You’ve heard it said that fundraising is all about relationships.

Is it?

No. Relationships exist in many formats. Many that do not lead to fundraising at all.

I’d suggest fundraising is all about mutually beneficial relationships.

That’s why if you meet with a donor prospect, you better have some asks ready. Even if you’re just “catching up.”

Have 3 Options Ready

If you’re “just going out to coffee,” it is correct to not make a solicitation. The visit itself is a success. Be strategic and curious with your questions – as they will be with theirs. But honor your stated “this isn’t an ask” invitation by not asking.


But you better have 2-3 asks ready. In Ask Without Fear!® I call these “arrows in your quiver.” These are levels you’d like your prospect to give at or areas that you’d love to invite a donor to give to.


Especially when it’s “just a visit, not an ask”?

Donors are super busy. And they are smart. They know the nonprofit needs gifts. So there’s a chance they’ll ask you how they can help.

If you don’t have some fundraising asks ready for any meeting

  1. You risk looking like an unprofessional nonprofit leader: if your nonprofit needs fundraising to run, you should know what would be helpful. If you don’t, you risk losing the prospects confidence that yours is a good organization to give to.
  2. You risk never connecting with them again: Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But with it taking more than 12 attempts to reach a donor, it will feel like forever. If they are interested when they ask you what would be helpful, they may not be when you finally connect with them months later.

Hesitate but honor their ask

If you set up a meeting just to get to know someone, great. That’s the “Engage” step – one of the 4 steps of fundraising.

But if they ask you how they can help, honor their ask. Have an answer.

You might say:

Oh. I didn’t come to ask you…this time. But if you’d like to know, here are a few things that would be helpful. [Share them briefly.] Which sounds more interesting to you?

Small, Medium, and Large Fundraising Asks

If you really have no idea what their giving might be, come with a small, medium, and large option. You could look at your average gift and determine levels below, at, and above average.

Or you could think about the largest gift level you currently have and then work done from there.

Alternatively, if you think the person has capacity for a larger gift, you could have three project areas.

A Conversation, not a Presentation

I am not suggesting you have three presentations available. 


But be ready to have three conversations ready. And be ready to ask a specific dollar amount in those conversations. If they may ask you for a presentation, schedule one with them. But major donors rarely ask for a presentation.

Visit with integrity – and be ready to ask

Being ready to ask is crucial to your fundraising. I once talked with a bank CEO who told me if a nonprofit CEO didn’t ask in the first meeting, he could stall the ask for two years. He gave me the process in great detail.

Most donors I’ve talked with don’t have a step by step plan to stall. But as soon as they leave the meeting with you, they’ll get distracted. So distracted that they may even forget why you are following up with them for months.

Save yourself, and your donor, the frustration. Have an ask ready when you go to visit. Better to be ready and not use an ask than to be caught by surprise.

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