Let’s face it. Most people don’t like asking for money.

The reality is, however, that one of the main reasons most nonprofits struggle to raise more money is because they aren’t asking for it enough. In the immortal words of the late Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity: “I have tried raising money by asking for it, and by not asking for it. I always raised more by asking for it.”

Ask-and-receiveWe have seen many organizations jumpstart their major gift fundraising performance by applying three simple rules: ask more effectively, ask more often, and ask for bigger gifts. And it shouldn’t just be the fundraising staff who are asking for money. Anyone can do it, and everyone should.

One of the main reasons why your Board and volunteers don’t ask for money is because they don’t know how. Here are six simple steps anyone can follow to make a successful ask in six minutes or less:

First things first, make the call. The most effective way to ask for money is to do it face to face, so try to set up a time to get together in person. It can be for lunch, over golf, an evening out with your spouses – anything you want. Keep it informal. Don’t make the meeting about asking for money.

People often struggle to figure out how to shoe-horn an ask for money into the course of normal conversation. Here is an easy tip for how to do it in a way that won’t seem awkward… Let’s say you invited me to lunch. We’ve had a great conversation about all kinds of things – our kids, our jobs, friends we each know, what’s going on at our church, a great movie we saw last weekend – you name it. At some point there will be a lull in the conversation, probably towards the end of our time together. This would be a great time to say something like this: “Listen, Derric, I’ve really enjoyed this time together. Before we head out, I’d like to talk to you about a charitable organization I’m involved with. Can I take five or six minutes of our time here together to tell you about it?” Obviously I’d say yes, and that opens the door for you to walk through the four parts of the six-minute ask outlined in the next four steps, below:

Tell a story. Always lead with a (short) story about how this organization has had an impact on your life. People internalize information best when combined with visualizations and storytelling. Our brains are simply wired to more fully respond to stories, rather than data. By telling a story, you not only communicate what the organization does, but more importantly why you are involved.

Share some statistics. After you tell the story, share some statistics about the problems and needs that the organization is working to solve. Make sure you focus on things that matter. For instance, if you are working with a homeless shelter don’t share statistics about how many meals they serve. Talk about how many lives are being changed.

Make the ask. Use this simple flow to make the ask: What is it that you are specifically raising money for? How much is it going to cost in total? If you feel comfortable doing so, share how much you are giving towards the need. Finally make a direct, specific ask. Here’s how you might phrase it if you were asking me: “Derric, the homeless shelter where I volunteer is expanding their job training program to serve more men. They have twenty men on a list waiting to get into the program right now, but they just don’t have the resources to help them. I’ve agreed to help raise $25,000 towards the $100,000 needed. Our family has committed to give $5,000 over the course of the next year, so that leaves $20,000 more that I need to raise. You are one of about a half-dozen friends I’m asking to help. Would you be willing to consider giving $5,000 over the course of the coming year towards meeting this need?” That’s it. All four parts of the ask in less than one hundred words. Simple as that.

Stop, listen, and say thank-you. Once you’ve spoken those one-hundred words, stop talking. Now it’s their turn to speak, and they are going to say one of three things: Yes. No. Or maybe. Whichever rolls off their lips, make sure the next thing that rolls off of yours are the words “thank you”. Did they say yes? Say thank-you and let them know you will be sending them information about how to make the gift. Did they say no? Say thank you for considering it. Did they say maybe? Say thank you and ask them what might be helpful for them as they consider it further.

You should be able to get through all four of the above points – telling your story, sharing some statistics, making the ask, and saying thank you – in six minutes or less. That’s all it takes. It’s not difficult at all. The first couple times may feel a bit awkward, but once you’ve done it once or twice you’ll find there’s nothing to it. And nothing quite compares to the feeling you get when people say “yes”, and you realize that in six minutes you’ve helped make a significant difference in the lives of people who need help. Trust me, I’ve done it more times than I can count.

Send a “six-pack”. After you get back from the meeting, put together a packet of information to send as a follow up. This packet should be made up of the following six items:

  • A handwritten outside envelope
  • A letter from you thanking them for seeing you and summarizing the outcome of your discussion
  • A personal hand-written thank-you note on the bottom of the letter
  • Two inserts – generally one overview brochure about the organization and one piece that is more specific to whatever it is that you asked them for
  • A reply envelope that they can use to send in their gift

That’s it. That’s all it takes. You’re done. Doesn’t that sound easy? Then get out there and starting asking!