So now you are ready to get your board out there making the asks. Understand that most board members have a fear of fundraising. It has been said that the fear of pubic speaking is higher on most people’s list than the fear of death. But that the fear of asking someone for money is probably a close second to the fear of speaking in front of a large group. The two most sensitive areas for discussion are often said to be death and money and when asking for planned gifts, you are usually discussing both. But let’s start with little less painful approach, the ask for the first gift to an organization which will lead to the ask for a major gift.
The steps to a successful ask are:
- Make your own gift first
- Ask a peer
- Know the “case”
- Know your donor’s needs
- Ask for an amount
- Ask for enough
- Analyze what you did wrong or right
- Plan the next step
First, board members need to get rid of their fear, and realize that they are not “begging for money,” but rather giving someone an opportunity to be apart of the exciting work of your organization. Doug Lawson describes philanthropy as the bringing together of a “Joyful Giver, a Grateful Recipient and an Artful Asker.” Board members need to understand that giving really does feel good and that being generous even makes people live longer!
Experience the Joy
But first Board members need to experience the joy of giving themselves. The key thing all “askers” must do is make their own gift first. It is a proven fact that those who have made a gift themselves will always be more successful at asking others to give, because they can ask them to “join me in investing in a great project.” Of course the Board members also need to be convinced that what they are asking for is a worthy project—you must have a compelling case for support.
Through the screening process discussed last week, board members will have identified people with whom they have a relationship and feel comfortable asking so the next step of asking a peers is already taken care of. In most cases, the asker should be giving at a level equal to what they are asking others to give. It is usually easier for people to ask someone they know than a total stranger. Of course, some board members may not understand this and feel reluctant to ask their friends. It all goes back to the compelling case—if they really believe in the mission of the organization and know others who share their values and beliefs; it is very likely that their friends will also be interested in supporting this organization. Always have them start with a call that is likely to be successful. Sometimes the organization needs to “stack the deck” and assign calls that they are sure will be successful. Nothing builds success like success and a board member who has made that first successful call will be far more motivated to continue making calls.
Making five calls
It is important not to ask too much of them, especially the first time around. No board member should be asked to make more than about five calls. That is usually a manageable number for most people. Give the board members any information that will be helpful in their call—the donors’ past giving history to your organization, if any; other gifts that this person may have made in eh community (a little research on your part will help build the chances for a successful call); any connection this prospective donor has to your organization or interest in specific programs of the organization.
Bring in someone to train the board in how to make the ask. Your training should include having them always ask for a specific amount for a specific project. And remember that people are very seldom, if ever, insulted by being asked for too much, but they can be insulted by being asked for too little.
Team Spirit and Motivation
Make sure you schedule regular reporting meetings so board members can come share successes and challenges they have faced. Knowing other are sharing their experiences helps build a team spirit on the board and helps them solve some of the challenges they may be having. And of course everyone likes to report their success. Often the board has a healthy sense of competition once they get going and having an opportunity or report their success to others is a strong motivator for many people. This debriefing will help plan for the next approach to each prospective donor.
Always be encouraging—remember that, especially if this is a first effort for the board, not all calls are going to be successful, but encourage them to continue by stressing that they are building relationships and not just raising money. After all, the three keys to successful fundraising are Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.