Jul 18, 2017

Ohhh, that feeling. Sweaty palms, beating heart, shortish breath (if you're me, bad coffee breath, searching for a mint but all you find is gum that you pop in and chew like it's an Olympic event)...

It's time to make the big ask and you're nervous. Will they be offended? Will they say no? Are you asking too soon, for too much?

It doesn't have to be this way! We've got a formula to make big asks easy, fun, and satisfying for your and your donors.

It's as simple as this: TAP, and then Pre-Ask.

Timing, Amount and Purpose come first. Each time you meet with your donor, you discover at least one of those elements and confirm it with your donor:

  • Suzy, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. So it sounds like the right time to talk about a gift is early next year?
  • Thanks for the guidance, Suzy - so $50,000 is the right neighborhood for us to be talking about?
  • I loved your story about study abroad - so you'd eventually like to consider a gift to support student travel?


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May 09, 2017

You know that thing that happens to you when you know it's time to bring up money in a donor conversation? That moment when you know you have to say it or you'll miss your chance or chicken out?

Your heart races, your face gets hot and you start to do that zoning in thing where all you hear is what’s in your head.

You are not alone!

After more than a decade of asking for money, this still happens to me.

It also happens to Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, an amazing organization that has built 400 schools in Guatemala, Ghana and Laos and given tens of thousands of kids access to education.

In Adam’s fantastic book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, he has an entire chapter dedicated to his fear of fundraising. It’s called Vulnerability is Vital.

Adam describes his first ask of a six-figure commitment from a potential donor. He writes, “My face was still but my chest was pounding.”

Adam describes...

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Apr 25, 2017


Has this ever happened to you? You drive all over two states for two days, race from your last donor meeting to the airport just in time for your 7:30 pm flight, eat no dinner, then sit on the runway for an hour, totally missing your connection. You land in an airport “just” five hours from home…after 10 pm.

 And then…instead of staying at the airport and taking the luxuriously late morning flight, you rent a car, pass many hotels where people are happily sleeping, pick up your car at the “home” airport at 2:38 am, and finally pull bleary-eyed into your garage at 4 am?

We did this last Thursday! And just to be clear, I would have been quite happy to stay at the St. Louis airport and fly home mid-day. 

But my very awesome colleague had a lunch-time solicitation with the dean, a presentation to her advisory board, and a brief cameo at the Dean’s Club dinner (which the Chancellor and Provost were slated to attend).  She...

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Apr 04, 2017

Are you? Going to ask today? It not, what do you need to learn to get there? 

One of three things, friends: timing, amount, purpose. Ideally in that order.

  • Your donor’s timing (kids in school, retirement looming, big medical bills) lets you know if you should even be talking about money right now. 
  • Guidance on amount lets you put exactly the right opportunities in front of them (you don’t go down blind alleys nor do you under-ask!). 
  • Then the real fun begins and you can focus on purpose, co-creating with your donor a gift that achieves exactly the impact they dream.

Don’t get us wrong! Of course you want to know your donor. Rapport matters, connection matters, respect matters – a lot.

We’re not suggesting you should make an ask upon first meeting (though honestly, sometimes you should!).

But you absolutely should, must – please, we are begging you – be asking yourself, before every meeting, “Am I going to ask...

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Death to the Elevator Speech!

Mar 29, 2017

Have you ever gone to an expensive seminar where they told you to develop your elevator speech? Don't do it!

You guys, we have all been on an elevator. Think about it - the only "speech" anybody likes in there is a question or a compliment. Because showing genuine interest in another person is the only way to really connect, right?

Nobody likes the person who bloviates about her "value proposition." That's boring.

Everyone responds, however, to genuine, infectious enthusiasm. True zeal is hard to resist. It causes people to get curious, to ask you questions, and to be interested in the answers. When you go about fundraising this way, donors thank you for your enthusiasm for your own darned cause!

So don't worry about an elevator speech.

Do think about how to fall more in love with what you do. And be ready with a single, powerful sentence that says - literally, physically - what your org accomplishes. So that when someone asks (because you've connected, and now...

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Mar 22, 2017

What do you need as a fundraiser? We want to know!

If you raise money – for a living or as a volunteer for a cause you love – please let us know your challenges, what tools could help?

Is your challenge “making the ask?” Or turning a conversation to money? Starting a conversation with a cold call? Or just knowing who to call?

When we started, none of this seemed obvious – there was no manual and our early jobs provided no training.

In snowy Chicago at a recent CASE conference, we realized we were not alone: everyone is struggling with this!

In a room of 200 professional fundraisers, only three had received any formal training. Holy cow! After our presentation, dozens of people contacted us to get a simple productivity tool.

And that's why we decided to create Fundraiser's Monthly as a resource – that will grow to be a giant resource! – for all you mission-driven fundraisers out there.

If you need a mentor, we’re offering! If you...

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