The Advice Booth: The Gift of an Ask

How can I become more confident when asking for gifts for my school?


People are often surprised when I tell them how much I love asking for donations to Prizmah and other favorite nonprofits. I am among that rare breed of people who relishes each opportunity to get in front of a prospective donor and make the pitch. How do I do it? What makes me excited to do the thing that so many people dread? It’s less a magic formula, and more a perspective shift.


When approaching a potential donor, most people focus on what their organization needs. “We need a new STEM lab for our students.” “Our teachers need the opportunity to do some more advanced professional development.” And while each of these things might be true, they are coming from an organization-centered place.


What if you flipped that dynamic on its head? Rather than asking for a gift, what if you approached the conversation as though you were the one with the gift to give?


Here’s what we know to be true: Everyone is looking for purpose. Everyone wants to leave a positive mark on the world around them. Every time you give someone the opportunity to clarify their purpose and have an impact, you are giving them a gift.


Rather than asking for a STEM lab, think about what it would mean to that donor to be able to see students designing and building solutions to real challenges in your community. Rather than pitching professional development, imagine how good it would feel for your donor to honor the memory of their parent or loved one. That’s a gift that you can give them.


What about gifts that go to general operating support? The same principle applies. You believe in your cause. You know what your school accomplishes for the students who walk through your doors each morning. You want your prospective donors to feel that same drive and passion. An invitation to shared passion is another gift you can give.


If you want more confidence when it comes to giving this gift, stand down from your power pose and try these tricks instead:


1. Make sure you know your prospect. What moves them? What inspires them? What has made them laugh with joy or cry from sorrow? Make the goal of your conversation to move them emotionally, and then the donation will follow.


2. When you prepare your ask, choose language that speaks to who your prospect wants to be in the world: a hero, an educator, a good child or parent, an inspiration to others. That language is the bow on your gift.


3. Practice makes perfect. Start with people you know well or who are easier to get to yes. Or get a practice buddy and role play. Frame the conversation around the excitement you have in being able to offer your gift. Most importantly, make sure you practice saying the actual question… and then practice being quiet until your prospect responds.


By using this perspective shift, you’re not asking people to part with their money. You’re asking them to add to their passion. Inevitably, you’ll find that some people’s passions align with yours, and others don’t. Having someone say no to an ask isn’t a personal failure. It’s an opportunity to get to know more about what does motivate your prospect. The next conversation might just be the one where your passions align.

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HaYidion Leading Together
Leading Together
Spring 2021