The Art & Science of Asking for Money

asking for money and money being handed over

There’s a difference between being a beggar and a fundraiser. Don’t conflate asking for money with groveling. You’re not demeaning yourself by asking for money. It’s actually a privilege.

There are different ways to ask for money. Let’s start by examining your donor segmentation. At the least, every nonprofit organization has three segments: major donors, middle donors and everyday donors. The method in which you approach each one varies.

All donors are important, but major donors are those people with a high inclination to give to your cause, as well as the means with which to make a transformational gift. Some of these folks self-identify—out of the blue you’ll receive a surprisingly large donation with zero cultivation. But that’s not typical.

To up your chances of ramping up your major giving, you’ll need to conduct a wealth screening of your entire donor database. (This is the “science” part.) We highly recommend DonorSearch.

As a result, you’ll be able to segment your donors and potential donors much more efficiently and begin to focus on building personal relationships with your best-rated folks. Create an individual strategy for each and remember it takes around 6-8 “touches” before you can even think about asking for money. (This is the “art” part.)

Don’t be surprised if some of the people you thought were everyday donors possess major gift potential. A potential or existing major donor needs to be asked for money in person. If you know they prefer a proposal, create one and bring it with you.

With middle donors, wealth screening can be enlightening, and help you identify people who could move up in their giving to you. Perhaps someone gives you $1,000 every December. Can that amount be nudged up slightly? All donors deserve your attention, but middle donors who are younger and enjoying higher capacity could become your future major gift prospects. Treat them accordingly.

And for your everyday donors, looking at their capacity can help you see who might be able to give at a higher level. If you’re thinking about launching a monthly giving program, these people will likely make up the bulk of that group. Email touches, a coordinated annual appeal using an omnichannel approach, and speedy gift acknowledgements work well in terms of donor retention.

Don’t forget to look at RFM scores. Recency, Frequency, and Money scores show you how loyal and committed donors are to your organization. Small and medium givers with high RFM scores can often be successfully brought into your legacy program. Remember that for everyday donors, death is likely the largest liquidity event in their lifetime, especially if they don’t have heirs. This allows them to make an impactful gift to an organization they love. Direct your everyday donors to Legacy Planner where they can write—or amend—their will at no cost to them.

OK, it’s time for some truth serum.

Are you afraid of asking for money? Believe it or not, many fundraisers are, ironic as that may seem. If you’re an introvert, all is not lost. Not every development person needs to be a gregarious extrovert.

Introverts are notoriously good listeners. If you listen to your donors deeply, you’ll begin to build a stronger relationship and asking for money won’t be a chore—it’ll be a privilege, and the natural outcome of certain conversations.

If you ask someone for money to support your organization, they may say “please get back to me” or “I need to discuss this with my spouse” or some other version of “not now.” Simply ask them when they would like you to follow up with them. Be sure you do it.

Imagine this rewritten as a dating scenario. You had a great first date, and then she never responded to you again. You were very interested in her and now you feel jilted. So, if you are asking someone for money, be sure to thank them generously after you receive the gift, and continue the relationship with thoughtful gestures, even something as seemingly innocuous as a birthday card or a hand-written note, or even a short email letting them know you’re thinking of them and appreciate them. One technique we’ve used is sending a photo of the persons their gift has supported along with a personal note. Don’t abandon your donors!

Bottom line: asking for money takes time, patience, and can be hard work. But, if you use the right tools and have the right mind-set, asking for money becomes easy, natural, and a privilege.

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