It’s time to ask, but just exactly what do you say?
As the year comes to a close nonprofits look to board members, volunteers and donors to ask their friends, family members and colleagues to consider making a meaningful gift. You may have the internal fortitude to overcome your fear of asking (read, fear of rejection), but what exactly do you say and do?
Make your own gift first. As a volunteer fundraiser you need to make your own gift before you can ask someone else to give. If you’re not willing to give, why should anyone respond to your ask? Consider sharing how much you gave and why. If you made a stretch in your giving, talk about what motivated you to do so.
Be prepared. As a solicitor you will need to “make the case” for why others should join you in giving. This means knowing the nonprofit’s history, mission, successes, challenge areas and projected growth. Brush up on your facts (check out the website!). You’ll want to be able to talk numbers and emotions. Depending on who you are talking with you may be asked to explain allocation of current funds, costs associated with growth, and revenue streams. At the same time you have to talk passionately from a feeling place about what the organization means to you and those served.
Don’t hide behind email. If you’re asked to solicit a meaningful gift, do it in person. Make an appointment, and make the reason for your meeting clear. For example, “Jane, can you join me for coffee on Friday? It will be my treat. I want to talk with you about the food bank.” This allows your friend to begin thinking about how to respond. When its time for the meeting, get dressed up. This is a big deal. The money you raise makes a difference to the organization you represent. Mentally rehearse your conversation. Remember to arrive early and, after initial conversation, make the ask. Do not let too much time lapse before you bring up the subject of giving.
Prepare for objections. Your passion isn’t an excuse for not knowing your facts. Make sure you are prepared to answer specific questions your colleagues may have. Put yourself in their shoes: what do you want to know before deciding whether or not to make a donation?
Ask for a specific amount. It’s okay to ask. In fact, that’s what fundraising is all about. Make sure you ask for a specific amount and then pause. Be quiet. Wait for the response. Don’t rush to fill the silence. Your answer will come.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.