Armies of Askers

June 15, 2015

Fundraising is asking for money.  Some methods are more direct than others. Some methods are more personal and tailored than others.  Some asks are big and some are small.  Okay, so far, so obvious.

Most good causes spend the majority of their time and energy in recruiting and retaining large number of donors who are making small gifts through direct marketing techniques.  Many of these appeals are hugely creative, well-written, and thought-provoking.  These methods inspire many people to make gifts.  However, they also work on low response rates and, no matter how creative, can never be truly personal.

It is very hard to get a real sense of the true impact one’s gift can have when the relationship you have with the good cause is at a distance – through post, email, text, or even TV.   These methods are unlikely to inspire me to make really significant gifts – gifts that ‘stretch’ my giving.

In the UK, we give far less as a percentage of our income than our US counterparts, regardless of the income bracket we fall into.  Very few of us could say we give 1% of our income, let alone 5-6%, as is typical in the US.  We also give, on average, much smaller sums. Why?  Because we are asked to give smaller sums, we are asked less often, and we are less likely to be asked directly by someone we know.

So how could I be inspired to ‘stretch’ my giving?  Picture this…

A trusted friend of mine asks me directly to support a cause that is close to their heart.  They tell me the story of why they are involved in the cause – through giving their time and their money – and they ask for my help.  I instantly want to help them.  I give, I give more, and I enjoy making the gift.  They don’t hide behind a sponsor form or give me an envelope to put money in.  They simply and honestly ask me, face-to-face, in person, by talking to me and telling their story.  They have a good idea of what I might be able to afford, and they ask me to make a gift that reflects that.  It’s the largest gift I have ever made, but I do it without a second thought.  They probably could have asked me for more.

Can we refocus some of our energies into this kind of people-to-people storytelling?  I’m not talking about wonderfully enthusiastic young people with clipboards in the street, paid to get me to give a few pounds a month, but true one-to-one asking by passionate advocates of our causes.   Could we train and equip our volunteers, our armies of champions, to make thoughtful ‘big’ asks?

– Susie Hills, Managing Director

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