One of my favorite things to do as a consultant is to train board members, campaign cabinets, and staff on the Art of the Ask. It is important that board members, and other councils and committees, are comfortable soliciting gifts. Asking for donations should be part of any board member job description, but many are fearful of fundraising and do not feel skilled at soliciting a donation.
There really is an art to making an ask. First, the timing needs to be the right. A prospect needs to feel comfortable with the organization’s mission and understand the potential impact of their donation. They need to know that the organization is in good standing in the community and that the nonprofits’ finances are in order. They need to know about the good experiences other donors have had. They need to know that they will be thanked in a timely way and that they will be kept abreast of progress being made. And these things will all happen before anyone from the organization comes to them with a request for a contribution.
One of the things we train people to do is to use specific language to schedule a meeting and ask for a donation. The word “consider” is a great word to use for solicitations. “Would you consider a gift of $100,000 to support the XYZ campaign?” gives the prospective donor the appropriate space to make their decision. Instead of asking the potential donor to make a decision instantly, you are asking he or she to evaluate their options, ask questions that are important to this decision, and perhaps talk through their decision-making process. The solicitor needs to then be quiet and let the prospect speak first. In the training we provide, solicitors are trained to answer questions or address needs the prospect may have.
Your professional fundraising staff spends hours researching, matching volunteer solicitors with prospects, cultivating prospects, discerning what the ask amount should be, creating a fallback plan if the prospect says no or maybe, readying answers to any questions that may arise. Development officers, staff, board members, and volunteers alike can benefit from techniques and the nuances of language that go into an effective Art of the Ask training.
Another important aspect of the Art of the Ask training is talking about “Friendraising” as a way of opening doors to potential donors. If a volunteer is not comfortable soliciting a donation, they can help connect with potential donors through their centers of influence, schedule a meeting and take another volunteer or a staff member with them to make the ask.
Whether it is the science, or the art of fundraising, we are here to help with training for your board and staff.