Nonprofit

Fundraising Tip: Don’t Fear the Ask

A quick read to help you walk through the fear.

Dan Hanley
3 min readFeb 1, 2024

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Author headed to meet adonor. Photo credit: Author

I was attending a nonprofit conference on planned giving and was super excited for it! I had the chance to meet with former colleagues and the topic of fundraising professionals fearing the ask, asking a donor for a donation, came up as being an ongoing issue in nonprofit fundraising.

I smiled while listening to this topic. It brought me back to my first major ask in the world of nonprofit fundraising.

I had just begun as director of development and began looking at past donors. I created a list of donors to call and introduce myself to, including some who had not donated in over a year, or more.

This was the case with one particular donor, what we call a lapsed donor. Their last donation was more than two years past, and the size of the donation was in the top ten of our our annual donations. I knew I had to call them, and was petrified! Being new to nonprofit fundraising, I was new to making a direct ask. I wasn’t new to the mission, to passion for the mission, or to building relationships. This all helped.

Rather than put this particular call off for another day, I decided to make the call. First, I called a fundraising peer and talked through the upcoming call. I also shared my fear. Speaking about fear with a peer made a lot of the fear go away. Then I listened to one of my power songs (I highly recommend having power songs) which I believe was a Rise Against song and got settled into my chair. I dialed the number and on the second ring the donor answered.

I could immediately tell that the call was welcome.

They were excited to hear of my new position and began to tell me why they had donated in the past. We spoke for over ten minutes and it was completely natural. I enjoyed every minute of it and it seemed they did as well. We wrapped up the call after they told me that they still loved our work and had simply forgotten to donate. Would I prefer they mail a check or take their card number?

Since that call I have loved the ask. It’s vital to our success and to the mission of your nonprofit. Every donor realizes it’s simply your job. In the thousands of asks I have made, never once has a donor told be to bug off and never call again. Not once.

Of course every human is different and not every donor will be as happy to speak with you as the one I mention here.

Regardless of the reaction of the donor, letting go of fear and making the call will make a big difference.

Go for it!

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

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Dan Hanley

I write about nonprofits, fundraising, recruiting, self-care. Human rights, domestic violence, borders and refugee focused. Sober. Vegan. https://altrui.org/