The “Ask” in the Task of Fundraising

Written by Brandon Allen 

Executive Director | Fortify Foundation

One of the areas we all probably struggle in at some point in time is asking people for donations.

There was a very brief period in my life where I was in transition of jobs and I decided to try out sales. I will never forget my interview. The interviewer wanted to find out whether or not I was truly equipped for the position and tasked me with selling them a pen. In the moment, I had asked if I could step out into the hallway and act as if I was coming in as a first-time seller. Truth be told, this was just my way of thinking I could sneak in some extra time to think about some talking points for this magnificent, remarkable, beyond words and yet, truth be told, still lackluster pen. From my vantage point, I pulled out all the stops! I had the buyer/interviewer consider every aspect of the pen. The color was a brilliant blue with a matching head and grip. The clip was a perfect design in its contours and gold branded lettering. It wrote marvelously without any gaps as you moved along the paper. I felt like I hit the nail on the head! Surely, no one prior to me had come up with such a great display of detail in their sales pitch!

I will never forget what the interviewer said to me at the end of my presentation. “Is there anything else?” ‘What else could there possibly be?’ I thought. My mind immediately rushed through all the details and I still could not figure out what I could have left out. In all my work and hard effort, there was just one piece missing…the ask! I never actually asked the buyer/interviewer if they wanted to buy the pen. It was shortly after that the interviewer shared with me that one of the best people they hired simply asked the question, “Do you want to buy this pen or not?” Wait… What? How in the world could that be a great sales pitch? But it’s the asking that is most important!

This is what we are all faced with at some point in time within our respective ministries. In order to move forward and sometimes gain the funds we need, we must ask! I know this is a difficult task for many of us and it is most certainly not the most enjoyable part of any of our jobs. Life would be so much easier if people were just naturally inclined to walk up and drop a load of cash in our laps. But, alas, it does not work that way (if perchance you can prove me wrong, I would love to have a conversation with you!). Now admittedly, I am not going to say that this is something that I have in any way, shape, or form mastered. However, I am learning and growing as we all need to be! As with any fundraiser, there are a number of things that must happen…

1. People have to catch the vision!

Our potential donors must understand what you are trying to accomplish within your organization. This is something that we all too often take for granted. In our minds, how can they not know this? We are in the job of educating students from a Biblical worldview perspective. No doubt that is certainly at the core of what we do! But the next question to ask yourself is, what makes us unique? Should there be another school up the road that is in Christian education, what sets us apart? For some, they can see it as soon as they step onto your campus. Maybe you have been blessed with beautiful, spacious, and up-to-date facilities. For others, it may be the experience they have when they meet your staff and see the smiles on the faces of all (well, most) of the students. The spirit of the school has its own feel that has a tendency to draw people in. Perhaps it is the curriculum or the past 5 years test scores that compare to the community’s average. Whatever that piece may be, capitalize on it! Sure, at the core you are an educational institution. But the vision should go well beyond that! Make sure that your vision is solidified in your mind so you can help others see it and catch it as well!

2. People have to understand the need!

Another area that we often take for granted is expressing the immediate and long term needs. We all have them so we assume every one must know about them. Let me ask you, when is the last time you gave consideration to someone else’s utility bill? If I was a betting man, I would say it has not been a recent thought if it has ever been a thought at all! Sure, we all know that there are expenses involved but consider it from the donor’s perspective. In their minds they operate by asking “What are the areas of greatest need and how can I best contribute?” They may truly want to help, but they also want to know that they are accomplishing something with their donations. Again, we can appreciate the at random times when some donor has contributed to the school with no restrictions. But we also know that those may not be as often as we’d like. Also, while that may work for some donors, others want a specific purpose to be accomplished with their hard-earned dollars. This is why it is important to specify what the funds are going towards.

3. People have to have options!

A different point of consideration is giving multiple options. It is a great thing when we can direct the funds, but we also must realize that a specific area may be a missed opportunity if the donor’s heart is not in it. 

There are truly people out there who have a heart for the conservation of the armadillo girded lizard of South Africa. Personally, that is not something that I can relate to all that much. If you took the most passionate individual with the best award-winning presentation and put them in front of me to help conserve this special lizard, I still would not have a hard time walking away with the same amount of money in my pocket and with more information than I probably cared for (I know, I know, I’m heartless!). 

However, if that same person shared that their organization also had a fund to help feed starving children in that same area, I would be way more inclined to give! What’s the difference? I gave an option to give in the area that the donor was more passionate about. We most certainly do not want to present 15 different options at any one given fundraiser, but we can most certainly help incite people to give in accordant to where their heart is! 

4. People always give more where they have personally contributed.

 I know at first this may sound either redundant or somewhat of an oxymoronic statement but please allow me to explain. Remember as a kid when you were assigned a project? What was the difference when you were just assigned to a group versus being assigned to a specific role in the group? When we are given specific roles with which we can be creative with, we are more inclined to contribute because of our personal involvement. Any time a donor is given an avenue in which their opinions/thoughts are valued, it creates a greater interest. When that interest is created, then the desire to see it through is expounded.  

This is what I mean for those that will give more when they have personally contributed. It may not be feasible every time, but giving people an opportunity to personally have a hand in something will create a greater return. 

This brings us back to the main point… the ASK! While we may not like to do it, we still want to be as successful as possible at it. When we accomplish the 4 tasks above, the ask will be that much easier! Why? Because the vision is caught, the need is understood, the options are available, and perhaps, if done well enough, the donor will come to ask you where they might give!