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Is it the Scariest Time of the Year?

Perhaps you’re thinking that Halloween is the scariest … but I’m referring to the face-to-face philanthropic solicitations that are often associated with the last few months of the year.

When I train boards and nonprofit staffs, the most frequent hurdle I encounter is the fear of asking. But if asking is so scary, why then do we have a whole holiday for kids built around asking?

As easy as Trick-or-Treating, I bet you ask for things all the time in your personal life:

  • You ask a friend to go out to dinner with you.

  • You ask for help on a home improvement project.

  • You ask for directions when you’re lost.

  • You ask a neighbor to watch for packages when you’re away.

  • You ask a family member to run an errand when you’re too busy.

When you (or your board/staff/volunteers) are feeling fearful about asking for support, here are a few things to remember:

1. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.Plus, face-to-face asks are proven to be more effective than other models (i.e. direct mail, emails, etc.).


2. You are inviting someone to make a difference. Rather than thinking about it as a solicitation, view it as an invitation. You are inviting this individual to have an impact by supporting a cause that you believe in deeply. (By the way, if they choose to say “no” it’s not personal. You simply issue the invitation and they decide how to respond.)


3. It’s all about relationships. People give to people. That’s why it’s important that YOU ask, rather than someone else who doesn’t have a relationship with this donor or prospect. You have credibility because you have built trust with this individual.


4. Talk less and listen more. As the saying goes, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. The invitation or request for support is generally only a sentence or two. Most of the conversation is about the donor. Why do they care about this work? What kind of impact do they want to have with their life? What is important to them when they partner with a nonprofit organization?


Here's a final treat/tip—don't forget to ask yourself. Remember your WHY! Why do you choose to support this organization? Why might others want to join you in this mission? If you believe that this organization is doing good work in the world, invite others to join you!