How to Ask the Right Person

We all know that friend, family member, or colleague in our life who (how shall I say it?) is more financially secure than most. That person who can afford more than the average. That person that sparks a little bit of jealousy! And, that person, is exactly who we want to ask to donate to our charity of choice!

So, how do you do it?

Short answer: in person.

There is absolutely no exception to this rule. In fact, every attempt needs to be made to have this be a request in-the-flesh. In fundraising lingo we call this “face-to-face.”

Connecting with this person might start off on social media, the phone, an email, or even an old-fashioned letter, but the real “meat” of the discussion needs to be sitting down over some sort of beverage of choice or meal. Make the initial outreach brief, open-ended and non-specific. An example might be: “I’m wondering what you are doing on Monday? I’d like to take you out for coffee.” You also might add, “I’d like to talk about my favorite charity. They really inspire me and I’d like to tell you more about them.”

If they haven’t said yes to a meeting by now, then this really isn’t the right person for you, but you could be more persistent if you felt comfortable. If they were to say, “If this is about fundraising, I’d rather not meet.” You could say, “I know you already support a lot of organizations. I’m not going to twist your arm. I just want you to hear why it’s important to me.”


Always allow for some breaths before or after making an important statement or the other person is making an important decision.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten a meeting just through a very basic conversation. Now, the meeting:

You want to relax together and just talk. Two friends. Two colleagues. Two family members. (I will note that it doesn’t have to be just a “one-on-one”! Either of you could bring an extra person, but don’t let this go beyond 3-4 people altogether.)

After you’ve enjoyed each other’s company for a little while, start to bring into the conversation your charity. Talk about why you love your charity, why it means so much to you, and why you support it. I’d be great if it just naturally flowed into the conversation, but it might not. If it doesn’t, you could just use a simple transition phrase of, “You know, I’d really like to talk with you about this charity I’ve become very involved with.”

Take your time with this. Practice it in advance. You are acting as a salesman for this organization.

It’s important to remember that you are not selling yourself! None of this money is going to you. In fact, you’re giving of your precious time and resources–so you’re really just asking this special someone to join you.

If you are a friend to them, they will want to care about something you care about. That is at the very basis of a relationship. If they are a real friend, this conversation will in no way impact your relationship.

This isn’t going to be painful, I promise. In fact, once you do it once you will realize you can do it again and again (but not repeatedly to the same person).

Every time you ask for a donation: your favorite charity is one step closer to meeting its goals! One step closer to feeding a hungry mouth, or giving someone a better education—whatever you decided is worthy of focusing your time on.

Allow the next part of the conversation to be about what you like about the organization, why you have chosen to get involved, why you think they might like it, and if they have any questions.

Just speak from the heart; when we put into the words the movements of the heart there is so much power. Let it overflow!

Once you feel like you’ve gushed over the good work of this charity and why you are head-over-heels for it, and you’ve answered all their questions, you can move on to “closing the deal” (fundraising lingo).

Next, the very important “ask” sentence:

It’s also very basic. It might be something like, “I’ve told you all about why I love this organization. Is this something you would be interested in supporting too? I’d love for you to join me.”

That’s all you have to say!

If they say “yes”, good job! If they say “no”, it might just be a no today and not a no forever. If they hedge and say maybe, decide how much time you want to put into continuing the conversation. They might string you along for a while with no real intent or commitment. Just move onto the next person. Don’t take it personally! It probably has nothing to do with you.

Once you figure out their level of commitment (fundraising lingo is inclination), you will then be able to figure out how much to ask (capacity). Now, this is a really important step. You will want to have figured out in advance of your meeting what level you want to ask them at. This is an important aspect that you need to consider.

Ways to figure this out: do you have any idea how much they make or how much money they have based on their possessions, home(s), or from conversations with you? If you do, you might say something like:

“I was hoping you’d be able to make a gift of $5,000.”


If you’ve hit the right ballpark then they will probably tell you they will think about it. If you are way too high, so what! They are probably flattered you think they are so successful. They will tell you something like, “it’s more than I can do right now.” Then you will want to talk them down to another figure. So you might say, “Do you think you could give $1,000?”

Do not say: “Well, whatever you can do.”

When you do this, more often than not, they will make a smaller gift. Help them stretch their generosity. Help them feel like every dollar counts. Help them feel passionate, too. You may think you are being gracious, but you are really showing your fear in making the ask. You have nothing to be ashamed about for asking for a charitable donation that in no way benefits you! You should be proud!

Whatever they tell you, you need to thank them. For anything! Their time to think about it; their time sitting down with you; or, their time hearing you out. Of course, if they said they’d give a certain amount of money than thank them so much and tell them how much that means to you and to the organization.

Always bring gratitude into the conversation. You can’t over-thank!

That’s it! You’ve done it. And, it wasn’t like pulling teeth. Professional fundraisers often hear, “I’m so glad you asked!” We like asking because the end result is a win-win for everyone. I feel great because I just helped my organization, the donor feels great because they will make a real difference, and the charity and the people it serves will be the biggest beneficiaries.

People are eager to help people. And, you’ve just helped a lot of people by putting this information into practice! Now, keep reading my information for more tips. There’s a lot more to learn.

You are a philanthropist!


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