What to Say? Part 3

Meetings. You have meetings. Lots and lots….but still, you are not raising lots and lots of money. Why is that?

It’s such a duh question with an equally obvious answer, but since (a) it is at the heart of our failures and (b) I am the Queen of Obvious, here goes:

Either you are meeting with the wrong people and/or you aren’t actually asking them for a gift. For many of us, that is the rub. How do you get from talking about the family, their home, the latest vacation, the program or your organization to what fundraisers love to call (with a bugle blare) “The Ask.”

Clearly, just jumping in and demanding that they “Gimme Money,” to paraphrase that greatest of all rock n’ roll bands, isn’t a cool move. But ask you must, and you must NOT be too subtle about it.

Lest this concern you, here’s a news flash: In over 90% of the cases, the person sitting across from you knows the purpose of your meeting—and they accepted anyway. So subtlety is not needed.

Indeed, on occasion, as you are telling the about your project, the prospect will ask, “What can I do?”

If this has ever happened to you, did you blow it? Be honest now. I know I have. Instead of giving a straight forward, “We need your financial support” answer, too often we beat about the bush and speak vaguely about involvement or “helping us” in some undefined way.

If you are at the point of qualifying someone or meeting to ascertain the level at which you can expect support, you might consider whipping out a gift table—either one that shows levels of gift clubs with the benefits attached to each level, or the kind you put together that shows how many gifts at the various levels you need to reach a certain goal. Then ask, “Where do you see yourself on this chart?”

There’s an old saw in development that says if a prospect whips out his or her checkbook and writes a check for the amount you requested, you’ve left money on the table. Perhaps. I’ve always believed that it gave you the starting point for the next ask. Nevertheless, there is good reason to find out what the prospect is easily willing to entertain as a possible gift.

This, at least, tells you the lowest level you should request. When you finally get to the actual gift ask, it should be somewhat higher than this first indication.

Sometimes, though, you are not ready to ask for the gift. Ask for introductions to their friends or colleagues. Ask if they would be willing to host a reception at their home (and then make sure you follow up and havethe reception). Ask them to come and talk with your students, or clients. Invite them to a special event. Ask if you can send them some additional information.

At this point, you are asking for things that will bring them closer to the organization and, more importantly, you are getting them in the habit of saying “yes” to you.

Umm….maybe I should try this technique on my husband.

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About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
This entry was posted in cultivation, fundraising, prospecting, the ask. Bookmark the permalink.

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