When a Qualified Prospect asks, “How can I help?” you need to have a clear answer.
The fact that most organizations don’t have a clear answer is one of the biggest funding challenges in the ‘not-for-profit sector.’
I’ve heard many default responses that fall into these categories:
- “I’ll get back to you.” The fundraiser then heads back to the office, calls a meeting and says, “Prospect X is willing to help! What should we ask for?” The team then makes up something that they think might be most attractive.
- “Maybe you could come to our event?” The moves management route… “Would you consider joining our board?” Or [insert other ‘move.’] The prospect has already ASKED how they can help – You need an answer, not a chess gambit!
- “How do YOU want to help?” This is just a weak way of engaging. I think too many in this sector are afraid of coming off as too aggressive if they answer truthfully. If you are authentically representing your IMPACT, and they have asked to help, then it is your responsibility to Present the Opportunity.
- “Can you give us money?” Ugh. No funding rationale. No specificity. And no language around impact. (I think a generic ‘give or get’ discussion also falls into this category.)
In self-assessments, most organizations can identify challenges with prospecting, messaging or board support. But rarely do they say, “Everyone always asks me how they can help… And I don’t have a clear answer!”
Simply bringing attention to this could have a tremendous impact.
On my last three visits I’ve heard this from prospects, verbatim:
- “Tell me concretely, how I can help.”
- “I’m not ready to make a commitment today, but what do you need?”
- From a foundation: “What’s a way we can be most helpful to this work?”
Here are some ideas and resources to help you answer the question “How can I help?” – all of which fall under our Just Ask! philosophy:
- Have a simple (major gift level) ask that works in every situation with every person.
We’re a big fan of the Leadership Circle for this reason. It represents your simplest ask around the most compelling (and general) areas of your case. It’s not used to maximize a relationship, but it offers a clear answer.
E.g. “Our Leadership Circle is a group of people – like you – who GET the mission and are invested in our cause at the $10,000 level. Collectively, all the Leadership Circle members generate $1M a year that’s used for unbudgeted and timely priorities. Would you be willing to join?”
- Use the “Champion-Invite-Invest” framework.
This is a great way of making the ask multidimensional. On its own it’s no more clear than ‘give or get,’ however, you can use the framework to ask for specific help as a champion… specific referrals… and specific opportunities for investment. (Watch 3 minute video.)
- Develop a specific ask around a project, priority or plan.
This allows you to ask for support around a specific project (and corresponding funding number) OR a funding plan. (Watch 3 minute video.)
In order to ‘Just Ask’ you need to HAVE an ask.