Monday, 7 January 2013

Making the Ask

Fairy Dust - essential when Making The Ask

“Can you walk me through an example of Making the Ask?”

This is a standard interview question for a Major Gifts role.  I have sat opposite any number of candidates and asked this question, but deep down I don’t think it’s a very good question.

It’s the phrase you see.  Making the Ask. Sometimes I think that the phrase Making the Ask is the main source of the Major Gifts fundraising skills shortage.   It strikes fear into people’s hearts.  It suggests special technique or a killer moment, something shrouded in mystique and held up as a highly prized grail.

Which is, as it happens, a whole load of nonsense.

Anyone who can be a good friend understands the fundamentals of being a major gifts fundraiser.  It’s about building a relationship. Finding common ground between a person and a cause.  Finding ways to connect the person with that cause.  And then coming up with some things they can do together.  Those things cost money, but they also deliver something that the person wants and needs in their life: the opportunity to change something.

That, my friend, is major gifts.

Making the ask isn’t a moment in which you sit in a cloistered room, your palms sweaty and your tone cool and say, “So how about it? Two million?”  

It’s not a big pitch, where you sell a person something they don’t want.

There is no razzle dazzle involved.  Not even the slightest pinch of magic fairy dust.

No.  The moment at which you start talking money is a natural point in a developing relationship, and it’s a point that you and your potential donor reach together.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the donor.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It shouldn’t be awkward or difficult.

You aren’t saying.  “Would you consider giving us £1 million?”

You are saying.  “What interests you most?  Can I put a proposal together for you on that?  Shall we walk through some different options?  Does this sound in the ballpark of what you are thinking of giving?”

There is no awkwardness.  There is no embarrassment.  There is shared enthusiasm.   Excitement to be kicking off a project.  Pleasure at making something which is important to your donor happen.  

It’s a good feeling – for everyone. 

Don’t Make an Ask.  Give an opportunity to someone else to make a difference. 



  1. Great points, Margaret!

    If you've built the relationship right, an ask shouldn't feel like one. Walk the journey together.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Thanks Rickesh - glad you agree!