Listen and Guide—Don’t Ask
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem, and I’ll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
Perhaps the most oft heard comment I hear is, “But I don’t like to ask for money.” And while asking for the gift is important, let’s unpack what is really being said with such a statement.
When someone says they don’t like to ask for money, they usually mean they:
- Don’t enjoy putting someone on the spot—themselves
- Don’t like being put in an inferior position to someone else
- Don’t want to hear “no” as it will be a rejection of their cause and—by extension—themselves
- Don’t want to put someone else on the spot—by extension—themselves
- Are afraid that the prospective investor might actually say “yes”—and thereby make them feel beholden to the donor
These assessments, although quite real to the person making them, are based upon a faulty understanding of what it means to “make a gift.”
Principle No. 1 of The Eight Principles™ is "Donors are the Drivers®." Donors drive philanthropy through their visions and values. Not their money.
Yes, I said it. It’s not about money. No, no, not!
“But, but, but—our cause needs the money. That’s what is keeping us from fulfilling our mission—money or the lack of it.”
Yes, you need the money. No question.
The critical point to appreciate is the donor isn’t focused on the money.
Philanthropic investors—my preferred term for “donors”—have their attention on something far more valuable to them. They are driven to seek the fulfillment of their own personal visions and values.
“But, we have our own vision.”
Yes, you do. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow your vision and the values of your prospective investors aligned?
“Ah,” you say.
Now, let’s take another look at the statement, “I don’t like to ask for money.”
The fundraiser who succeeds knows that he or she really isn’t asking for money. They are inviting the investor to invest in the fulfillment of the investor’s values. That’s something someone cannot buy with money.
Consider the comment a donor made to me recently. “Larry,” this gentleman said, “it’s really hard to give money away.” This donor has eight-figure capacity, by the way.
I immediately assumed that what he meant was there are so many needs that he has difficulty deciding where to put his resources. I did what so many others do—and I preach about not doing myself! I assumed the scarcity mentality. This was the subject of my keynote at the NonProfit Pro Leadership Conference in May.
What he meant, however, was he regularly reaches out to worthy causes offering his help of resources (read “money”) and is often met with a misguided and driven desire to get money.
“We’re really busy right now making the deadline for a grant proposal. We’ll call you back.” The person never does.
“We’ll put you on the invitation list for our next gala event.” It never happens.
You may be credulous but these are actual responses he’s received.
When this donor offers resources, he’s seeking not merely doling.
The next time you’re in the company of a donor—or on the phone, or even reading a social media post—listen. Guide the investor to an understanding of how his or her values align with your mission. Demonstrate your success in fulfilling that mission—and thereby their values.
Now the “ask” becomes an invitation. An opportunity to personal fulfillment. An opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than themselves.
Yes, money changes hands. That’s the easy part.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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