ask for the gift

A subtext of the discussion from yesterday’s post has been bouncing around in my brain. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth but there was this theme running through the conversation that asking for money is a bad thing. Maybe it was all the talk of community and conversation as opposed to asking for a donation that started me thinking about it.

no beggingHere’s what I think.

I think if I’m homeless and need a safe place to sleep I hope someone will ask for a gift to pay for that bed until I’m back on my feet.

If I’m hungry and need a meal I’d like you to ask someone to pay for the food (we can chat about the roots of hunger when I can’t hear my stomach growl, OK?). Interestingly the headline on yesterday’s Feeding America press release begins “ONE IN SIX YOUNG CHILDREN LIVE AT RISK OF HUNGER IN 26 U.S. STATES…” You can bet that those children need you to ask someone to pay for their food.

If my son needs a heart transplant you better believe I’m going to talk to everyone I know to get that taken care of. In fact, I’m probably going to do some cold calling if that’s what it takes.

If someone I love is a slave to drugs I hope that someone will ask for the funding to pay for the program to change their life.

You get point.

Things we’re passionate about we find a way to talk about and ask for help with.

It’s uncomfortable to ask for money and it can certainly be uncomfortable to be asked. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating all the abuses of fundraising. If you know Oneicity and the way we operate, you know that’s not what we’re about. We’re about relationships…but if you have a relationship with someone then you can ask them for help. In fact, if you and I have a relationship and you need something I can help with, I want you to ask me. Actually I expect you to ask me–that’s what friends are for. I think this is somehow a version of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, sort of permission fundraising.

I’ve done face-to-face major donor fundraising as an Executive Director. I didn’t like asking for donations for projects that weren’t clear or were loaded with overhead. In fact, I’ll confess that I did just enough to make budget on those projects (and I killed them as quickly as I could).

But…there were some projects that were near and dear to my heart. I knew the difference a gift made. For those projects, I was ferocious. And funny, I raised more than enough money. And when donors caught the vision THEY became fundraisers. I’m not sure I was as bold as the apostle Paul but I was bold.

What I wonder is if people are reacting to asking for a donation without having a relationship. We’ve talked on this blog about the abuses of fundraising–from terrible CRM to the carpet bombing direct mail, etc, etc.

I’m just not convinced that the asking is the problem. The problem is asking without a relationship.

What do you think?


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity


(photo credits: Annie Mole)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

6 thoughts on “ask for the gift”

  1. John Frank woke me up a few years ago when he was helping me bring a professional development effort to my fellow board members at a Christian camp and conference center. He said we get all mixed up when we think about asking for money. What we are really doing is “connecting God’s people with God’s work”. Personally I can get a bit cranky when people make a decision for me…it happens mostly with time, not so much with money… “we can’t ask Al, he’s already busy doing X, Y and Z!”. Hey, ask me. Let me be the one to say no. Or maybe I’ll say yes like I did with X, Y and Z!

    Asking honors people. Just do it in relationship. And with honor, respect and a grace if your “ask” is politely declined. Actually, when you get a “no” for and ask of either money or time, you still owe a “thank you for considering us”.

  2. Steve
    We’re in violent agreement, especially when it comes to
    >>I’m just not convinced that the asking is the problem. The problem is asking without a relationship.>>
    IMHO, one problem many NPs face is assuming that the relationship, once established, will maintain itself automatically. I believe it’s like any other relationship–marriage, customer, whatever. You have to maintain an equal balance between taking and giving. And you should never take it for granted.
    Unfortunately, there’s more need, more worthy causes than there are resources to meet those needs. I believe the organizations that thrive in the future will be the ones which effectively engage their benefactors; not simply take their money and do good things.

  3. @Al–John Frank certainly knows his stuff. I like the theological stand point which holds that the ministry can offer something TO the donor. It is a bold stroke to consider that by asking a person to give a gift you are doing something FOR them. It is a radical shift that requires BIG thinking. But hey, Al, you get big thinking!.
    st

  4. @Ed-Violent Agreement!!! Hey Ed, you’re my kinda guy. The assumption of relationship can lead to wasted money and horrible results… but then Hoots is always saying that we all know what “assume” results in:…
    thanks for the perspective Ed… so, is this the kind of conversation you’re looking for? If so, boy do we have some fun ahead….
    st

  5. Deborah Gohrke

    Thought provoking comments all. Thanks, for the added perspective. I have tendency (big tendency) to over think things. You are absolutely right, Steve. I can’t imagine being eyeball to eyeball with someone asking for something to eat and telling them, “Sorry, I can’t help you because I’m too busy working on solving POVERTY.”

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