Saber Hossinei, Coordinator of Administration + Consulting
Have you seen those shirts with JUST DO IT across the front? It certainly makes for a catchy phrase, but the meaning behind it is so much more than that. It’s a message of action. Regardless of one’s condition, level of experience or ability, don’t forget what’s truly necessary: action. And with action, come results.
In my background with sales and sales training, the recurring obstacle for many of the trainees I worked with (rookie and veteran salespeople alike) was “making the ask.” How is it that most folks can be trained to do an excellent job with all aspects of the sales process, yet drop the ball when it comes to asking for the sale? Anecdotally, I can tell you that the best sales reps had the opposite problem. They weren’t great planners or polished presenters, but they asked for a sale with each and every visit, and as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Recently, I had the privilege to serve on the silent auction subcommittee for a nonprofit’s annual gala fundraiser. It was my first time in such a role, and in fact it was my first time ever asking for donations. Armed with just a letter about the event and a donation request form, I hit the street and went door to door in a shopping center to ask for donations. Of course, I was very excited to receive a nice item from the first business I approached, and by the end of my walk, I had received not only merchandise and gift cards for the silent auction, but also referrals to other businesses to solicit for donations! The bottom line is, I might have felt poorly prepared, but by showing up and asking for donations, I received them.
I am certainly not making a case against proper and thorough preparation for solicitations. The qualification, cultivation and solicitation process with prospective donors is critically important, and today, we have many valuable resources readily available to help us develop strong strategies for relationship-building with our prospects/donors. (Check out Jeffrey’s article “Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice” about how nonprofits should “do their “homework” on prospective donors.)
But nonprofits suffer when leadership, staff and volunteers are reluctant to “make the ask,” or want to wait until everything is “perfect.” Don’t get “paralysis by analysis.” Your Boards, staff and volunteers should be taught that making an “ask” is not only the most important element in obtaining donations, but it is also the right thing to do. You owe your supporters action, your potential donors the opportunity to support your cause and you owe those who benefit from your nonprofit your best work! JUST ASK.