Just Ask

June 27th, 2011 | Posted by john in Fund Raising Tips

My first year walking on the 3-Day I had a hard time raising funds to meet my minimum. I have talked to several people since then that have said the same thing. The first year is just hard to get going. At the time I thought that it was just because people didn’t want to donate and because of that I was having a hard time. With several years between me and that year now, I think I can look back and say pretty confidently that my issue had to do with lack of focus on one key component to fund raising.

That same year, I was in a Bible study group with a guy named Mike Carrell. Mike’s job is in sales and even though I have never seen him at his job I can’t imagine a world where he is not good at it. Mike is the kind of person that gets along with everyone. He listens attentively to your stories and shows genuine interest in the things you talk about. If you are in a group he will pull you into a conversation because he sees that you aren’t in it. He is a genuinely good guy. I bring all this up, not so that you will seek him out to become his friend, but to give you background to where I was reminded of thus common sense advice.

One day, Mike and I and some others were talking about something. I honestly don’t remember what, but I can tell you that it wasn’t about the 3-Day. I tried to start typing what the conversation was but I just don’t remember. In a nutshell someone was thinking about asking someone else for something. Vague, but it serves the point of the story. Mike listens to the conversation and then says something to the effect of, “They can’t say yes if you don’t ask.'” Ok, those probably weren’t the exact words used, but it is the sentiment: if you don’t ask someone for something, you’re a whole lot less likely to get it than if you do ask for it. It seems really common sense, but I think a lot of us forget that and get so tied up in being afraid of asking for donations that we forget that simple concept.

That first year I was really good about telling people that I was walking in the 3-Day. There were a lot of oohs and ahhhs at the mileage that I was going to walk and the amount of money that I had to raise. I was not terribly good at asking people for donations to help me get to the point where I could actually do the walk.

Let’s face it. It’s easy to tell people that you are walking in this amazing event to end breast cancer. It does garner a lot of attention. And it really is a lot easier to tell people that you are doing the walk and then hope that they will get the picture than it is to actually ask them to donate. Yes, after hearing my story, some people did make a donation without me asking but I still had a long way to go. It took a little while for Mike’s advice to sink in, but once I started asking people for donations, sometimes repeatedly, my fund raising took off.

Even with that simple piece of advice, I know that it may still be difficult to start on your way to asking for donations. So here are a few things to do to get you working towards being more comfortable with asking for donations:

  • Pick a lesser goal, maybe the goal is just to get your first donation. Maybe it’s a monetary figure. Pick something attainable and work towards it and then pick a new goal.
  • Everyone always says to remember that you aren’t asking for the money for yourself. I like to take it one step further and combine it with the last item. Have you looked at your donation form? Did you notice that on the donation levels the 3-Day people gave put benchmarks for what your donation will go towards? I personally like the mammogram level ($120). I like to not only remember that I am not asking for money for myself, I am asking for money to fund Sue’s mammogram. Sue is a fictitious person I have made up representing one of the strangers that will benefit from the mammogram I helping to fund. Now I have a goal I can laser focus on, and it makes it that much easier go ask for donations.
  • Start with your sure bets. I think I have said this before, but you should always start with people you are next to certain will donate. It helps you build momentum. This person may be your mom or it may be your co-worker whose daughter you always buy girl scout cookies from. I don’t know who it is for you, but I am sure there is someone in your life that matches the description.

What’s the worst that can happen? Most likely the worst thing is going to be an answer of no. And some people are going to say no, but that’s ok. It’s just a word, no one is saying anything about your worth because they didn’t donate, they are just saying that right now they aren’t going to donate.

Right now is a good word in that sentence. Some people will say no and you know it’s over. Some people will not respond (if you are sending mail or email this is pretty common), this doesn’t really mean no, but it does mean you should follow up. I have gotten many donations from people for the simple reason that I don’t ask once, I ask week after week. Some will never donate, but a lot just forgot or meant to do it and lost the email. Stay on it, keep asking!

Just a few tips, but hopefully it will get you moving in the right direction. Remember, the key is to just ask. You may have some people say no, but you will have a whole lot more people donate than if you didn’t ask. Good luck, and I hope you reach your fund raising goals!


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