The Goldie Company

Parley: October 2014 - Making the Ask: Lee Pigeau

In part one of our interview with Lee Pigeau, we discussed the importance of developing a fundraising committee.

In part two, we talked to Lee about “making the ask”. From working in healthcare to education to housing, Lee is seasoned at “making the ask” and providing advice on successfully asking a donor to give to your organization.

What do you mean by “making the ask”?

“Making the ask” is just fundraising jargon for initiating a financial transaction; asking for a donation or sponsorship.

How do you train volunteers on “making the ask”?

It is important that you give volunteers information they need, such as the case for support. Volunteers who are asking for donations are generally passionate but need the confidence that information and practice will give them. They need the stories that will capture your prospective donor’s attention, which will allow them to identify with your organization.

The next step is to prepare them, which can include scheduling visits, doing a run-through, and provide sales training if needed. But in preparing “the ask”, it is critical that you talk to your volunteer about the reasons they are asking for a gift. A well prepared volunteer will know the outcomes and results of a gift will and they will know how to handle a rejection appropriately.

Some donors will make you work for the money, so you need to prepare the volunteers for almost any response.

What is the biggest mistake in “making the ask”?

A sense of entitlement. The idea that your charity deserves the money. This isn’t respectful to the donor, a gift is their choice and there are many deserving charities. By feeling you deserve the gift or by using guilt as a tactic you aren’t doing anyone any favours. You need to be respectful and appropriately steward each donor.

How do you respond when the prospect says “no”?

If you prepared the volunteer and had all of your bases covered and the donor still says ‘no’, then you need to try and find out why the prospective donor did not give. If you understand the rationale for the “no”, respond respectfully and then say thank you anyway. Ask if the charity can still keep in contact and then start stewarding them in a different way that will help change the no to a yes.

As professional fundraisers, it is our job to remind volunteers that that if it was a “no” this time, it could be a “yes” next time.

How do you successfully make an “ask”?

Preparation is important. You need to know that the volunteer is prepared to make “the ask”. Volunteers need to be confident but humble, relaxed and sounding positive that the donation is going to make a difference. You need to prepare for the donor’s manner and potential responses and obstacles.

A donor will be happy to give when they are shown the impact of their gift and are thanked appropriately.

What do you expect fundraising, or the means in which it is conducted, to look like in the next 25 years?

Over the next 25 years, the basics are going to be the same, just as they have stayed the same over the past 25 years. It will be the same in the sense that the donors who care will make the biggest difference. Individuals will still be the major donors and corporate philanthropy will have less impact. At the core of fundraising, you will still need passionate volunteers who can connect with others.

In 25 years the decision makers will have grown up in the electronic age. The techniques will need to change; we are a society that trains young people to connect electronically, but charities don’t use technology to its fullest potential. Charities don’t drive technological changes but we must embrace it, which is all part of being vigilant.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Lee Pigeau for his thoughts on “making the ask”.