The Ask is 12% of Success

Many development professionals and most volunteers believe solicitation to be the most important stage of the giving cycle.  Webcasts, conferences, and books on ‘making the ask’ sell because people are convinced of the preeminence of the solicitation.

The conventional wisdom is that there must be a special technique, a preferred tactic, or a eloquent turn of phrase which, when learned and implemented, will greatly increase solicitation success.

There isn’t.

And, more importantly, the ask isn’t the most important part of getting the gift.  Think of this:

In his best-selling book, Asking, Jerry Panas spends exactly 3 out of the 25 total chapters focused specifically on how to make the ask and then how to handle objections.  This is exactly 12% the book.

So, 12% of a book entitled, “Asking,” actually focuses on asking.

And in the other 22 chapters?  Panas dedicates them to lessons on how to prepare for the solicitation.  How to get a face-to-face meeting.  How to engage and how to listen.  And, most importantly, how to approach this work – development work – with an authentic appreciation that it’s more about vision, values, and people and much less about how to frame a request.


I’d say this represents the relative significance of “the ask” in development success.  Which, of course, leaves another 88%.  And if you ever wonder how to increase your effectiveness in this 88%, just listen to the donor.


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