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Do I Have To Meet With Donors Face-To-Face?

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

In "The God Ask," Steve Shadrach tells the story of "a wealthy Catholic woman [who] was gradually dying of cancer. In her final months, her beloved priest visited her every day at the hospital. He did this out of concern for her, but also believing that the childless woman would leave her fortune to the local parish. After her passing and the funeral, the priest attended the reading of the will and to his utter amazement, this faithful, lifelong member did not give anything to her own Catholic church. Instead, she left it all to some local evangelistic association. The bewildered priest tracked down the leader of the organization and fired questions at him. 'Who are you?' and 'How did you know my parishioner?' and 'Why did she leave all of her fortune to you rather than us?' 'Well,' the man admitted, 'I really didn't know her at all. I saw an article in the paper about her and I visited her in the hospital one day. I asked if she would consider giving to our ministry so her life and legacy could live on through touching others for Christ. That's all I did.' Speechless, the priest walked away in shock and regret - blindly presuming his daily praying and caring for the woman would surely result in her leaving her wealth to the parish she loved. He painfully realized his one mistake - he had chosen to assume rather than ask."

Some insights:

Some things in life only come when someone asks.

"You won't get milk from a cow by sending a letter. And you won't get milk by calling on the phone. The only way to get milk from a cow is to sit by its side and milk it." Si Seymour

I see it all the time. Because of a nonprofit's reluctance to ask, they will spend inordinate amounts of time doing events, newsletters, social media, texts, etc.

At the most extraordinary events, the most outstanding speakers will never cause your mission to be fully funded.

The most awesome newsletters in the world will never inspire donors to fully fund your mission.

Unique social media posts multiple times a day, every day of the week, will never inspire the major gifts you need to fully fund your mission.

One of the greatest hindrances to your mission being fully funded is your reluctance to ask, face to face, for the money you need. If you do not believe in your mission enough to ask, major donors will not believe either.

I have found that many nonprofit leaders will do anything to avoid making face-to-face asks. Not understanding the power of and need for face-to-face asks causes organizations to suffer. Face-to-face meetings with donors who can significantly impact your mission are unavoidable.

Why face-to-face? If it is crucial, you do it face-to-face. You would never propose to a potential suitor by text; because a marriage proposal is too important. You would never confront an erring employee by fax; because engaging an erring employee is too critical. You would never hire a leader in your organization by email; because hiring a leader in your organization is too strategic.

IF it is important, you do it face-to-face.

1. Face-to-face meetings say, 'you are important to me.'

When you ask to meet face-to-face with someone, it validates their importance. It tells people they are that important. When people know you are busy, your face-to-face time means even more. Using the wrong communication method can tell the people most important to our mission that they are unimportant.

2. Face-to-face meetings communicate that what you have to say is important.

Asking to meet with someone face-to-face automatically brings a level of gravity to what you have to say. If what you are saying is serious, then how you deliver what you say is critical. Face-to-face meetings cause people to take what you are saying more seriously.

If your mission matters, then meeting face-to-face with people to ask for their engagement is an absolute necessity. “But,” you may say, “I feel like I am begging!” I say it at the end of every podcast, YOU ARE NOT BEGGING, YOU ARE NOT PLEADING, YOU ARE INVITING HUMANITY TO PARTNER WITH PROVIDENCE!

IF your mission is fully funded and grows year-by-year, THERE WILL NEVER BE A TIME WHEN YOU DON’T ASK PEOPLE FOR THEIR ENGAGEMENT FACE TO FACE.

What to ask for:

Leaders - The best leaders will only serve when you ask them. A pastor friend talked to me in frustration about how he had made a real need for a program leader known in his church. He announced it and put the word out in the church bulletins. He hoped that, in broadcasting the need, a good leader would step forward. I helped him understand that the most outstanding leaders will almost never volunteer. The best leaders will wait for you to ask them. Studies tell us that great leaders feel overlooked when you don't ask them to serve. Ask great leaders to serve your mission.

Board members - Meet someone with potential? ASK them if they would consider serving on your board. I have found that the most excellent board members often don't believe they could play a significant role. When you ask them face-to-face, they feel important, consider your message as important, and they will serve! NEVER let others do your asking for you when it comes to board members.

Donor upgrades - If you have donors who have faithfully given an amount of money for years, ask them to upgrade! In a face-to-face meeting, compare where your organization was when they began giving and where it is now. Show how the need has increased. Show them where you are and where you would like to be, and ASK them to help you get there. If your mission is honorable, they will feel honored that you asked.

Major gifts - There is no substitute for meeting with donors and asking them to give at higher and higher levels. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY. IF your organization is donor-centered and not organization-centered, asking will be easy. When organizations rely solely on donors' intentions and neglect to ask, there is almost always a significant drop in the likelihood of people turning their intentions into action and making a donation. We call this the "Best Intentions Gap." When individuals give to a particular person or cause at very high levels, it is almost always because they were asked.

Mentors - Recently, a very gifted and talented pastor approached me and asked if I would be a mentor in his life. I was honored! We meet almost weekly, and our meetings are explosive! It stretches both of us. Find someone ahead of you in some area and ask them if they will meet with you once or twice. After a couple of meetings, you can decide if you want to continue the relationship. You don't know until you ask! What do you have to lose?

A raise - One of the greatest frustrations nonprofit leaders struggle with is their low paycheck. Without emotion, in a spirit of thankfulness, why don't you meet with your superior, board chair, or board and ask what you would need to do to be worth a bigger salary? AND BE PREPARED TO DO WHAT THEY ASK.

Volunteers to give - Meet with volunteers and thank them for service and ask them if they would consider joining your community of financial supporters. They will!

Matching gifts - At the end of the year, meet face-to-face with donors who could give a large gift and ask them if they would allow you to leverage the power of their gift and make it a matching gift. Donors LOVE to know that they have doubled their impact and encouraged others to get involved with you financially.

Want more money? Be prepared to ask for it face to face!


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