Don’t Forget to Ask

ASK-1This time of year I am spending a lot of my time working with clients on developing their end of year appeal.  And while I push for a multi-platform approach, the direct mail letter is almost always the launching mechanism and is always the piece that sets the tone.

I work hard to make sure the letters I write reflect what the organization accomplishes in a very personal way.  And that the letter is clear about its purpose:  To ask for a gift.  That, after all, is why it is called an appeal.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

I don’t think that my words are perfect or that editing them is some sort of sacrilege. But I do worry when almost every edit is the one that takes out the ask!

If you are not willing to ask for support, you should not be surprised if every year you are scrambling to pay your bills, your staff, keep your doors open.  Or that first time donors don’t become second time donors and prospects never turn into donors.

The first thing to recognize is that people expect to be asked to support organizations and causes they care about.  But they also want to be shown what their support means and what it will help to accomplish.

The worst ask is the one that says we are in trouble and we need you to keep us afloat.  The best ask is to tell your donors and prospects how their gift supports the work that matters to them.

Simply put, that means that they don’t always care that much about the specifics of what you do as much as they care about the results.  Don’t talk about the 4 workshops or the 5 locations but, rather, tell what happens because of those workshops and in those locations.  How are lives changed?  How are things made better?  Problems solved?

Can you personalize it?  Tell a story—but keep it short and to the point.  Extraneous information is just that—extraneous.  And keep the focus on the purpose of this correspondence.  And that is?

YES!  The fact that all this happens because of you!  Your support ensures the success of our clients.  YOU—the donor—make the difference.

And so, won’t you give generously this year?


Janet Levine helps to move nonprofits from mired to inspired and helps them to raise more money to accomplish their important mission.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet to schedule your 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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2 Responses to Don’t Forget to Ask

  1. Brent Butler says:

    I just started reading your blog too busy to fund raise and I really like your approach to fund-raising. I work for a Christian non-profit and I fund our own outreach. I’m not a development officer but I often have to think like one for myself and for other projects I’m asked to lead.

    Recently I have been reading a lot and changing our approach to fund raising and really seeing some good results for people who share the dual role of active mission engagement and fund-raising. I actually found your article after searching on google for a couple hours. I did this because I’ve been thinking through new strategies to take lists of people I have that I know are interested in our type of nonprofit but I don’t have a referral or a direct connection….But I do have a really good reason to believe they are worth reaching out to, warming up and then asking (giving them an opportunity to get into my funnel). I don’t hear a lot of people give much strategy along these lines in fund-raising, but based on what I read from your blog I think you have more thoughts and resources on this topic. Am I correct?

    Do you have a basic strategy or process to follow that goes along with the cold calling blog post you wrote about?

    I already have a strategy for my current donors and prospects to ask in the future. I have been researching this topic on google and based on your cold call post I think you uniquely have some ways to fill in some of my gaps. I’d love your thoughts on this or would you consider writing about this in your next blog post?

    Brent Butler Central Florida Director 319.594.9000

    On Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 1:36 PM, Too Busy To Fundraise wrote:

    > janetlevineconsulting posted: “This time of year I am spending a lot of my > time working with clients on developing their end of year appeal. And > while I push for a multi-platform approach, the direct mail letter is > almost always the launching mechanism and is always the piece that set” >

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