Recently I was asked the following: “The whole idea of the ‘ask’ is very uncomfortable to me. How can I become more comfortable with it?” Here’s my answer:
First, if you are uncomfortable with asking, it’s probably for one or all of 3 reasons.
I’ll go into each of these three first. Then I’ll answer the big question, “How can I become more comfortable with it?”
1- No passion.
I hate to be crass (actually, that’s a lie… I love to be crass), but if you are not passionate about your organization and its mission, you have no business asking people to give to support it. Don’t tell me you need the job to support your family, pay your bills or repay your education loans. I don’t care because I don’t think it’s fair. Donors deserve engagements with fundraisers that are just as passionate about the cause as they are. Giving via a fundraiser who doesn’t really care about the cause is like buying a car from a huckster. You can’t fake passion. If you try, the donors will sense it and you will fail to reach your fundraising goals anyway. Then, nobody wins.
2- They aren’t ready.
Although the Mongols defeated Korea and (much bigger) China, they got hit with typhoons both times they tried to invade Japan. Because of bad timing, they failed. Similarly, if you ask for a donation when the time is wrong, you probably won’t succeed. When it comes to ‘asking,’ timing is important. You need to know if your supporter is ready. Is their passion high? Have their questions been answered? Do they have good reason to give? If the answer to these questions is “no,” the timing might be wrong and your sense of it will make you feel uncomfortable for good reason.
3- Wrong position.
Do you enjoy talking to people and learning about them? Do you like to make people happy?
More importantly, do you have hang-ups with regard to talking to wealthy individuals? Do they make you uncomfortable because you can’t get past the fact that they have a lot of money? Does their wealth make it hard for you to see them as human beings with needs, dreams, and passions? Most people won’t want to admit that they have these kinds of hang-ups. But, make no mistake, they exist for a lot of people. And, if they exist deep within you, then you might be in the wrong position. You can’t fake your way through this job. So don’t try.
Now, if you do have a bona fide passion for your cause, if your donor is ready, and if you are in the right position, here’s how you can be more comfortable with asking:
1- Think of yourself as a facilitator, not a fundraiser. Realize that your job is to help people achieve their goals. You aren’t taking money from them. You are giving them an opportunity to find meaning in their lives and feel good. Think of it that way and you’ll become more comfortable asking.
2- Think of yourself as a matchmaker, not a fundraiser. Your job is to align programs and organizational needs that help your nonprofit’s beneficiaries with people who have passion for those programs and needs in addition to having the capability to make a tremendous impact. Your job is to be a matchmaker. Think of it that way and you’ll become more comfortable asking for donations.
3- Think of yourself as a service person, not a fundraiser. Your job is to serve the donor. You should be spending time making sure you know what’s going on so you can convey information properly. You should also be putting forth effort to get to know your donors’ needs. Then you should be spending time communicating relevant information that aligns with each donor’s needs. Furthermore, you should help your donors move themselves through the consideration process. Service is the key. It isn’t about asking, it’s about serving.
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