Posts Tagged ‘The Ask’

Making the ask: Is your donor ready or not?

“When you ask for money you are not taking something away; you are giving someone the opportunity to feel good,” explains author and fundraising consultant Laura Fredricks. When you’ve asked your donor when they’re ready, that good feeling can be multiplied. While donor readiness may seem like a foregone conclusion because you’re ready to ask, Fredricks emphasizes there’s more to understanding a donor’s level of readiness. More importantly, if your donor isn’t ready, the likelihood of getting a “yes” is severely diminished.


We recently added Fredricks’ latest edition of The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture (Jossey-Bass, 2014) to our CausePlanet list of recommended reading for nonprofit leaders. Join me in taking a closer look at Fredrick’s “readiness formula.”

When to ask

Fredricks provides the following readiness formula to determine when to ask people: education+involvement+cultivation+inclination+assets=the right time to ask. The larger the gift in question, the more of every element a person needs. Every person may require a different quality and quantity of cultivation, depending on the involvement he seeks and time needed to make his decision.

Fredricks gives several specific suggestions regarding the formula that are worth highlighting here:

1) Effective cultivation often involves interacting with prospects around their hobbies or interests, such as sending a golf article to a golfer.

2) Some prospects want to “giv[e] to a forward-moving train,” or know your organization is transformational and sustainable, whereas some don’t want you to “waste” your money on them and are more distant, so cultivation looks very different for these two types of people.

3) To determine “inclination,” ask this open-ended question: “Laura, when and if you were able to do something that was meaningful and significant to you with our [organization], what would that look like?” Then, you can ascertain whether the prospect is thinking of money at all.

4) Listen to your prospects to determine a match (“matching the person’s key interest in your group with a funding opportunity”).

5) With assets, do not rely solely on prospect research because it may not reveal all assets, and do not mistake assets for inclination. Gather how prospects spend their money through conversations.

Finally, if a person does not possess all the characteristics (e.g., low involvement due to time or personal conflicts or a difficult economic time) it still may be appropriate to ask for money, since this formula is a guideline. Simply use “gentleness, empathy, and understanding.” Ask people how they are doing in an economic downturn, for example, and give them an opportunity to feel good supporting their community. “In very hard times the only thing people can control is their community.” Also, offer to make it easier or give more time for the prospect during a difficult time, while still stressing the importance of your cause.

See also:

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

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Making the ask requires preparation: Have you considered 3 essentials?

“Asking is an essential and fundamentally important part of anyone’s life,” says The Ask author, Laura Fredricks. “If you are involved with a nonprofit in a primary, part-time or volunteer position, you need to know how to ask for money. Particularly when economic times are challenging, everyone needs to be involved in the fundraising effort—not just the hired fundraiser.”

When we asked Laura Fredricks where nonprofit leaders most commonly experience challenges when asking someone for support, she answered, “Asking for a specific dollar amount.”

This answer emphasizes Fredricks’ earlier point that every ask should be treated as its own specific campaign. Fredricks adds, “Raising money takes organization, structure and focus because every person we want to engage deserves our dedicated time, attention and passion so that we can inspire him/her to be our lasting partner and key supporter.”

In recent posts, we’ve highlighted Fredricks’ emphasis on follow-up and ideal characteristics of the asker. In light of her response about asking for a specific amount and the importance of organization, structure and focus, today we’re looking at the elements that must be considered in advance of the Ask and that point toward preparation, such as the setting, the appointment and the “role of paper” in the Ask.

The setting

The location of the Ask should be one where both parties feel comfortable and that is quiet with no distractions. The ideal places are those where you have met during cultivation, including the home or office of the person being asked, a private room at the organization, the CEO’s office or a private club.

Avoid making the Ask where food is involved unless the person is only available during meal times because the distractions increase with wait staff and fellow diners and you have to deal with the check. Also avoid the following: cell phones and other noisy devices; glaring sunlight or other lights; background or outside noise from computers, music, other people, traffic, etc.; and asking in a public space like an elevator.

You must dress crisply and professionally and emit positive energy and enthusiasm. Also, pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Sit upright, make eye contact and don’t fidget or chew gum. Your voice should be clear and convincing.

Making the appointment

Fredricks discusses how to make an appointment for the Ask, using this example: “Brandon, I’d like to meet with you in the next week or so to continue our discussion on how you can make a real difference with the organization. I have a few ideas that I’d like to share with you in person. We generally meet at your office at 8:00 a.m., so can we meet there early next week?” The conversation should state the purpose, either tying it to a previous discussion topic or a new one, and share how the person can make a difference. The asker should make the appointment via phone, not via email, as well. If the person is reluctant to set up the meeting, he is not ready so more cultivation is necessary. Also, confirm the date, time and place a day before the meeting.

The role of paper

If the Ask is for a large amount, a proposal should be written, which includes the purpose of the gift, the amount, detailed budget for the program or project, how it can be funded, the benefits it will bring, etc. Fredricks clearly states her recommendations: 1) Do not send the proposal before the Ask. Always ask in person first. 2) Don’t give the paperwork in person until after the Ask or it may serve as a distraction. 3) You can always send the paperwork afterward, addressing all concerns, and include a thank-you note.

Learn more about Laura Fredricks’ guidance for the entire Ask process in her book where you can determine how to select the right people at the right time and in the right location to make the Ask. You can also gather solutions to a myriad of responses to the Ask through sample dialogs and apply the author’s guidance on the crucial business of follow-up.

See also:

Fundraising the SMART Way

Fundraising When Money Is Tight

To Sell Is Human

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What is the most often overlooked element of the Ask?

