When I started fundraising for my nonprofit, I spoke with fundraisers and development directors and they would all say the same thing to me:
No one is going to just give you money. You have to go out and ask.
That advice is true for any part of our career.
Whether you are booking concerts, finding collaborators, or enrolling clients – ultimately, you’re going to have to go out and ask someone for help.
Making an ask is part of any progress in our careers.
It’s good to think about how powerful asking is, because we’re not getting anywhere, if we don’t ask for help.
And with our community, we can get anywhere we want to go if we’re willing to ask them.
That’s a stumbling block for a lot of people. They may network, they may know a lot of people, but it’s that moment where they have to ask for something where they get really uncomfortable.
That makes sense. We have a very independently-minded culture which makes us feel we should be able to get what we need without ever asking for help.
But if you think about it, we’re a communal species. If you want people to buy your music, hire you, introduce you to someone, help your fundraiser, or really any kind of next step in your career, it’s going to involve making an ask.
Okay, Asking is Important But HOW?
When those fundraisers told me that asking was essential, I understood what they meant in theory but…
I didn’t know what to do next.
I had two big hurdles, which I now know are pretty common. One is figuring out what you need. And the second is creating a strategy.
But I already know what I need.
You may think you know what you need.
“We need money! We need money to run this ensemble. I need money to go on tour. I need money to fund this album.”
But let’s be really clear and specific about your needs.
For example, when we revamped our board of directors for our non-profit, we had to think about what kind of board we needed. Before we knew who we were going to talk to, we had to imagine, what expertise do we need? How often do we want their input? How do we want to expand our reach? Who are the kinds of people that have the expertise and connections we need?
Who is this ideal person?
Then we could think about who in our network could fill the spot. Next, we had to call them up and ask them to be a part of the board.
Calling someone and asking them to be a part of your board can be really intimidating, if you don’t have a clear vision.
It’s not quite as intimidating to ask for something when you’re really clear on what you need, who you need to talk to, and why they would be perfect to help you.
But there’s still one more stumbling block I found myself facing. How do I ask?
Creating a Strategy around the Ask
Let’s say you want to run a fundraiser.
You know you’re going to have to ask people for money as part of a fundraiser.
But that’s a BIG, SCARY thing to do!
Having a specific fundraiser plan will make it easier.
A plan can be as simple as:
- Writing a description of the fundraiser cause.
- Contacting potential funders ahead of time to share your work.
- Scheduling the fundraiser from beginning to end with social media posts, emails, and phone calls.
If you have that kind of strategy around your ask, then it doesn’t feel so intimidating to ask for help.
The strategy can be your home base.
You have a schedule. You have your message. You have your vision all set out. All you need to do is act.
It’s true, if you don’t ask for anything, you’re not going to get the result.
It may be hard to hear, and asking for something new can be intimidating.
Maybe you’re used to asking for students. That’s something you do all the time, but you’re not used to fundraising.
We can get stuck.
“I know it’s important. I know how to ask for something, but I don’t know how to ask for this.”
If you’re stuck in that in that place, then work on your vision.
See how clearly you can understand where you are, what you need, and who the right person is to contact.
Then work on your strategy.
How are you going to reach out to people? How many times? How are you going to get them involved?
Then it doesn’t take so much bravery to ask for something you need. Because you know what you’re doing.
You have the vision. You’re talking to the right person. You have your strategy set out.
It’s really hard sometimes to put yourself out there and ask for something but you can do it.
Sarah Robinson, Author