How to ask for money

How to ask for money

Often, I heard my colleagues lament “I don’t know how you do it. I can never ask anyone for money.” After each similar expression of angry longing (with a thinly shaded sniff of Oliver-Eskey’s position of development director), I come back by saying, “I’m not asking for money; I’m not asking for money. I’m asking people to share our vision and investment. The resources are not mine personally. Larger “. I know this sounds like a lot of Polyana nonsense, but guiding my professional compass in this way allows me and the teams I’ve worked with to be respectful, humble, ethical and fearless in securing resources.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a variety of methods for asking for money from donors. I’ve found whole court presses, manipulative selling tactics and a focus on need rarely work to secure gifts. Sometimes, these strategies offended potential donors so badly that the relationship was irreversibly damaged. Demanding money from people requires a mindset based on thoughtful humanity rather than the tropes of leadership, greed, and the bargaining approach often associated with development efforts.

Through the guidance of my mentors, working with successful fundraisers and securing numerous gifts, I have developed a philosophy that lays the foundation for the money ordering process. Here are some concepts that I found useful.

Ask for money, you will get advice. Ask advice, you will get money.

There is one basic rule of thumb for asking for money: never ask for money from someone the first time you meet them. Think of it like dating; Do you ask someone to marry you on your first date? of course not; That would be weird, because you don’t know each other. No trust is built, nor an understanding of shared interests, values ​​and aspirations.

If you ask someone for money in the first meeting, they will likely refuse and give you some unsolicited advice. You will probably never be allowed to ask a second time. Nobody wants to be treated as if they have value for their money and a means to an end.

While potential donors know that when a development official visits them, a gift request is imminent, successful requests require cultivation. Transplantation provides time to understand the donor’s interest and ability and when is the best time to give. This knowledge comes at the right time when the relationship is being built.

People give people they know and trust. Knowledge and trust are built over time by working together. One way to grow potential donors is to involve them in the vision process, such as inviting them to give advice on how to find the resources you need and how to drive the impact of the work (not how to do the work or what the outcome should be). Tips often turn into money when people have a vested interest in the success of your organization, its employees, and its goals. There is always value in involving people with their experiences and beliefs rather than in financial terms.

Gives people vision, they don’t need

Asking for money should never begin with an expression of desperation (unless you are dealing with a natural disaster and a real emergency). Yes, you may urgently need the resources you are looking for because without them, you may not be able to achieve what you want. But the need does not compel donors. Donors are inspired to donate by the “what and why” question – especially why. “What are you trying to do?” And why is it important?” are the most important questions to answer. Answer these two questions clearly and emotionally, with evidence backed up, and your likelihood of success will increase. Why? Because people want to support what will be successful.

Nobody wants to help a sinking ship. Donors want assurances that the act of contributing is not “throwing good money after bad,” but that their investment will enable growth and prosperity. They want to know that you have taken care of the resources you already have effectively and responsibly – even if you have very little. The most compelling proposals convey, “Look at what we’ve done with so little, and imagine what we could do if we had X amount of resources.”

The most effective way to secure donor support is to take them on a mental journey of a “what if…” or “imagine this…” Doing so provides an inspiring and hopeful journey as the donor imagines the endless possibilities of their money doing good for the longer they are alive life.

Just because someone has money, that doesn’t mean they’ll give it to you

The story chronicles the lives of the rich and famous – the size and value of their possessions and business holdings, their designer wardrobes and jewellery, the wonderful vacations they took, and how they wield power. The names are familiar, and sometimes news outlets will report on a celebrity or business titan who is making a significant contribution to some charitable effort. While it sometimes does, the likelihood of a Warren Buffett, Oprah, or Mackenzie Scott awarding your organization, program, or project is very slim. Seriously, you might be better off buying a lottery ticket.

So, next time you are in a meeting about potential donors, please refrain from mentioning the names of celebrities or anyone like them unless they are

  1. One of your relatives with whom you have a good reputation,
  2. Your best friend since you were 3 years old, or
  3. A famous film editor, and your mother bought them their first camera when they were 11.

The amount of visible wealth does not always correlate with generosity

People who have money to give to others usually don’t come with it because they spend a lot of money on tangible things. Oftentimes, they have money to offer because they collected it by not spending it. Legendary stories about people who don’t seem to have a fortune but donate millions at the end of their lives. I have seen a few instances of this generosity.

Not long ago, I knew a guy who bought his clothes from Goodwill. Once he went to Goodwill, and found the pants he wanted. Then he proceeded to hide them in the store. We asked, “What in the world are you doing?” He said, “Tomorrow is a big discount day. I will come back and save 10 percent.” When we tease him about his economy, he says, “The dollar you saved is another dollar I can give up.” The next gift he gave to our foundation was a $5 million contribution. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.

People don’t owe you anything

You may be the most well-known researcher of tardigrades (water bears or mossy pigs), but your groundbreaking research doesn’t automatically deserve funding. With potential donors, it’s time to practice a little humility. Realize that what you do may be important to your field and possibly the world, but it doesn’t necessarily make it vital to the individual donor. This is not because they are stupid or do not understand. That’s because they have the right to decide how their money is spent. A little bit of bullying, bullying, or stumbling over guilt won’t change this fact; An attitude of contempt will only lead to anger and rejection.

The one thing you never want to happen is for the donor to say to the development office and possibly your boss, “If you bring this person to see me again, I won’t give you another penny.” I’ve seen it happen and heard those words uttered by a donor. Don’t be so arrogant that you think anyone owes you anything just because you’re smart and have a great idea.

People don’t give (and give back) to get it

When someone provides the resources to promote your business, it is largely due to the giver’s belief in the promise that you will do as you say and ultimately succeed. What they receive in treatment (besides gratitude) is the satisfaction of knowing that they have enabled something greater than themselves through your work and commitment.

Unfortunately, some people think that the only reason donors give is to get something for the same external value — a seat on the board of directors to appoint a president or to influence decisions, put their name on a building (or similar), or receive other tangible expressions of gratitude .

Most people donate to see what cool things they can do with the resources they provide. It’s not that there is a building in their name, but what will happen in that building is the reason why someone would build a building. While some givers require some physical expression of recognition and immortality, most do not.

(Side note: some donors will try to get you to do all kinds of things, including immoral or illegal things, in exchange for a gift. You always have the right and the duty to say no. See also other articles I’ve written at Within higher education, “Why would the Foundation refuse a charitable gift?” and in guardianshipWhat you don’t know can hurt your organization. “)


Everyone in higher education owes a portion of their professional success to the generosity of others. This is not a tiring trifle but a tangible fact. Anything we achieve boils down to the fact that we couldn’t do any of it without someone else’s material contribution – primarily financial. Whether it is scholarships. programmatic and research support; modern building, equipment and supplies; Or the opportunity to attend a conference, a workshop or study abroad, if not for the altruism of others, many of us will not and will not be able to achieve success and prosperity. Thinking about how to request these resources—with respect, humility, gratitude, and diligence—is vital to future prosperity.

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