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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