Bristol Organizations

An Organization Made Up Of Organizations

By Amy Eisenstein Leave a Comment


I’m working really hard at being healthy this summer. That means actually exercising and eating less junkfood on a regular basis. Plus, I’m in my mid-40’s. So, I figure it’s now or never.


One of the “rules” I’ve made for myself is no eating after dinner.


And yet, the other night, I found myself eating not one, but a second helping of ice cream at 9 p.m.


I know it’s bad for me… and I did it anyway.


My motivation isn’t strong enough on its own. There’s no apparent imminent danger, so I don’t change my behavior. And I didn’t have anyone around me to encourage the new habit I’m trying to create.


The Worst Habit of Fundraisers Worldwide

By definition, habits are hard to break. And that’s just as true in the world of fundraising. So what’s the #1 bad habit of professional fundraisers and executive directors?


Not asking.

I see this again and again — especially now, during our current social and economic challenges. But asking is key to getting. Therefore, my question for you today is simple:

Are you sabotaging your fundraising efforts with this one bad habit?


If so, it’s time to break it.


Excuses for Not Asking, and the #1 Excuse

The number of reasons and excuses I hear from nonprofit leaders as to why they don’t ask or can’t ask is staggering:

  • No good prospects
  • Unsure how much to ask for
  • No time
  • Worried about alienating the donor
  • Not sure what to say


And here’s the top excuse…

So I was on the phone the other day with one of my clients. We’ve spent months working on her case for support, identifying potential donors and ask amounts, discussing virtual solicitation, and even role playing the ask.


And yet, she has a million excuses of why she hasn’t asked. She’s waiting for this or that. And she’s afraid she will mess up the ask.


There it is — that’s the bottom line. She’s afraid.


Here’s the thing — she’s got an awesome cause and amazing programs. She’s got dedicated donors. And yet, she’s at risk of losing it all because she’s afraid to ask.


I finally stopped her litany of excuses and said, “The only way you can mess this up is by not asking.”


Getting Over Your Fear of Asking

As you know, nearly everything new is scary. But we have to face our fear and do it anyway.


Somehow, you learned to walk, and swim, and ride a bike, and drive a car. Fundraising is no different. You need to dive in and practice.


You won’t get it perfect the first time. But you won’t drown or fall or crash and burn either.


The only way to truly fail is not to do it at all. So with that in mind, here’s some language you can use to make the ask and push past your fear.


Fundraising Language You Can Use to Make the Ask

Here’s some language to use to defuse some of the anxiety around asking.


Admit you’re afraid to the donor. Here’s what to say:

I didn’t get into this field to raise money. I got into this field to save animals [or cure diseases, provide education, feed the hungry, etc.]. (For the sake of this example, we’ll go with saving animals.)


And unfortunately, the only way to save animals is by having adequate staff and facilities. If I could do it all by myself, I would. But this issue is bigger than me.


And I can only make a real difference with help from people like you.


Do you want to help rescue animals?

I have no idea what to ask you for, so I’m simply going to share what we need. Is that okay?


(See what I’ve done? I’ve asked two questions the donor has already said “yes” to. They want to help, and they are willing to learn about the need.)


You’re on a roll. Don’t stop now…

In order to rescue animals, we need adequate housing, food, and vet care. That will cost about $400K this year. The food alone will cost about 40K. Is that something you could consider?


Now, stop talking. It’s the donor’s turn to say something.


After a pause, they will probably say something like, “Wow, that’s a lot of money”.

You can keep the conversation going with:

Yes, that is a lot of money. Keeping animals safe and cared for costs an awful lot. But it’s such an important cause.


As I mentioned, I wasn’t really sure of what to ask for — other than to tell you what we need. So, how would you like to help?


An Imperfect Ask is Better Than No Ask At All

Your ask doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need to do it.


Consider the consequences…

What will happen if you don’t raise the money? Will the animals be euthanized? Or left in abusive situations?

For the sake of your cause, you have no choice but to ask. 


The only way you can “mess it up” is by not even trying.


Of course, that’s easier said than done. If knowing all of this, you’re still unable to push yourself to make the ask, then you could probably use a little help.


Leaning on Others for Support

Bad habits are hard to break. Plain and simple.


One of the reasons Weight Watchers works well is that there’s a community to support one another. The same is true with Alcoholics Anonymous.


A community of fundraisers

That’s a big part of why I’ve spent many months completely reworking Mastering Major Gifts. I’ve transformed this 7-week online course into a full-fledged community of fundraisers to support you every step of the way.


I, along with members of this new MMG 2.0 community, will provide you with motivation, encouragement, advice, and accountability. Learn more:

Mastering Major Gifts — A Community of Fundraisers »

It’s time to break your bad fundraising habits and put an end to your self-sabotaging once and for all.


Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is one of the country's leading fundraising consultants. She is also the CEO and Co-Founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. She's raised millions of dollars for dozens of nonprofits through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. She has a real talent for making fundraising simple and accessible for her clients and followers.


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