Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Afraid to Ask

I wrote this blog a few years back but it’s more relevant now, than ever.  The summary is that there’s an easy way for you to raise more money in 2021 with very little work.

It’s worked for years, and it worked again in 2020.  Even in the midst of the pandemic…

Every one of our clients who Asked their donors for support more often in 2020 (compared to 2019) raised more net revenue than they did the year before.

And there were almost zero negative consequences.  To be more specific, there was a complaint or two, a worry from a board member, and some unsubscribes from their email lists.

But those negatives were completely overwhelmed by the additional donors that were engaged and extra money that was raised.  In short, donors wanted to help.

The nervous fundraisers, EDs and organizations who weren’t sure whether they should do this were handsomely rewarded with more net revenue for very little cost.

There were no breakouts of “donor fatigue.”  No massive numbers of people unsubscribing.

These organizations just raised more money, did more good work, and learned more about their donors. 

Which now sets them up for an even more successful 2021.

Let me put it this way…

The easiest way to raise more is to Ask more often.

This means adding another appeal or two.  Or more e-appeals. 

Not replacing what you’ve been doing.  In addition to what you’ve been doing.

Here’s an easy way to add an Ask:

  • Look at your fundraising calendar for 2021
  • Look for a gap where your donors don’t hear from you for a while
  • Think back through your most successful appeals and e-appeals last year (other than year-end)
  • Pick the most successful appeal that’s appropriate to send during the “gap” in your calendar, then create a version of that appeal to send in the gap

What you’re trying to do here is add another appeal with the least amount of effort possible. 

And if you want easy ways to improve all your appeals or e-appeals, download our free eBook, “Asks That Make Your Donors Take Action.”

Please Try It

Almost no one believes me when I say, “The easiest way to raise more money is to Ask a couple more times this year.” 

Almost every organization has an awful, no-good, very-bad, organization-shackling assumption that they can’t Ask their donors any more often than they already are.  Especially after the year we’ve had.

But it’s a bad assumption.  Let your donors make the decision not to give.  Don’t make it for them. 

So please, try it.  You can even just try it with an e-appeal so there’s basically no cost.  Track the results.  Look at the expenses, the revenue, your retention rates, everything.  You won’t see the negative consequences you fear.

And you’ll LOVE the amount of additional money you raise with very little work.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

3 comments on “Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

  1. I just attended a fundraising webinar thru another company and they said to only do 2 asks a year, and then went on to say that an appeal letter isn’t an ask. They meant 2 ‘big asks’, as in personal letter or phone call. They mentioned a study by Adrian Sergeant. I’ve been reading your work for a couple years and I know it contradicts everything you say. Are you familiar with the study? What’s your take?

    1. Hi Alea, great question. Two thoughts for you. First, was the webinar about major donors? Because if was about major donors under management, I can see and support the ‘only do two big asks a year’ advice. Second, I’d ask if the study by Dr. Sargent (who I think is very good) was on donor preferences or donor behavior. Because studies on donor preferences always result in donors saying that they want to be asked less. But any real-world testing I’ve ever been a part of shows that when donors are asked less they give less. I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *