Asking people for money is one of the most exciting things in the world. Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to earn a living working on something we love. What we do as fundraisers is help show people ways they can take their hard earned money and invest it into something they value.

I like to think of the fundraiser as holding an electrical cord (the donor’s interests) and facing a wall of outlets (various aspects of the fundraiser’s organization). The fundraiser’s job is to get to know the donor well enough to know which outlet fits the electrical cord’s prongs. When the fundraiser plugs it in by asking for the gift, power flows!

Not everyone is as eager to ask for money as I am. It seems like “asking for money” outranks “public speaking” and “untimely death” on the list of most feared things! My experience leads me to believe that most of this fear is fear of the unknown. Most of us aren’t brought up asking for money so we don’t realize we can be exactly who we are and still be successful fundraisers.

In my seminars and trainings, tell my audiences to be “R.E.A.L.” R.E.A.L is a simple four step formula I created to help people get as excited about asking for money as I am. The four steps are:
1. Research,
2. Engage,
3. Ask, and
4. Love ‘em.

Let’s briefly go through each of the four steps.

You need to do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the person you’re going to meet. This can be an incredibly expensive step but I’d encourage you to try using some simple, free tools like at ( Simply type the person’s name in the search box and see what comes up. It may be helpful to put their name in quotes and spell out the state you live in too.

The point of research isn’t to be prying or snooping around. Research simply helps you feel more secure about your ask before you even get in front of the donor. It also helps the donor. For instance, if you found out they’ve written editorials against your cause, you won’t waste their time. One warning: don’t get “analysis paralysis.” No prospect has ever made a gift because a development person has done research.

Fundraising is a business of relationships. You need to romance the prospect. Where the first step was behind the scenes, this one involves direct communication with the prospect. Be genuinely interested in them. Take them out to lunch, visit them when traveling in their area, and send them articles you think might interest them.

Engaging is a two-way process. Here where you get to share the successes your organization is experiencing. Remember, people give to winning causes, not to needs. Take note of what interests them, and what doesn’t.

Engaging the prospect goes a long way in helping you determine what type of outlet their cord will plug into. This step is even more important than the first, but don’t get stuck here either. No prospect has ever made a significant gift because you were friendly and engaging

Research shows that the number one reason people don’t give is they’re not asked!

Obviously, asking is what this whole process is about. Even if you skipped over the first two steps right to this step, you’d have some level of success. But after doing the researching and the engaging, asking will be much more fun than if you were cold calling.

Here are a few recommendations about asking:
• Be sure to meet the person face-to-face whenever possible, but not over meals.
• Use a specific dollar amount. “I’d like to ask you to consider a gift of $10,000 over three years” is much more effective than “Would you give something to the cause?”
• Let them know you’re going to talk to them about supporting your organization before you meet with them.
• Most importantly, don’t forget to ask!

Whatever they say, you need to love them. If they say “yes,” this part is easy. But even if they say “no,” you need to live with their response. The long-term relationship with the donor is more important than a gift today.

If the donor says they’re not able to right now, believe them. Don’t get defensive. Ask them to consider making a pledge they could pay off over time. Or ask them when it would be appropriate for you to come back to them.

If you’ve come this far with a person, there’s probably grounds for a long and mutually beneficial relationship between the person and your organization. Don’t nuke them just because they said ‘no’ this time.

Of course, if they say “yes,” show your love by thanking them. A good rule of thumb is to thank donors seven times between solicitations. Strive for that and your donors will know that you see them as people, not as ATMs.

Asking for money can be incredibly simple. Not necessarily easy, but definitely simple. Much of fundraising boils down to what I call “PYITS”: Put Yourself In Their Shoes. Before you try a new approach or technique, try to put yourself in the mind of the donor. Than ask, “If someone were going to do this to me, how would I respond?” If you wouldn’t respond well, figure out why and fix it before you do it to others.

You can do it. Whether you’re employed by a nonprofit or simply an incredibly committed volunteer, you can help people invest in your cause. And you’ll often find people are grateful to you for showing them how they can turn their day-to-day career into something that has lasting significance.

Author's Bio: 

Marc A. Pitman is an executive coach to nonprofit leaders and business owners. An expert in helping people identify their natural abilities, he's committed to providing down-to-earth information that will decrease stress and put the "fun" back into fundraising!

If you’re interested in having Marc speak to your organization, or in learning more about his coaching and training services, he can be reached at: The Fundraising Coach, 632 Main Street, Lewiston, ME 04240 or