Fundraising in the nonprofit sector is a given. And while some people do seek out and begin giving to an organization on their own accord, generally speaking, to get funding you need to ask for it. That is why it is essential to learn the art of the ask.
Crafting written appeals has the benefit of your ask being conveyed digitally or through the mail. In person asks are direct. Nonetheless, successful asks, either in writing or in person all have three fundamental components.
It is important to make sure the vision and the values that serve it align with your potential funder. This alignment is how nonprofits connect with the funders interest. When conveying a vision through story, try to activate your imagination. Picture your funder visiting an exclusive art gallery with you, where one masterpiece is hung in the wall. The painting you are viewing together depicts the world that will occur when your proposal becomes realized. The goal is to make the vision of your intended result that tangible.
Next, need to lay out a concrete path. What will move your organization from where it is today, to where it will be when its vision gets realized? While it may not be possible to lay out the entire pathway, critical milestones need to be identified. If the vision is your hook, laying out the path is where you build trust. Make your path a plan that is simple to understand, convincing, and achievable.
Your ask needs to be about more than money. As I lay out this simple equation, focus on the needs of building a partnership: (a + b) + y = z. In this equation, the partnership between the organization is (a + b), the path is y, and the vision is z. A formula that focused solely on the money (x) would be x + y = z. The difference between these two approaches, well, I do not suggest A/B testing for this hypothesis. It will only squander potential wins.
In closing, it is important to be prepared for the dreaded “no.” Having a fallback plan so that you and your team are prepared for that answer and can easily pivot without either party becoming embarrassed is the sign of true professionalism in this sector. Nowhere is this more important than when making a renewal ask. Being unprepared for funding denial indicated that the funding has been taking for granted.