Fear of heights. Fear of snakes. Fear of asking someone to give to a nonprofit organization. While we can’t help with the first two, we can provide suggestions for overcoming fear of soliciting.
Personally asking someone to make a gift to a nonprofit you believe in is one of the most valuable things you can do. For some this is done with comfort, ease and joy. For others there is a twinge of fear, or maybe a silent scream of terror. Our words of advice: don’t let your fear hold you back. You can become one of the previously reluctant solicitors who now rejoice after a successful solicitation. It is truly a great feeling to know you are helping others give to a cause that you and they believe in.
While some people will make a meaningful gift to a nonprofit they haven’t had personal contact with, many who give a major gift do so because they were asked. In fact those who have the capacity to make a major gift often expect to be asked. “We would have given more, but we were never asked,” is something we have heard from more than a few donors and funders over the years. People want to be asked, and it is an honor to make the ask. That is the solicitor’s responsibility.
If you haven’t personally solicited a gift before, here are a few non-technical things to contemplate before doing so.
- How do you feel about money in general? Is it the root of all evil? A medium of exchange? A way of expressing your values?
- How do you feel when people ask you for money?
- How do you feel about asking someone else for money?
- Were you raised to not talk about money?
- Do you feel it is impolite to ask for a specific amount?
- Would you feel that you were bragging if you mentioned your philanthropy when asking someone else to give?
Mull these over before talking with others. Doing so can uncover the source of your reluctance to solicit, and help make you feel more comfortable talking about money.
Here are three technical things to remember. First, before you can ask anyone else to give, you need to make your own gift. If you are soliciting a major gift you need to have made a major gift. Second, take the time to participate in a gift solicitation that someone else is coordinating. Be prepared to play a secondary role, and observe how the more experienced solicitor makes the ask. Third, ask the development staff person to coordinate a role-playing session so that you and others can experience asking and being asked. Role playing can help you become comfortable and help prepare you for the unexpected. Remember, fundraising is part of life so it is rare that things go exactly as planned!