For Impact


Making the Ask: Best Practices

Funding | | Nick Fellers

On a call last week, I was asked to cover some of the best practices for making an ask. This article covers the points of my response.

First, there are two best practices to highlight before you get to an ask. 

  1. Have a goal of getting to an ask on a specific visit.
    I’m not saying every visit can or should include an ask, but we should approach every encounter with an eye toward qualifying an ask, or predisposing to an ask. I would even argue that good stewardship (after a commitment) is essential for – and can be in service toward – setting up a future ask.Without intention, you will rarely drive to the right time or readiness to ask. Once we commit to a goal, “I am going to make an ask on our next visit,” the mind will naturally start to fill in gaps in strategy that are necessary to make that happen.
  2. Predispose the prospect to the ask.
    Think of predisposition as setting the table. What do you need to do to set the table for an ask? The actions can be formal or informal… explicit or implicit… multi-pronged, or a singular email noting that, “When we’re together, I look forward to talking about our plan and how you can help.”With respect to predisposition, we need to ask:

    • Who should be involved in predisposition?
    • What should we send?
    • What should we say?
    • And, how should we sequence the above?

Finally, we’re ready to talk about making the ask. So here are a few best practices:

  • Use a visual.
    We build engagement tools to help us simplify the story and navigate toward an ask. There is a large body of science to support the power of a visual when you’re communicating. You can get to an ask more efficiently and effectively through the usual of simple visuals and a 1-3 page flow that moves from purpose to funding.
  • Have a clear funding rationale.
    A funding rationale is your compelling ask. Prepare a few of these unless you need to focus on one project, program, or campaign. Generally, we like to prepare funding rationales that will:

    • Help us fund operations/programs.
    • Help fund something discrete and time-bound. This could be to seed a new program, fund a building, fund a class.
    • Fund any other special needs of an organization (such as an endowment).
  • Prepare and practice the flow of the visit and transitions.
    • Take time to think about the roles your team will play on a visit (if more than one of you are participating).
    • Plan the opening – and how you will start the first few minutes of the conversation.
    • Think about how you will transition into a conversation about the vision, or the program, or where you’re going.
    • Think about questions you can ask to help you transition and navigate. We actually coach our clients to write these out and practice. (Note: I dive deeper into the flow and some of the transitions on the Deep Dive podcast that goes with this WOW email.)
  • Think about possible questions and objections.
    Similar to the previous point, practice these with your team.
  • Approach the ask as a dialogue – after you make the ask, be prepared to ask follow-up questions to help ensure that (1) your request is landing with the prospect, (2) you’re unpacking any questions/concerns/highlights from the prospect, and (3) you’re working on the mechanics of the ask – such as timeline and follow-up.

Here is a Visit Checklist we use to help us prepare to make a visit and ask.