You Have to Ask


The organization had a plan—to meet the small challenge grant a board member gave, they were going to target the donors on their mailing list.  They also thought that crowdfunding would be a great idea, as would peer-to-peer asks.  Sounded good, but something got lost in the translation.

By the end of the challenge period, they had raised virtually nothing.  And that was when they called me.

“Tell me,” I said, “how your donors were asked.”

Well, it was announced in a regular eblast—the one they send out every month.  And there was something—fleetingly—on the website.  But no, they didn’t do a special mailing, nor did they call or otherwise contact likely donors for this appeal.

Crowdfunding—they identified the platform they would use.  But no, they never got around to actually putting something up and, truth to tell, they don’t really have a crowd from which to fund from.

As for peer-to-peer, they were hoping that their board members and other supporters would ask their social media contacts to join them.  But join them in what?  None of them were asked to give.  More to the point, there was no content pushed out to people asking them to post on whatever social media platforms they use.

The problem is obvious—to get, you must ask.  And you must make it easy both for donors to give as well as for those asking to do their job.

Before you plan a campaign of any type or size, make sure you have all the pieces in place.  That means understanding not just what you are doing, but how you are doing it.

That means having the messaging in place.  Write the letter or letters; draft things for volunteers to share with their networks—and don’t forget a link so they can donate. If you are doing crowd funding, beyond the software, how are you pushing people to that site?

Beyond arm’s length fundraising—who are you getting more up close and personal with?  Is that a call, a meeting, inviting them to a small group gathering?

And most of all, make sure you have a clear, compelling ask.
Fundraising is about relationships, and like relationships, it takes thought and it takes work.  And, like relationships, when it works out it worth all the effort.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping staff and volunteers to ask!  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and do email Janet to schedule a free 30-minute consultation


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 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.
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