“We didn’t get the gift,” our board member reported, “because he really wanted someone on his level, I mean, one of his peers, to ask. That’s what I heard anyway.”
You know, of course, that Who Asks, matters. But this reality is often overlooked, because of the high turnover rate in fundraising (2 ½ years) or the constant push for results or even a simple lack of old-fashioned respect for roles.
At the essence of this real-life example is a single practice of successful fundraisers from “back in the day”: Value and Respect for Roles, Stature and Position. This is one of the four traits of outstanding fundraisers, who
- Seek personal accountability.
- Are pragmatic.
- Value and respect roles, stature and position.
- Convey optimism about the power of philanthropy.
Here are Three Tips to Grow Gifts…the Old-Fashioned Way:
1. If you’re an employed fundraiser (like I was for 18 years!), don’t let urgency push you to an unlikely Ask. Research your decision maker, especially when making a corporate or business ask.
- Look for peers on your board.
- Allow time for frank discussions. I was once in a meeting where three men knew the same Prospect. Ultimately, two of them said to the third man, “You know him best. You ask.”
- Ask your board member (your Solicitor) what he needs first:
- a letter written under his signature.
- a text with the Prospect’s contact information.
- help scheduling a meeting with an executive.
- a pdf attached which she can email to her peer.
2. If you’re a board member, intervene before your organization gets rejected. If a close relationship with the Prospect doesn’t exist, the Ask defaults to the board member! or to the board member and staff.
No one – even people you may not know well – wonders why you’re part of the Ask. Decision-makers know that this is part of being on a board.
Look out for eager fundraisers to say things such as…
- “Well, if nobody else will do it, I will.”
- Or, “I’m taking yoga with her third cousin. I’ll ask her to give him our folder when I see her tomorrow night.”
- Or, “She served on my table committee so I can ask her.”
Gently, diplomatically, say thank you, and offer to help by making the call yourself or joining your organization’s fundraiser. She can often help with the Ask!
3. If you’re a seasoned executive who’s led the organization for years, you’ve built strong relationships with your supporters. At times, you could take The Ask.
You’re highly likely to succeed when the Ask is around an “exchange opportunity” such as a major event sponsorship. For multi-year program support, it’s still important to have a board member at your side.
Of course, the confidence of board members and year-over-year donors grows as they work closely with your professional fundraising staff. Also, often through arduous committee work, admiration for the entire development team increases. In these cases, the Ask process may slightly flatten.
That said, over almost two decades of fundraising, I’ve rarely seen the processes described in this blog fail or completely flatten. As a general best practice, valuing and respecting position ensures you raise even more money for the important mission of your organization!
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