Face-to-face asking is by far the most productive and efficient way to raise money for your important mission.

But it can also be the most difficult for many people.

My friend, consultant and trainer Kent Stroman CFRE,  has come up with a simple strategy to help you become more comfortable, confident and effective when asking.

His new book “Asking about Asking: Mastering the Art of Conversational Fundraising” really does make it all so very much easier.

Conversational Fundraising.

Kent says to use simple conversation and questioning to make your way through the ask.

Conversation is simple, organic, donor-focused and effective.

Successful fundraisers will tell you it’s the ONLY WAY to be successful.

I interviewed Kent yesterday when I was out in Tulsa presenting a mini-conference for the AFP Chapter of Eastern Oklahoma.

Kent Stroman CFRE

Kent shared these 5 tips that can make all the difference to you.

These tips help frame the ask into a different perspective:

You have a goal. You want to reach it. And you need to reach it.

But you are not about the money!

You are about what the donor wants to accomplish.

1. Take it slow. Be patient.

A major gift ask should never be rushed.

And if you are moving slowly step-by-step, visit-by-visit, the ask simply comes up naturally.

Never ask too soon in the relationship.

Because if you force the donor to make a decision before she is ready, you will probably end up with a much lower gift.

Don't be too focused on your target!

Good fundraising is all about the long term — not the short term.

At the beginning of the relationship ask:

  • “What would you like your gifts to accomplish?”
  • “How do you decide which projects to support with your own time and money?”
  • “What are your top three charitable interests this year?”
  • “What gift did you make that has brought you the most joy?
  • “Why?”

2. Make it a conversation.

“A carefully crafted conversation, sprinkled with appropriate inquiry, can be the beginning of a trusting relationship or deepen an existing one,” Kent says.

And there’s a different between “blunt intrusion” and “thoughtful probing.”

Ask the donor:

  • “Could you ever see yourself supporting our organization?”
  • “How would you like to be involved in this campaign?”
  • “What range of gift should we be talking about?”
  • “What would have to happen for you to say yes?”

If they are ready to chat about a gift.

  • “May I draft a proposal for your review?”

3. Use the gift chart to help determine the right amount to ask for.

Show your donor the gift chart for your campaign.

Show your donor the gift chart and say:

“At the appropriate time, where do you see yourself showing up on this chart?”

“As you think about what you want to accomplish, what range of gift should we be talking about?”

4. Ask strategically, and listen thoughtfully.

You need to have a sincere interest in the donor.

If you aren’t sincere, it shows.

Your donor will guide you in the conversation.

Ask open ended questions to encourage her to talk.

And most donors are quite opinionated and have a lot to say.

Kent says you should be about “their needs, their vision, their timing, and their preferences.”

That makes it much easier, doesn’t it?

5. Make little asks before the big ask.

Never be impatient or rush the ask!

Ask for permission each step of the way.

  • “Is this a good time?
  • “Are you ready to discuss?
  • “What would you like to do?

In conversational asking, Kent suggests that you ask questions that are:

  • exploratory
  • clarifying
  • rhetorical
  • defining
  • informative

(this is sounding easier and easier, isn’t it?)

Never do these things:

  • Let fear of rejection paralyze you.
  • Be intrusive or pushy with your donor.
  • Don’t ever, ever be an aggressive fundraiser.
  • Do more telling than listening.
  • Don’t make it a confrontation, when you CAN make it a conversation.

So here’s my question to you:

What do YOU do with donors to make asking easier, more comfortable and more successful?