Knowing When NOT to Ask

stop sign
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Most would argue that in fundraising the million dollar question is when to ask. I’m not disagreeing, but I propose that the billion dollar question is knowing when NOT to ask. I know, I know – fundraising is about raising money and you can’t possibly raise money without asking – but you can strengthen the foundation for a future ask by waiting and just not asking.

Let me share two scenarios when you should NOT ask – feel free to use these examples when dealing with a board member or fellow team member who just can’t help themselves.

But, everyone is already here…
An organization had spent money to have a stewardship event – an opportunity to thank their generous donors for all they’ve given and share the successes their donations had made possible. The development team understood this, but the organization’s leadership was having a really hard time just enjoying the evening and sharing appreciation. “One little ask won’t hurt, there won’t be any pressure for them to give.” But, one little ask would change the whole mood of the room. The donors had been asked to attend as a thank you. In the end the development team won – no ask was made. Would someone have made a gift? It’s possible. But, they might not have made the next gift and they probably would have said no to the next invitation. You have to remember and be comfortable in knowing there are times that stewardship is what matters and knowing when that time is can be invaluable.

But, we have other/new stuff that needs support…
I was working with an organization who was preparing a stewardship e-mail to update their donors on how their Give Day gifts had been used to change lives. Give Days offer a unique opportunity to get new donors, but keeping them engaged and turning them into continued supporters can be tricky. The nonprofit asked, “Can we talk about the exciting things we have coming up that we’ll need them to support?” The answer – no. No, just thank them and tell the story of how their gift changed the world. The news about what comes next can come in later communications. For at least one communication, focus on showing them the impact they made and how grateful you and your constituents are for their support.

According to Penelope Burk’s research, 80% of donors say that a prompt meaningful thank you and additional communication that explains how the donation was used would convince them to make a second gift to an organization. Her research also tells us that 65% of first time donors don’t make a second gift – seems like the lack of follow up and stewardship could be the problem.

Donors need to know that we appreciate them for the gifts they’ve already made and they will never know that if we ask every time we see them. I challenge you to step back and make sure you know when to ask, and possibly even more important know when NOT to ask.

4 Things to Remember in Year-End Planning

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pumpkin flavored lattes have arrived. The Halloween costume shops have opened. Labor Day has come and gone. What does all of that mean for fundraising? Even though it’s still 90 degrees in Florida, this is the time to get your year-end fundraising plan together.  Make sure you think about more than how you are going to ask for money. Remember that the fundraising cycle includes these steps: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. For year-end giving, we tend to focus on solicitation but you can make sure you touch every step. Here’s how:

1. Identification – look back over the first 9 months of 2015. Who has been newly introduced to your organization? Look for ways to reconnect with them. Ask board members to help make these connections.

2. Cultivation – The end of the year is fast approaching but you’ve got four months left to engage your prospects in your organization’s good work. What is coming up in your organization’s activities that could be cultivation opportunities? Are there any celebrations? Do you have holiday related activities? Make sure you are inviting your prospects to see your mission first hand.

3. Solicitation – More than half of all charitable giving takes place in the last quarter of the calendar year. Remember that is you aren’t asking your donors for a gift, many other organizations will be. Make a plan to ask your supporters for a gift in the last quarter of the year. Find a way to work Giving Tuesday, December 1, into your year-end solicitation strategy.

4. Stewardship – The last quarter of the year provides many natural opportunities for saying thank you to your donors. Thanksgiving is our national holiday for this purpose. Be sure your donors know that you are thankful for them. National Philanthropy Day is November 15. This is a national event with many local celebrations including these Tampa Bay area AFP Chapters: Suncoast, Nature Coast, Polk County and Southwest Florida. In December the media will be flooded with ‘best of’ lists. Use that idea to tell your donors that they accomplished great things through your organization. Be sure that your communications are more than just asking for year-end gifts.

With four months left, you have time to wrap up 2015 in grand style. Don’t forget that the end of the year is more than asking for one more gift. It’s a chance to engage your donors in your mission.