Most of us struggle with asking for things. Time, money, supplies, expertise — whatever it is, it can be hard to admit that you can’t do something on your own.
But … how often are you pleased when someone asks you to help with something that you are good at? Or for you to give a donation to a cause that you truly care about? Sure, not every ask is a good ask, and there are certainly folks who ask for way too much. But when you’re invested in something, being asked to help is validating.
Many of my fellow fundraisers struggle with making the ask — they’re excellent at the other areas of fundraising, but hesitant when it comes to asking for something. So they don’t ask at all. They just assume that, because they’re building a strong relationship with a donor and the donor is increasingly invested in the organization’s mission, that money will just start to flow.
Money doesn’t grow on trees. It won’t appear because you will it to. You have to ask for it.
And I get that it can be scary to ask for something. Especially someone’s hard earned cash. But if you’re doing it right, the ask should be the easiest part of the job.
There’s an old saying in fundraising: If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money. I’ve found this to be completely true. If you’re asking for advice, you’re signaling to someone that you trust their opinion and expertise and want to build a stronger relationship with them. And relationship-building is the key to successfully asking for something.
It’s the same across all industries:
- Are you likely to switch electric providers because a stranger knocked on your door on a Saturday afternoon and told you about a cheaper option? Or are you more likely to switch energy providers because you are good friends with someone who has had a great experience with them and shared it with you?
- Would you prefer to vote for the person who spent 20 minutes getting to know you and demonstrating that they care about the same things you do, or the person who waves at you from a billboard?
- Would you volunteer to support an event for someone you just met, or someone who you’ve spent the last six months connecting with over coffee?
I think the biggest thing I’ve found as a fundraiser is that people want to be asked. They care about your cause and they want to help you, but they don’t know how. Asking them to get involved is giving them an opportunity, not burdening them.
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And, of course, the more you ask them to get involved, the more they will grow to care about your organization and want to give more. So don’t stop! A volunteer will tell you when they have been asked too much or can not accommodate your request. But if you stop asking all together, you may miss out on some great opportunities.
I’ve been running with Back on My Feet for almost two years, and there are four teams here in Philadelphia that are almost entirely volunteer managed. In order for that to work, you have to ask, and then ask some more, to ensure that there is a constant stream of volunteers for week day runs, weekend races, training runs, expos and bib pickups, fundraising galas, and more.
Some of my fellow volunteers who I wouldn’t have thought would embrace a leadership role have stepped up and become the best team leaders. Folks who I would have thought were too busy to dedicate time to BOMF have taken on the more random shifts or spur of the moment activities. It’s so great to watch — the more BOMF asks, the more its volunteers want to step up and help.
I’ve also done my fair share of fundraising walks and runs, where I’m posting to my social media channels asking for support. And there are always a few friends or former coworkers that I haven’t talked to in months or years who unexpectedly come through with a donation, even though I wouldn’t have thought to ask them directly.
So, if whether you’re facing a fundraiser of your own or just need to some help planting spring flowers this weekend, don’t be afraid to ask for help!-30-
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