Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Making an ask? You need to know THIS.

You've got great camaraderie with your donor. You know where her passions match with your organization's mission. You know that it's a good time in her life to ask for a gift. You've set up the appointment. You're going to make the ask.

But do you know how your donor feels about money - money in general?

Every donor has her own individual, unique attitude about money, and it's important that you know how your donor feels about money before you ask her for some.

In our culture, talking about money is considered taboo. We are taught that money is a private matter that should not be discussed in public. This cultural attitude sets the stage for people to attach some very powerful and emotional feelings to the idea of money.

Imagine that you ask Mary for money in the same way that you ask Bob for money. Mary smiles and eagerly takes out her checkbook. But when asked for a gift in the exact same way, Bob gets uncomfortable and shuts down. This could be because Mary and Bob have very different emotions attached to the idea of money. Mary may feel that money is a power and a tool for doing great things in the world. Bob may feel that money = self-worth, and he may feel inadequate because he doesn't think he makes enough money. So you can't ask Mary and Bob for money in the same way; you have to tailor your ask to each individual donor, taking their attitudes toward money into account.

In an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, fundraising expert Ian Wilhelm discusses a study done by British researcher Beth Breeze. This study, which surveyed people about their money beliefs and giving behaviors, concluded that fundraisers need to take into account donors' perceptions of their own wealth.

"It's fascinating that people who have exactly the same amount of wealth can either be relaxed and feel they have enough to spare to give a nice chunk away, or can feel uptight and worried about letting go of any of it," said Breeze. "Someone being targeted may not agree they have much to spare."

Moral of the story: understand your donors' feelings about money before you ask them for some.

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