I always start my trainings by asking the audience to share a word or two response to the question, “How do you feel about soliciting – asking for money?”. Invariably a majority of responses are along the lines of “hate it,” “nervous,” “like I'm begging,” and “it depends on the cause.” This kind of angsty response is what you'd expect from a group that chose to attend a session called “Fundraising: Getting Past the Fear of Asking.”
But then I ask them, “How do you feel when you write a check to your favorite organization?”. This is money they've set aside for charity – not their lunch money or fun money. The organization is one they've gotten to know and respect – and the cause is one they care deeply about. They're about to write the check, or more likely filling out a form on a website, how do they feel now? The room immediately lightens up and the responses include “great,” “engaged,” “making difference,” “good,” and “wish I could do more.”
Interesting. Asking for money makes people feel anxious, but donating makes them feel awesome. Let's reflect on that for a moment. Asking = bad, giving = good.
What's the number one reason people don't give? They are not asked. That's right, people don't give if they're not asked, and they're more likely to give if someone they know and trust asks them. So if you don't get past your fear of asking you are denying your friends the ability to feel like they're making a difference – the ability to be truly engaged with a cause they care about. You are keeping your friends from feeling great.
It's important to always put yourself in the donor's shoes when you're fundraising. What is their motivation for giving? What is their connection to you or the organization? One way to do this is to always donate yourself before asking others to do so. Don't feel comfortable donating? Then reflect on what is keeping you from being completely confident in the organization and deal with that before you ask others to donate.
How many people will you need to ask? You will have to ask way more people than the number of gifts you need. If this wasn't true you could just ask 10 people for $500 each and be able to raise $5,000 right away. In reality you'll need 4 prospects to find one person to give the amount you're asking and one to give a smaller amount. According to this gift range calculator, you would need 204 prospects that lead to 51 donors to raise $5,000 – with gifts ranging from under $50 to $500.
204 prospects lead to 51 gifts? You need to be ok with some people saying no. Are they saying no to you personally? No. They might be all about saving puppies and kittens and you're asking them to support ending domestic violence. It's just not a good fit. Your cause and the causes they support don't align. You can do research about your prospect’s 3 Cs – Capacity, Connection, Commitment – to determine whether they have the capacity to give the amount you're asking, a strong connection with either you or the organization, and a commitment to your cause in general. In the case of ending domestic violence, you would have a stronger prospect if they have already demonstrated support for related causes, like women's rights, abortion access, or feminism. If all of their philanthropy has been related to puppies and kittens, they would be a less likely prospect. But don’t count them out entirely if you have a strong relationship with them, especially if they have the capacity to make the size gift you're looking for.
You don't have to ask everyone who comes to mind. After you've built up your confidence and had some success fundraising from people who are sympathetic to your cause, you might approach your rich uncle who completely disagrees with you politically. It's possible he'll give a gift in support of your efforts, but he's definitely a long shot. Don't let your angst about asking him stop you from asking all the other people you know who are genuinely interested and looking for ways to make a difference.
As Kim Klein, nationally known fundraising expert and author, said, “If you want money, you have to ask for it. If you ask enough people, you will get it. The word you will hear most often is ‘no' so your success depends on the number of people you ask. If no one has turned you down recently, it's because you haven't been asking enough. If you are afraid or uncomfortable asking for money, do it anyway. What you believe in has to be bigger than what you are afraid of.”
Want more information about my Fundraising: Getting Past the Fear of Asking (2 or 3 hour) session? Contact me for information about bringing this or my other relationship-building sessions to your organization. Please email with “Training Request” in the subject line.