Four Key Considerations When Asking for Money
When you ask someone for money, what influences your donor the most? Read on to discover the primary considerations donors have, in priority order.
The Most Important Consideration – What you ask for
The most important consideration is the cause for which you’re requesting funds. From the donor’s point of view, fill in the blank: My gift will be used for ____________________________.
This is called the “cause concept” or “case for support,” and it’s a hugely important topic. Here are some vital observations:
(1) Newer and younger donors prefer designated giving: they are looking for a specific cause. Long-time major donors are more open to contributing to the proverbial “pot” in undesignated giving. The truth, though, is that they too often prefer a designation.
(2) During normal times, the cause concept of needs-based financial aid is the most effective in generating support. It must be properly explained, however, particularly to good, red-blooded (dare I say it?) Republican parents who think their gift would just help “_________ (take your pick) people who are fundamentally lazy or bad with money.” They must come to understand that even their child benefits when there are more children (and thus diversity) at the school as more families are accepted from varying social classes, ethnic backgrounds, and neighborhoods – families that can pay some but not all the school requires to educate their child(ren). (Besides the benefit of diversity in raising well-rounded kids, this is also a Biblical concept!)
Importantly, for denominational schools, many elderly people in the pews believe the reason congregational families do not send their kids is primarily financial, and they are willing to help if they can. While many non-sending families are actually concerned about the quality of the school, the “little old ladies” who suspect financial trouble will become more and more correct in their assumption over time.
(3) There are abnormal situations where a certain cause concept will do better than needs-based financial aid. A classic example is a playground project. Sometimes another capital project will be a stronger cause concept for a season, or with certain (often older) donors.
(4) Get one thing straight, debt reduction is a horrible cause concept. It is very difficult to raise money for debt reduction. Instead, pay off your debt with more tuition revenue. Create more tuition revenue by filling empty seats through an aggressive financial aid program. Raise money for needs-based financial aid for that aggressive program.
(5) A comprehensive campaign – raising money for multiple cause concepts – is a good idea if you need to raise money for multiple things at once. This generally works better than having two campaigns going at once, such as a general annual fund as well as a capital campaign.
The Second Most Important Consideration – How you ask
The second most important consideration is how someone is asked. Here’s a little table to illustrate that:
|1 – page letter or email||0.5|
|2+ page letter||1|
|Letter & phone call||2|
|Dessert / small group event||4|
|Large group pledging event – Faith Promise||5|
|One on One Asking||7|
Your best donors should receive your strongest asking methods. If you subject your donors to the least effective asking methods, some will actually be offended that you didn’t ask in person – not to mention that most will not give you much.
And for the record: Well-written two page letters raise more money than well-written one page letters. Well-written four page letters raise more money than well-written two page letters. All of this by the numbers, according to data as recent as 2017.
It is true that some millennial alumni can only be initially reached by email. Once they start giving, however, the influence list above is just as true for them.
The Third Most Important Consideration – Who Asks
Who asks for the gift is the third consideration. For face-to-face asking, this is the influence order, from greatest to least effective:
- Board Members / Top Executive
- Other Educationalist (e.g. Principal, Vice Principal, Dean) / Other Volunteers
- Advancement / Development Director
- Outside Consultant
This “pecking order” depends a great deal on the personalities of each of the above and, as they say in medical journals, individual results may vary. Personally, though, I still believe the biggest variable is the asker’s attitude towards fund development – which is very trainable.
In general, direct mail and emails come from the top executive, unless a special circumstance suggests otherwise. (e.g. Head of PTL may send a letter about the playground improvement project.)
The Fourth Most Important Consideration: Askers Must be Givers First
There is a profound psychological truism behind this wise maxim. The reason askers must be givers first is that the insincerity of a non-giver just manages to ooze out. Our subconscious “artificial detectors,” it turns out, are pretty strong. I have observed the problems of non-askers asking, and I cannot think of a single time where it worked. At least one time, it was downright ugly. I’m a believer: Askers must be givers first.
You must consider, of course, there is always the distinct possibility someone will actually ask the asker how much they have given. Reality is, the most convincing “asks” are when the asker has actually given at the level he/she is requesting of the potential donor. That said, you would do well not to let the non-giver be an asker if it is within your power to prevent it.
The Bottom Line – We Lack Askers, not Donors
The reality is that practically all Christian schools would raise more money if they asked more, particularly face to face. The constraining factor is always time. Given limited time, it is very important that we stay strategic, asking people with higher capability in more personal ways. This is a matter of organizational stewardship.