Asking Every Day

I’m teaching a class on “Annual and Major Gifts Fundraising,” this fall in the Master of Nonprofit Management program at Northpark University.  For one of the textbooks, I’m using Asking, by Jerry Panas.

As one would expect, it’s a great, spot-on, quick read.  Jerry offers many, time-tested examples of how to go about the process of asking someone for a major gift.  There are some gems here.

However, the gem that sparkles most is the one he offers on page 11 about the relative unimportance of asking for a gift:

“(w)hat I’ve discovered in all my years of fundraising is that it almost doesn’t matter how you ask. . . What’s important is that you ask.  Just do it.  There’s no such thing as an incorrect ask.  Maybe it could’ve been done more effectively, more strategically and perhaps more deftly.  But the important thing is that you ask.  That’s what really counts.”

Jerry is, of course, talking about asking for a major gift, but I would broaden the scope of his recommendation.  Namely and simply put:  Asking in all aspects of your life will benefit you.

Here is what I mean:

  • If you are a leader, ask those in your care how they would make the Monday morning meeting more effective.  Ask privately, not in a group setting.  And listen to the responses.  Make needed changes and give appropriate credit.
  • If you are spouse or a partner, ask him or her how you could be more helpful around the house (ok, my wife reads my blog, so, yes, I need to do this more often!).  Listen, learn, and adjust.
  • If you are an advancement officer, ask a donor what she thought about the way in which your institution thanked her for her last gift.  Listen, learn, and repeat.

You get the picture.  There are an infinite amount of opportunities for us to ask every day.  When we involve others (which is what asking does), at least two good things happen.  First, we get very helpful feedback.  Second, the person we asked feels important because we cared enough to ask their opinion.

And, as Jerry Panas said,  it doesn’t matter so much how we ask, but that we regularly do.


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