Asking for a Donation – You CAN Do this!

For many of us, asking for a donation is the last thing we want to do. It feels uncomfortable. It feels pushy. It feels intrusive. Or, as my middle school daughter might say, it’s “cringy.”

These feelings are natural. In our culture (assuming you, like me, are a modern, western hemisphere type of person), money is a taboo subject. I think many people are more comfortable talking about sex than money. Many of us are just not raised to have open conversations about money, even if it’s part of a conversation about charitable giving.

How Can You Reframe the Experience of Asking?

After decades of helping people of all backgrounds and income levels learn how to ask for donations, I’ve come up with a few ways of reframing the act of the ask:

  • Remember that you are not asking for yourself. You are asking for someone who cannot ask for themselves.
  • You are asking for something, but you are also giving something; you are giving the potential donor an opportunity to be involved with a cause that you care about.
  • If you are asking for a gift from someone whom you know supports other causes, remember this: it’s is not their first time at this rodeo. If you’ve told them in advance why you want to talk to them (rather than springing this conversation on them like a thief in the night), they know what it’s all about, and they will roll with it.
  • What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? You thank them for listening, ask if they know anyone else who might be interested, and then move on. They give you a litany of complaints about the organization or cause? You listen with a smile, thank them for their honesty, offer to get back to them with additional information if they wish, and then move on. They are offended? You thank them for listening, explain that you never meant to offend them and that you just wanted to invite them to be a part of something you care about, re-evaluate that friendship (Just kidding! Or maybe not…), and then move on. What’s the common denominator here? YOU MOVE ON. This conversation is not forever and ever. It’s a few minutes out of days, months, or years of a friendship or relationship with someone.
  • Your self-worth, confidence, or value is not measured by whether or not someone makes a donation. What they do is up to them. But you’ve already acted in a way that reflects your courage and values by merely asking. Before you even get a response, you’ve already won.

Is There Anything Else You Can Do to Deal with Those Jitters?

First of all, I don’t think the jitters are an entirely bad thing. Asking someone for a donation is a profound thing, and it should be approached with respect. That said, you don’t need to have a stomach full of butterflies! You can do a few things to make this process feel easier… and maybe even fun!

  • Practice the conversation with a friendly audience, perhaps someone who knows the organization, volunteers with the organization, or already gives to the cause.
  • I do not recommend memorizing a speech, but I do think it’s helpful to have a few key talking points or stories in mind.
  • Start with questions. I have lots of tips on how ask good questions. Everyone likes to talk about themselves! So get the other person talking, and make this a dialogue, not a monologue.

Give yourself permission to think of this conversation not as uncomfortable or “cringy,” but inspiring and fun! And don’t just measure your success by how much people give. Measure your success by how you show up, and how you and the other people feel at the end of your fundraising conversations.

Don’t miss out on new ideas and great tips on fundraising, leadership, writing, philanthropy, and lots of related topics. Join the PITCH list to get Lauren’s monthly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, and get a free gift when you sign up!