Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Column Every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru"--October 8, 2007

Overcome Your Fear Of Asking For Money
by Stephen Goldstein

At some level, everyone hesitates to ask for money, even for a good cause. We all have a dollar threshold beyond which we are reluctant to go. Yet, unless we break through that psychological barrier, we will stand in the way of our fundraising success.

One surefire way to embolden yourself to ask for money is to remember that you are not asking for yourself. Another way is to know how to ask for money the right way. Follow these 10 tips:

1. Initiate every funding request with a letter. Everyone’s heard stories of how a chance phone call has inspired some millionaire to make a major gift, but as a rule, cold calls are bad strategy. Even if you get through, you will catch people off guard and they are only going to ask for follow-up information. So, it’s better to write and then ask for an appointment. (Exception: Always solicit major gifts in person with someone who knows the potential contributor--and bring written materials personalized for the donor with you.)

2. Show that you know to whom you are writing or speaking. Get to know the people you are soliciting before you meet them. (Don’t be so obvious as to let them figure out you have researched them, by dropping hints of the details of their life, or they may feel like laboratory rats.) Most donors have giving histories, so you should be able to determine their priorities. Let them know why you think your project would be consistent with their interests.

3. Personalize your communications. Never write boilerplate to a possible donor, no matter how small the potential gift. (I know you’re saying, “But I get them all the time.” And don’t you throw them out?) Even in a mass mailing, include some form of personalized message. Handwrite as many personal notes as you can, such as a P.S. If you can’t do them all yourself, get a group of volunteers to help. The more you personalize, the more positive your response.

4. Be clear, straightforward, and precise. Don’t waste people’s time. Let them know exactly what you want from them.

5. Ask for a specific amount or commitment. Always include a clear call to action. Don’t leave the ball in your donors’ court or they may drop it.

6. Be prepared with alternative scenarios. Give choices. For example, ask potential contributors to make an outright gift in the full amount this year, two installments (one this year, one next), or according to a schedule convenient for them.

7. Make it easy for everyone to say, “Yes.” Make your appeal so irresistible and flexible, that no one can refuse to give you something--even a small amount. Shoot for the moon, but if you can’t get it, settle for another constellation.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask after you’ve been rebuffed. Just because people said “No” the first time doesn’t mean they won’t say “Yes” later. Re-ask politely.

9. Ask for assistance. Ask everyone you solicit--even people who turn you down--for names of others who might support your project.

10. Always include a visual that “summarizes” your purpose. Think like a contributor. Ask the way you would want to be asked. Turn your fear and hesitation into dollars.

E-mail your comments and questions to Stephen Goldstein at

Labels: , , , ,