By Brian Saber
We all know that asking doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Your organization and staff have to embrace fundraising clear across the board in order for you to develop a strong culture of asking.
Think of what it would mean if you did have a culture of asking. First and foremost, fundraising would stop being a dirty word! We all know that as soon as we mention the word fundraising most people cringe. Well, that isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it? So how do we shape a culture of asking and a strong fundraising future at our organization?
1) View capital campaigns as the standard
During a capital campaign we invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to put asking front and center. Capital campaigns use strategic approaches to fundraising that engage people, create a clear focus on larger gifts and an energy that drives success.
It’s no surprise that these campaigns are often successful. We can’t always operate at this level, but we can apply some standards from these campaigns to our organization.
2) Asking can’t only be about money
We’re never going to have a culture of asking if the only clear reason for asking is the “need” for money. We first have to make sure we have shared values and can articulate them. That comes about when our board and staff experience programs and report back at meetings.
3) Get the leaders involved
Our leaders must set the example by asking. Are your executive director and board chair asking? If the leaders aren’t asking, why would anyone else? Even if you have full-time development staff, it’s important for the executive director to be out front fundraising.
Oftentimes board members don’t even realize what fundraising is. For most, when we say fundraising they assume it means asking everyone they know for money. We need our board to fundraise by opening doors and cultivating people who can make major gifts.
4) Train everyone to ask
Most people have little or no fundraising training and that’s a recipe for disaster. Any task can only be done well if one is taught how to do it and then given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Asking people to do something they don’t think they can do well will cause them to resist helping.
5) Create an asking plan
Develop an annual fundraising plan that quantifies how many cultivation and solicitation meetings you plan to conduct. Board and staff need to work together to create the plan if everyone is going to commit to it.
Outline clear goals and objectives for the plan, and then assign people the roles they agree to take. Have a set completion date for the plan. This way everyone has a date to stick to and tasks will get done one time. Be sure to review the plan regularly and report on progress.
6) Don’t twist any arms
Everyone has to willingly accept their assignments – going out there under duress will not be helpful. And don’t assign more than 4 prospects at a time to board members – this will be overwhelming and cause less work to get done.
7) Be realistic
And perhaps most importantly, be realistic; we can’t go from 0-60 overnight. It’s much better to celebrate many small successes than it is to set the bar too high. Never forget to celebrate every one’s large and small asking successes; they deserve it. And since the New Year is here, it’s the perfect time to evaluate what’s realistic and what you can do more of this year.
So the next time you get frustrated about the lack of asking at your organization, take a good hard look at whether you’re creating a culture that supports it.
About The Author
Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.