To Ask or Not to Ask, That is the Question
Fundraisers all share one thing in common: We love to score the big ask! It’s what gets our hearts pumping and adrenaline flowing. Making the BIG ask is a rush. But sometimes not making the ask is what makes us better fundraisers.
Fundraising is so much more than the ask. It’s about donor cultivation, stewardship and building lasting relationships. If an organization has a donor pyramid that is full at the bottom but empty at the top, then they’re going to work twice as hard (if not more) than a nonprofit that has spent time moving donors up the pyramid. It takes much more time and effort to find new donors than it does to cultivate current donors. For more info on donor pyramids, read Blackbaud’s “Transitional Giving for Building Strong Fundraising Pyramids.” The more engaged a donor becomes, the more likely it is that you will get the big gift. But do you (or your fundraising staff) know when a donor is ready for the big ask?
One of the hardest things for some fundraisers is knowing when NOT to make a solicitation. When a donor with great capacity has been identified and the makings of a relationship have been established, most people want to rush in and make the ask before someone else does. But that’s not always the best way to build a lasting relationship. Sometimes not making the ask will get you a lot farther, even if it does take a little longer.
Major donors know when they’re being cultivated. They know why you want to meet them for lunch and give them tickets to your event. They know an ask is coming. Many philanthropists have probably already decided how much they’re going to give you before you even make your pitch. The best thing a nonprofit can do is prove them wrong by being less interested in their money and more interested in what else they bring to the table.
By not making the ask, a person can learn to trust an organization and become more engaged in its mission and goals. The more engaged a donor becomes the more they are willing to invest time, energy, and yes, money. Once you’ve taken a potential donor and made them an interested constituent and then made them an active volunteer, then it’s time to make the ask. The likelihood is that it will pay off much more than had you done it at the front end.