Tag Archives: Brian Saber

Ask For What You Want

Bilie (Mac) McBain Dec 16 blog post

Two customer service reps recently reminded me of the value of straightforwardly asking for what you want. Asking politely, confidently and firmly, which is how fundraisers should solicit potential donors and prospects.

Billie (Mac) McBain at Best Buy in Aberdeen, NC asked me in all the right ways to fill out an online survey, rate the store a 10 and explain how he helped me buy the right charging cable for my wife’s MacBook Pro. I obliged, but only after sharing my impression with the store manager and Mac together. I also tweeted my admiration.


Just last week, Port Authority of NY & NJ customer service rep Mohammed Alam helped me save a buck when I bought an AirTrain ticket on my way home from JFK airport. As he explained the procedure, he wrote his name on a business card and handed it to me. OK, he didn’t explicitly ask for my help, but the implication was clear and confident. I happily dashed off an email to HQ. (Which sent back a lackluster form reply ignoring my enthusiasm. Boo!)

Port Authority Customer Care rep badge Dec 16 blog post

Both were terrific, fun, sure-footed solicitations that got me to give what was asked. Bravi, gentlemen, bravi!

Let’s bring this back to what I know something about. It’s painful when I see a weak fundraising solicitation.
— An email or letter where the ask is buried in the middle of the fifth paragraph
— One that never comes around to make an ask
— A solicitor who apologizes
— A solicitor who just isn’t comfortable asking for money, or other support
— I had a client where the executive director insisted his letter should “humbly ask”

Gutless solicitations demean your work and discourage support. They’re embarrassing for everyone and suggest you don’t believe in the cause.

You believe in the cause, right? Or else you wouldn’t be there.

Here are a few tips:
— Rehearse: many Nonprofit Radio guests have suggested this. You role play the solicitation meeting. Lots of pros use this.
— Prepare in advance: last minute preparation is inadequate; this is an important meeting!
— Not so many pages or screens: lots of notes suggest you don’t know your subject; that’s why you prepare.
— You host: when meetings are in your office, you control the flow and prevent interruptions.

For serious help with strong asks, check out Asking Matters. You can find your asking style (rainmaker; go-getter; mission controller; or kindred spirit), which will help you approach others, and show you how to support volunteer solicitors. (Follow president Brian Saber.)

When she was with Asking Matters, I had Andrea Kihlstedt on Nonprofit Radio. The link to listen to our convo is at the bottom of this post.

Ask for what you want with firmness and confidence. Ask from a position of strength.

Create A Culture Of Philanthropy Throughout Your Nonprofit

TonyMartignetti.AFP1 moderation

Last month I hosted a panel for AFP’s New York City chapter on creating a culture of philanthropy throughout your office: way beyond the development staff to include the CEO, finance office, program staff and facilities workers. Everybody.

The panelists were:
Terry Billie, Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations for Goodwill Industries of NY and NJ
Matthew Bregman, VP for Development at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Brian Saber, founder and president of Asking Matters

We had a lively, fun conversation over breakfast and there were lots of excellent questions from the audience!

Here are takeaways from our hour-long discussion:
— it has to start with the CEO; if your CEO embraces fundraising, the enthusiasm will trickle down
— each person in your organization can contribute to a positive fundraising culture; it can be as simple as a smile and “hello”
— everyone your staff meets should be treated as a donor; either they are or they could be
— over in finance, reports to funders should be seen as promoting fundraising, not as favors that help development staff
— your business and program departments should accept training from fundraising staff about simple ways to create a fundraising culture
— everybody else can accept training on how their jobs support fundraising
— it starts with hiring; consensus was that an enthusiastic attitude can make up for a lack of non-critical skills
— if you you’re constantly fighting to get fundraising recognized, it may not be the right place for you

Many thanks to the leaders of AFP NYC. A special shout to Holly Koenig, who first tapped me for the program.

Here’s the video!