How to Make Your First Fundraising Ask

Asking people for money can be intimidating. Even seasoned fundraisers sometimes feel anxious when making an ask. For those who have never made a fundraising ask before, the stress and fear can feel overwhelming.

But it doesn’t need to be. Everyone can learn to make successful fundraising asks, no matter their personality or skill level.

If you’re preparing for your first fundraising ask, fear not! You can overcome anxiety or fear to make great fundraising asks by practicing the right skills and mindset.

Before learning how to deliver the ask, however, it's important that you understand three simple rules that will set you up to successfully ask donors for money.

3 Rules for Setting Up Successful Fundraising Asks

1. Believe in fundraising.

To make successful asks, it's imperative that you believe in the power of fundraising. Far too many fundraisers go into their first asks feeling like raising money is a necessary evil, only to be dealt with so that they can get back to working on their nonprofit’s programs. Still others feel icky or underhanded about asking for donations, as if needing to raise money is something to be ashamed of.

If this is how you feel about fundraising, it will rub off on the donors you meet with.

When you are fundraising, you are asking donors to invest in a better world.

Instead, be proud of your fundraising. Remember, your nonprofit does great work. In order to do that work, it needs to raise money, and the more money you raise, the more good your organization can do in the world through your nonprofit's mission.

When you are fundraising, you are simply asking your donors to invest in a better world. Isn’t that something to be proud of?

2. Cultivate relationships first.

Remember that if you want your donors to say “yes” to your requests, then you need to cultivate relationships with them before you ask them for money. You should never ask a donor for a gift the first time you meet them.

RELATED: Why Small Nonprofits Need 100% Board Giving

Instead, you should spend time building a relationship with the donor, getting them involved with your organization, asking for their advice and ideas, and getting them invested in your vision. Then you make the ask.

When you cultivate donors correctly, you make them feel like donating to your nonprofit is a logical step for them, and they will look forward to making in support of your work.

3. Practice your pitch.

When it comes to fundraising asks, practice really does make perfect. Spend time reviewing what the ask sounds like in your head. Say it over and over again to yourself. Then, practice your meeting and ask with a friend, family member, or colleague.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be during the actual ask.

How to Craft a Successful Fundraising Ask

Now that you know the three rules for preparing to make an ask, it’s time to look at the ask itself. What does a good ask look like? Here’s a simple three-step formula for crafting a successful fundraising ask.

1. Your ask must be a question.

Asks shouldn’t be statements, they should be questions—ones that can be answered “yes” or “no.”

Avoid wishy-washy asks like, “I hope you will consider making a gift to our non-profit this year.” That type of ask isn’t really an ask at all: You didn’t pose a question to your donor, so you can’t expect them to give you an answer.

The most effective way to raise money is by making in-person asks.

Instead, ask something like, “Would you be willing to make a $5,000 donation to support our work this year?” That’s a true ask, because it is phrased as a question that calls for a “yes” or “no” from your donor.

2. Always ask for a specific amount.

Many nonprofit fundraisers make asks without specifying the amount they are asking for. They say things like, “Would you be able to make a donation to our annual campaign?” This is phrased as a question, which is good, but doesn’t include an ask amount. The donor has no anchor in his or her head to guide their giving level.

Asks like this often lead to lower gifts that the donor could potentially afford. Instead, say something specific, such as, “Would you be able to make a $1,000 donation to our annual campaign?”

3. After you make the ask, be quiet!

Finally, after the ask, be quiet. Many fundraisers end up talking themselves out of gifts (or into accepting lower levels of gifts) because they chatter away after the ask, before the donor has a chance to say "yes" or "no." After you ask for a gift, let your donor think!

If your donor is silent for a long time, you might worry that they're mad at you for asking, or that they're upset at the ask amount, but those things are almost never true.

Instead, your donor is probably thinking about a way to say, “Yes!” They may need to figure out how they can afford the gift, whether they need to check with their spouse, or what account to write a check out of.

So don’t talk yourself out of a gift. Instead, make your ask and then sit quietly until your donor gives you an answer.

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Making your first ask doesn’t need to be scary. Use these tips to prepare for the ask, making sure you practice the conversation and ask again until you feel comfortable saying the words. Then, schedule a meeting and get ready to hear, “Yes!”


Joe Garecht is the president of Garecht Fundraising Associates, and the editor of The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest. He has almost 20 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, and focuses his consulting work on helping small and midsize organizations build sustainable fundraising systems.


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