The Ask… no other action, technique or step in your fundraising program is more important than the ask. I meet and speak regularly with fundraising professionals nationwide. I truly believe in the old adage from the good book that “Iron Sharpens Iron”. Networking with other leaders of NPO’s, sharing our challenges and successes, is critical for improvement and making our charities better to meet the needs of others.
Without the crash and candor of iron coming down hard against iron the blade of operations, especially in non-profit organizations, rarely becomes sharp. I had a friend explain it to me another way a few months back. He said he believed so often non-profits fall into a pattern of doing things the “same old way”. He compared it to the way your eye’s gloss over a “spot on the wall”. Once you’ve seen the spot a few hundred times everytime you enter your office your mind’s eye somehow doesn’t notice the spot. Somehow the blemishes disappear after you ignore them day after day.
Our job as NPO leaders is to point out those “spots on the wall” in order to make improvements in our systems and raise the much needed support for the causes we are dedicated to. In starting the new year, I like to look at my walls to see if there are any spots I’ve been missing. I also reach out to friends, other industry leaders and co-workers to ask what “spots” do they see and what spots have they been cleaning up themselves. This year, unlike anytime I can remember over the last 25 years, the glaring spot on the wall is improving our “annual ask strategy” with our supporters, partners and investors.
Industry-wide charities are struggling with procuring major gifts. While total giving appears to be on the mend (although it is still nowhere close to the pre-crash 2007 record levels), major giving is seeing a significant decline. According to figures compiled by the Chronicle of Philantropy, there were 753 charitable gifts of $1-million or more in 2007. By 2011, that number had been cut to less than half — to 364. The totals of those gifts annually went from $32.2 -billion to just $4.1-billion. Many expect that number to flatten again as soon as 2012 numbers are compiled and released.
I truly believe the reason we are seeing major giving flatten is because NPO leaders have pulled back. Of the 2.1 million charities doing business in the United States, most enter the new year without an ask strategy. We don’t take the time to develop our 7-figure, 6-figure and 5-figure asks. We don’t have a case for support. We don’t even have a needs list. We get sloppy with our research and do not determine our supporters “donative intent” and giving capacity.
Over the next few weeks RoyJonesReports.com will be exploring how to prepare for the ask and then outlining how to make the ask. We approach it from the perspective of those who are actually making the major gift. I will also give examples of different types of asks and outline real examples from my career of “asks” that have worked and some that did not.
If you have any specific topics you’d like addressed or if you have some examples of ask strategies or case studies that you could share, please send them by way at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, “Iron Sharpens Iron”. Thanks for being my friend and partner in this wonderful work we call PHILANTHROPY.