Today a development professional will make six asks. How will she do it, you ask?
She will have lunch with a donor, during which she will ask him high-value questions and locate his philanthropic passion. Then she will share philanthropic opportunities that match his passion and ask him to accomplish something meaningful with his money by funding an important priority for her institution.
She will ask a CPA board member to introduce her to one of his attorney colleagues. Given that each of them has an opportunity cost in the form of lost billable hours for time they spend with anyone other than a paying client, by making that request, she will make at least a $500 ask.
The researcher she will ask for a half hour of time is passionate about discovery. For him, taking even 30 minutes away from his microscope is time that won’t be spent finding a cure for a condition that afflicts millions of people.
When a unique, time-sensitive opportunity to engage a donor more deeply presents itself, she will contact her dean’s assistant about getting 20 minutes on his calendar as soon as possible.
When she meets with the dean, the 20-minute time limit will require her to be focused in her discussion and direct in her communications. Rather than saying, “What should we do?” she will lay out a strategy, describe the logic behind her recommendation, and then ask if he is comfortable with the plan. Then they will discuss specific questions or suggestions he has to make it work better for everyone involved.
The alumna she will ask to judge the student art competition is the founder and CEO of an advertising firm on the other side of the country. Asking her to be on campus all day means that she will arrive on her corporate jet the night before the event, stay at the nicest hotel in town, and spend the entire day with students. Given this donor’s salary and the costs associated with her travel, inviting her to make this trip will be equivalent to a five-figure ask.
Time is money. Donors and potential donors see it that way, and you should, too. By putting in perspective the idea that you are asking donors for their time every time you communicate with them, you can begin to understand how talking about money should be part of the natural flow of a collaborative conversation that leads to philanthropic commitment. Done strategically, these asks lead naturally to a major-gift ask that is nothing more that just another ask in the process.
Development work truly is all about asking. A successful development professional makes many different kinds of asks every day. It’s a continuous process, not just one big moment.