Despite the immense amount of focus we place on understanding the art of asking for support, it continues to keep us treading water and occasionally dipping our heads below the surface. The Ask author, Laura Fredricks, would argue one of the most commonly overlooked elements of the Ask is follow-up—yes, follow-up. Many fundraisers don’t realize that the preparation for and conducting the Ask is 25 percent of the process and follow-up is 75 percent!

Fredricks stresses there is a real method, organization and key sequence of steps to take before, during and after the solicitation. Ask yourself if your fundraising prospects are experiencing consistent cultivation, presentation and follow-up that address your organizational needs.

After the Ask, you do not want to give your prospect unlimited space and time and let her contact you because you need to have a system and timeline after all the cultivation work you’ve done.

Fredricks provides 10 recommended steps after each Ask:

  1. Thank the person immediately after you have discussed and addressed the response.
  2. Convey to the person asked the importance of her decision, the impact it will have, and the reason why it is important to make the gift or investment or decision now as opposed to later (e.g., numbers of people affected). This should relate urgency, not desperation, and should not make people feel guilty. Just lay out the facts of where you are and where you need to be.
  3. Set a time and date when you are going to follow up with the Ask.
  4. Send a personal thank-you for meeting with you and taking the time to consider the Ask.
  5. Call the person the next day and thank him for meeting with you. Ask if he needs any additional information or would want to meet with anyone else in the organization to help make his decision.
  6. Immediately send any additional information requested or data, budgets or testimonials that might be helpful.
  7. Mix up the communication and the communicator to vary who contacts the person and what s/he says.
  8. Tell the person about any new gifts that have occurred while he is deciding to convey strength in numbers.
  9. Try to get the person to come to the organization to meet with your beneficiaries or see a new program.
  10. Stay positive throughout the entire follow-up process and treat the person as if she is going to say “yes.”

Does your tracking allow for follow-up and what does that column look like?

Not following up will waste all your research and cultivation time. So, it is necessary to pick a comfortable number of prospects to work with and develop a system to track everything. Fredricks provides a chart with the following columns to help: name, research, cultivation, pre-Ask conversation, Ask response, follow-up and stewardship. Since follow-up should take 75 percent of your time, as compared to 25 percent of your time dedicated to preparation and the Ask, your column under follow-up should be longer and filled with more activities and points of contact.

You can see if you are treating your prospects evenly with this chart and whether people are bottlenecking at certain stages, such as cultivation, and you need to move them along. Also, everyone involved in the Ask needs to have the time to follow up. If you cannot complete your follow-up, you need to cut out the people you are asking to focus on this more. Finally, the author gives you some trouble-shooting tips that help with situations that involve difficulty reaching the person asked, length of time you should wait (a few months is a long time; a year is unreasonable), a transfer of the decision to family members or an advisor, and more.

We asked Fredricks about follow-up in our author interview:

CausePlanet: There is a surprising lack of literature about the importance of follow-up in donor solicitations. We’re delighted to see you’ve addressed it in your book. What are some important reminders for nonprofit leaders that might motivate them to place a priority on this area?

Laura Fredricks: You are leaving $$$$ on the table because you do not have solid steps to close it. My BIGGEST tip: Donors leave clues and we miss every one of them. Pay attention to how they communicate and the frequency with which they communicate and follow up on their patterns.

Consider your Ask follow-up as part of your pre-solicitation plan. Determine how you’ll keep your prospect engaged with your organization long after they say “yes” or “no.” Learn more about Laura Fredricks’ guidance for the entire Ask process in her book where you can determine how to select the right people at the right time and in the right location to make the Ask. You can also gather solutions to a myriad of responses to the Ask through sample dialogs and apply the author’s guidance on the crucial business of follow-up.

See also:

Fundraising the SMART Way

Fundraising When Money Is Tight

To Sell Is Human

Image credits:,,

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What qualities are essential in the person who makes the Ask?

Most, if not all of us, are in the business of asking for something every day. That’s why we’re determined to identify the best way to go about persuading one another. This topic has been widely developed within each sector, yet author Laura Fredricks has built a bridge across all sectors by explaining the Ask using universal principles, making it easy, enjoyable, meaningful and rewarding.

In her second edition of The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture, Fredricks not only addresses how to ask for support for a nonprofit, but also her advice extends well into the for-profit arena, offering guidance for those who are soliciting investments in business ventures or creative projects. Her book details how to make the most effective Ask in philanthropy, business and everyday life.

This week, we’re focusing on the qualities of the perfect asker. Laura Fredricks explains the higher Ask amounts require a higher leader to do the asking. If the Ask amount is high, the CEO or a board member would be an ideal asker. After you’ve enlisted the CEO and/or board member’s time, consider the ideal characteristics of these people:

An ideal asker:

  1. is known, liked, admired and respected by the person being asked
  2. has played a major role in the cultivation
  3. is comfortable, relaxed and confident with the Ask
  4. has given at the same level that is being asked
  5. has given at a level in relation to his abilities that is comparable to the level being asked of the person in relation to her abilities
  6. has demonstrated a strong commitment to the organization and is fully knowledgeable about the organization
  7. knows the details of the gift opportunity and can clearly articulate the need for support
  8. has the time (or has set aside time in the calendar) to prepare for the Ask, do the Ask, and carry out the necessary follow-up (three times the amount of time necessary for the preparation and the actual Ask) to the Ask
  9. has kept everyone involved with the fundraising process fully informed on the details of the Ask and the follow-through
  10. has fun doing an Ask and can feel the rewards of asking for money for the organization.

“When you ask for money you are not taking something away; you are giving someone the opportunity to feel good,” says Fredricks. How do we create those good feelings? Fredricks says that we treat every donor as a mini campaign. Devote special and individualized attention to every person.

See also:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Fundraising and the Next Generation

Fundraising the SMART Way

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