3 min read

Donors need to be asked for money. That doesn’t mean every meeting is an ask.

It’s hard to work very long in fundraising without being told that #1 reason people don’t give is because they weren’t asked.

Implied in this pervasive fundraising myth is that if you just ask and ask more often, you will get more donations.

So writes Greg Warner in a recent blog post over at Market Smart. He continues: “The most effective gift officers ask for gifts less often than most, and the reason is because they know when to ask, how to ask, and who to ask.”

This is undoubtedly true. In general, an ask should presuppose knowledge of, and communication with, the donor. You should know your donor and your donor should know you. It will make you a far more effective fundraiser.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. Warner again:

This fundraising myth has profound implications for how major gift officers in particular—but also the rest of the organization—spend their time and do their jobs.

If it’s all about asking, then we just need to ask more often.

Send more emails. Mail more letters and postcards. Make more calls. Send more texts. Run more ads.

And gift officers? Get out there and get your metrics up. More meetings. More calls. More touches. Pack in more activity metrics! Ask! Ask! Ask!

These implications simply don’t follow from the “myth.” The “myth” implies that donors are less likely to give if they are not asked. And the myth implies that fundraisers should make asks. It makes no implications about when and how to make an ask.

In other words, the “myth” holds true—but Warner is right that it lacks any direction or specificity to help a fundraiser be successful.

If a fundraiser learns that tip and thinks the solution is simply to ask more frequently, then that fundraiser would benefit from some better metrics.



Increased activity—donor engagement focused on “getting your metrics up”—should be a key goal for frontline fundraisers. But these metrics need to further the ultimate goal of increasing revenue, not simply be increased asks (or other activity) for the sake of more activity.

To help fundraisers make the best use of their time, the main metrics they and their managers should track are input metrics. That is, how many letters did they send? How many email and call follow-ups did they make on those letters? How many cultivation meetings did they conduct? And, finally, how many solicitation meetings did they have?

There should be a healthy ratio of about 2:1 cultivation to solicitation meetings. There might even be 3:1 or 4:1 in some cases. Regardless of the ratio, if you want to make more of the right type of ask to donors that are prepared, you need to be in touch with those donors.

At the end of the day, fundraisers will raise less money if they have fewer inputs. That’s not because every “input” is an ask, but because every input leads up to an ask. If you ask too frequently, you alienate donors; if you do too little, you reduce your opportunities to make the right ask at the right time.

At the very least, fundraisers should track five things:

  1. Number of letters
  2. Number of emails
  3. Number of calls
  4. Number of meetings
  5. Number of asks

Items four and five should not be the same number, and item five should be the smallest number on that list—even though it’s the linchpin to raising money.



Warner is correct that “When the gift officer and the organization have effectively and patiently cultivated the donor and their relationship with them, asking feels natural, organic, and unforced.” That is what you should be aiming for: the right ask, at the right time . . . but still an ask.

Of course, there may be some cases, as Warner suggests, in which the donor asks, “How can I help?” We’ve all heard stories like that, but if you always wait for that question, you will miss opportunities.

Don’t force the ask too soon, but don’t expect the donor to ask you.




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