always comes to your events, and often introduces you to new people who become donors.
You’re going to the meeting to make a big ask… and you’re nervous. Really nervous. You just can’t shake the anxiety, and you’re worried that your nerves will show, and somehow impact your ask.
While it is certainly ok to feel some anxiety before asks, you don’t need to feel nervous. Here’s why:
1. The Donor Already Feels Like Part of Your Team
The next time you’re nervous about making a big ask, ponder this question: doesn’t this donor already feel like part of your team?
Haven’t you communicated with this donor, invited her to events, talked with her on the phone, met with her in person? Don’t you know what kind of food she likes, how many kids she has, what type of work she does? Isn’t this donor already comfortable with you, and your organization?
If the answer to those questions is, “no” then you haven’t done enough donor cultivation to be making a big ask in the first place. In that case, you’ll want to put the ask on hold while you communicate and cultivate some more.
If, on the other hand, the answer to those questions is, “yes” then you have nothing to fear. This donor is already part of your team. Making a sizable gift is just one of the many ways they are expecting to help your organization now and in the future.
2. The Donor Has Already Said “Yes” to Something Else
If you are making a big ask to a donor, chances are that donor has already said “yes” to something else. Did the donor say yes when you asked him to come to your last non-ask event? Did he make a donation to your annual fund or as part of your annual appeal? Does he serve on one of your committees or volunteer for one of your projects? Has he said “yes” when you asked him to do something small?
If so, then this is a donor that wants to say “yes” to your organization. There’s no need to be nervous. He believes in your work and wants to help. Making a large pledge to your non-profit is one of the many ways he is expecting to help your team.
If the donor hasn’t yet said “yes” to a small ask (for time, money, advice or anything else) then he isn’t ready for a big ask. Go back and cultivate, get some small yesses, then make your big ask.
3. You Do Good Work, and the Donor Knows It
Your organization does good work, doesn’t it?
You help lots of people, make your community a better place, and are a good steward of your donors’ gifts. Your board works hard, your staff works hard, and you do a good job communicating with your donors about your work.
There’s nothing to be bashful or ashamed of when making an ask. If your non-profit is doing good work, and needs more money to thrive, then you can and should be presenting as many donors as possible with the opportunity to partner with you and invest in your work.
You do good work. Your donors (and prospects) know that. Making a large gift is the next logical step in their relationship with you. Of course, the only way for them to make that gift is if you ask. Don’t be shy!
4. You’re Engaging in a Conversation, Not Giving an Ultimatum
One of the things that makes fundraisers most flustered about asking for money is that they feel like they are presenting the donor with an ultimatum:
We’re friends and you have a good relationship with our non-profit. Now give us money, or else it is all over. If you say no, there will be hard feelings, embarrassment and anger. If you say no, and I see you on the street, I will cross over to the other side because I am embarrassed, or you will cross over to the other side because you are mad I asked.
Thankfully, asks are not ultimatums. They are just questions that are asked as part of a conversation. Asks don’t start relationships, and they rarely end them. If you ask for money and the person isn’t ready to give, that’s ok… the conversation continues, the relationship continues, and the person will (hopefully) be ready to give in the future.
The only way to know is… to ask!
Photo Credit: Freddie Pena