Getting to Yes: Tips for Wildly Successful Asks

Image: Stuart Miles at

Image: Stuart Miles at

Fact: Asking for a donation in person – face-to-face – is more effective than any other way of soliciting funds (including events or direct mail). 

But, sheesh, asking in-person can be scary! Here are six tips to get you started down the road to YES.

1. Build a relationship

Fundraising is about relationships. Before sitting down with someone to ask for a donation, there needs to be a solid relationship between your prospect and your organization. When your prospect knows and loves your mission and understands the impact your work is having, you will be much more likely to hear ‘yes.’

Not sure how to go about building a relationship with your donor or prospect? Check out Donor Cultivation: Personal and Donor-Centered and Donor Cultivation: 5 Winning Touch Points to get started.

2. Identify the “right” person

Who is the right person to ask your prospect for their support? This is a big question – and your success depends on getting it right! To identify the best solicitor, start by considering who has been a part of building the relationship with your prospect up to this point. 

For more about who should make the Ask, read Who Should Attend a Fundraising Ask Visit.

3. Know how much to ask for

This may seem obvious, but don’t wait until you are sitting with your prospect to figure out the Ask amount! 

Generally face-to-face solicitations are reserved for major gifts, due in part to the time and energy required to plan, schedule and execute a face-to-face solicitation. If you’re unsure what constitutes a major gift for your nonprofit, see How Large is a Major Gift?

You’ll also want to tailor the ask amount for each prospect. To do so, consider their past giving (if a current donor), their giving to other organizations, and the program or project for which you are seeking funds (bigger projects call for bigger gifts). 

Also consider the level of engagement of this particular donor. How much do they love the work and mission of your nonprofit? This will be a subjective measure, a “gut feeling,” so to speak. Do they love you enough to donate $500? $5,000? More? 

4. Consult with others

As you think about how much to ask for (#3 above) – and also who should make the ask (#2 above) – seek out the opinions of others. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one,” so consult with key volunteers, such as your board or major gifts committee, and fellow fundraising staffers, to strategize all aspects of the Ask. 

5. Plan and practice

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, so don’t wing it. Besides determining how much you will ask for, think about what you’ll talk about before you ask for the gift, i.e. small talk. Also, anticipate questions your prospect may have and know how you will answer them. 

If you’re doing the solicitation with another person (recommended), figure out who will say what during the visit. Then, practice what you’ll say – or role-play with your partner. You’ll be more comfortable and confident going into your Ask visit having done so.

6. Get out there!

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Don’t spend forever getting ready. If you’ve done a reasonable job at numbers 1 through 5 above, it’s time to move! 

You probably won’t do it perfectly the first time, and that’s okay. Asking for support face-to-face is a skill like any other. The more you do it, the better you’ll get! Good luck!

Agree? Disagree? What tips do you have for getting to ‘yes?’ Please share your experiences, thoughts and ideas in the Comments box below!

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).