How to Ask for Money

We enjoy comments to Rich TIPS, and recently had one asking for ideas on how to coach board members to ask for money. So often we place emphasis on how board members can help open doors, accompany executive directors or development directors on funder or corporate sponsor visits, and of course support the organization with their own gifts. It’s so typical that a board member will say, “I can do practically anything you need me to do . . . but please don’t make me ask for money!”

But depending on how some of your board members do become engaged in the donor cultivation process, there will be times when they need to be ready to make the ask. Here are some TIPS to prepare them:

  1. Prepare, practice, and polish that elevator speech. (See our TIP, “Does your elevator speech stop at the wrong floor?,” here). It is your opening statement. Make sure you include your own name and your role as volunteer.
  2. In one sentence, be ready to describe the agency’s budget and include its top three percentages: “Our annual budget is $2.2 million, with about 55% from individuals, 30% from foundations, and 10% from events.”
  3. Describe the organization’s fundraising strategy that this donor fits into: longtime supporter, program alumna, family or personal connection to your cause, etc. Your donor will appreciate knowing that today’s ask is part of a well-conceived strategy, and that you understand who they are.
  4. Always ask for a specific amount.
  5. Explain how this amount supports a specific program activity.
  6. Without being obvious, repeat the name of your organization several times (in place of “we”).
  7. Explain why you need the money now. This is the delicate balance of “urgency without crisis.”
  8. Remind the donor that their gift to your 501(c)(3) is tax deductible.
  9. Ask for the dollar amount again, smile, and stop talking. Wait for a response.
  10. Be prepared to answer questions, but keep your answers brief. Don’t lose the tenor of the ask by digressing down a sidestreet.

Regardless of the answer, always thank the person for their time and consideration. Leave with a plan of how and when they should expect to hear from you again. If the donor is not making a gift today, mention a future need or campaign that “…perhaps you’ll be interested in helping us with next spring.”

1 Comment

  1. Jessica Nimoy
    August 12, 2011

    I always remember learning to ask if a donor would consider buying a loaf of bread to feed children instead of asking for $5.00. I think this is a great way to drive home the “ask”. “Just give me cash…because we need it…” is weak. Donors want to know to what they are giving, the purpose and why.

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