Asking for Money or Educating?

Do you view your work as asking donors for money?  Or do you view your work as educating donors?  The difference, of course, is substantial.

One question, the first, is focused on a transaction in which we get some of what the donor has.  It also suggests that we are responsible for the asking.  On the other hand, the second question suggests a process, a relationship, in which donors and organizations gain.  A process in which many others may be involved.

Too often, I fear, development professionals view their work as asking for money.   Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we do ask donors for money.  But only sometimes.

When we do our work well we ask donors less and educate more.  And I mean “educate” in the broadest sense of the word.  When we educate, we inform and seek advice, we cultivate interest, we nurture, we create understandings, we develop, we tell purposeful stories, we listen, and we involve.

And we work with and through others.  We utilize Board members, the CEO/President, and other key volunteers and staff to influence, encourage, and impel donors.  We position people, we direct events, and we design experiences within which donors are inspired to act with generosity.

When we do our work well the ask doesn’t have to be made  – it emerges through the donor’s experiences with our organization.  Only the gift specifics need to be confirmed.

A gift proposal should not be used as a means to introduce a gift opportunity to a donor.  Instead, it should reflect the conversations and experiences that have led up to that moment.  It confirms and affirms the gift, it doesn’t introduce the idea of it.

Yes, sometimes we must simply ask donors for money.  But that really isn’t our job.




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