Philanthropy Expert and Transformational Change Agent


​​Professional philanthropy means I've spent my entire career facing Big Asks, and I'm proud to say that Big Asks aren't only manageable - you can even learn to love them!

THE LADY WITH THE BIG ASK is here to teach you what it takes to ask for what you want and get it - from donors, board members, bosses, coworkers, employees, and in your life.

AUGUST 27, 2018

We all know that to get ahead - both in life and in business - you have to be able to ASK for what you want clearly and effectively.  And if you're in the business of fundraising, you're going to be doing a LOT of asking.  But we also know that asking can be daunting.  We wonder "How do I ask for things without sounding pushy, or needy? How do I make sure I reach out to people the way they need to reached?..."

Let's start with something every nonprofit has to deal with on a regular basis: How to start calling and talking to possible donors.

Whether it’s your first day at a nonprofit organization or it’s your fifth year on the job, it really doesn’t matter when your boss hands you a sheet of paper with a list of names on it.  As a fundraiser, your job responsibilities include calling people to engage them in conversation with the goal of having them eventually become donors. 

In my situation, my boss during my first week on the job as a nonprofit fundraiser handed me a big, thick, green and white IBM lined printout of 500 names instructing me, as it hit my desk with a thud, that I needed to call all the names on the list.

My first reaction was, “...What?!” 

Then I thought, "I don’t have time to call 500 people." and was ready to share that feedback with my boss.  After all, he had given me other things to do which were occupying my time, so how could he expect me to find the time to call 500 people?...  

Quickly, I learned that arguing with your supervisor or boss is never a good idea.  My guess is that many of you reading this have either had this happen to you, or have the dread that it will happen. 

So, the questions are…

  • How do you start? 
  • Where do you begin?
  • What steps do you need to take in order to be successful? 

The first recommendation is to create a plan of action or a “map” for your success.
Here are the steps to follow in creating your map:

  1. Begin by reviewing each name on the list with an eye toward determining if they already have a relationship with the nonprofit organization.  
  2. The best place to start making that determination is to check is the fundraising database in reference to their past giving history and involvement;  Has this person been a donor to the organization already? Have they been an active volunteer? If memberships exist, are they a member?  Did they attend an event in the past? Serve on the Board? Work at the organization as an employee?
  3. The second-best place to obtain information is through talking to colleagues, and if possible the leadership of the nonprofit organization.  Much of the institutional, organizational, and agency information is in the heads of existing employees.  Talk to your co-workers and the leadership. Ask questions.  Become curious.
  4. Third, ascertain if the organization maintains hard copy files.  If yes, access them and search for the names on the list to see if a hard copy file exists.  If it does, examine and review what is in the files, especially those related to the names given to you.
  5. Fourth, does the organization have publications? This could include yearbooks, historical perspective publications, newsletters, magazines, Gala programs, etc.  If yes, is there an index to locate the articles?  While this might be a tedious process, it could provide a wealth of information. 

Be careful not to get “Analysis Paralysis,” which is the condition of always wanting to do more research in the hopes of discovering more information prior to picking up the phone - At some point you just have to jump in and make that call!

But armed with insight about each person you're calling, you're well on your way to having a personalized and engaging discussion with everyone you talk to.  In the next blog we'll get into more detail about how to leverage those insights, and how to make sure you connect with everyone on your list.  

See you again soon, and before you know it you'll have a Big Ask, too!


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