Always Ask for Something: A Checklist for Fund-Raisers

Always Ask for Something: A Checklist for Fund-Raisers

Many fund-raisers, especially those new to the profession, wonder when it’s appropriate to ask a prospective partner to make a contribution to the cause.  We recommend that you always ask for something, either financial or non-financial, in every meeting with a partner or prospective partner.  The things you ask for may include:

  • Networking contacts (“Who else do you know who would like to hear about our organization?”)
  • Ideas and insights (“What suggestions about our work do you have that we need to consider?”)
  • Technical skills (“We’ve been trying to solve problem X—do you have any advice for us, or can you connect us with someone who will?”)
  • In-kind gifts (“Can you or your company provide us with some of the goods and services we need to continue and expand our work?”)
  • Organizational resources (“Are there people or departments in your company that should get involved with our cause?”)
  • Time and talent (“Can I sign you up to participate in our next volunteer training session?”)
  • Leadership (“Would you like to consider a role on our board, our advisory council, or another part of our team?”)
  • A follow-up meeting (“I’ve enjoyed this conversation immensely—can we schedule another conversation when we can delve more deeply into some of the topics we’ve begun to explore together?”)

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and by the tastes, talents, and resources of your partner.  Maybe you’ll ask him or her to host a dinner or to introduce you to someone whom you’ve been wanting to meet.  Maybe you’ll request an endorsement message to appear on your organization’s website or an interesting donation for a charity auction.  Maybe you’ll invite some ideas about how to improve the organization’s communication efforts or a bit of advice about a lobbying effort you are planning.

It almost doesn’t matter what you ask for—but get in the habit of asking for something.  It strengthens your confidence when the time comes to ask for a financial donation; it creates a built-in opportunity to follow up with your new partner a few weeks later; and it helps establish a bond between the two of you that makes each additional commitment feel easier and more natural.