Ask Early and Often



Asking for help is never easy -- especially when it involves money.

And when you’re operating an organization funded by charitable donations, there’s no way to avoid the awkward discomfort of “begging” your donors for money throughout the year.

But while you’re worried about over-asking, you may not be asking enough.

Let’s say you’re raising money to buy new textbooks for an elementary school.  A class of 35 students needs 35 geography books at $99.75 per book.  Your list of donors includes previous donors to school fundraisers, parents, and faculty.

In your fundraising letter, you describe the poor condition of the school’s current books.  You talk about how a new set of books would improve the quality of students’ education -- and how difficult it is for the school to find funding to keep learning materials up-to-date.  At the very end, you ask your donor to “consider making a gift to help our school.”

Sounds like a pretty good letter -- what parent wouldn’t want their child to have the best education possible?  And you’ve made your appeal without a bunch of pushy asks.

In reality, it’s not likely that your letter would get many contributions.  It might even be a complete flop.

Failing to make strong asks in your letters is a common pitfall that can seriously affect the success of your fundraising campaign.  In trying to avoid coming off needy or demanding to your donors, you can end up with a letter that doesn’t have a clear call-to-action at all -- and then it’s no wonder that donations don’t come in.

A successful fundraising letter doesn’t beat around the bush.  The ask is direct, repeated, and specific.  Instead of waiting until the end of your letter to ask that your donor “consider making a gift,” ask “will you please help us purchase a new geography textbook for every student by contributing $50?”  And ask it often in your letter.

Strong asks take the effort out of donating -- telling the donors exactly what they can give today to support the cause.  And a strong ask tells donors exactly how their gift makes a difference.  Tell your donors that just two $50 dollar donations is enough to provide one student with a new book.  Or that if they choose to give $100, they can provide their own child with a new book.

Never forget: your donors WANT to help you.  If they’ve ended up on your donor list, it’s because they’ve already contributed to your cause or causes like yours (or they have a vested interest in your cause -- such as having a child enrolled in your school). 

Your job isn’t to convince your donors to care -- it’s to remind them how much they already care.  But you can’t expect your supporters to help you unless you tell them exactly what you need them to do.