Ask before Asking

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash
In 2008, author Seth Godin promoted the concept of permission based marketing. Godin’s concept is that, “permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” 
Successful resource development works the same way. Think of it as asking to make the ask. Using permission based marketing in resource development means the ask starts, like Godin’s process does, with the understanding that you do not have a right to communicate with a donor. After that recognition, you naturally become focused on how to engage the donor in a partnership that results in them allowing you to make an ask that they anticipate and is relevant and personal.

A cultivation and stewardship process is going to start with identification. But, just because you have identified a potential donor, does not mean you can or should ask them. Asking to ask them makes your eventual ask more effective. It has the additional advantage of taking the fear out of making that ask if that is something that trips you up. 
Once you have gotten to know the donor, established their interests, and shared with them your vision and impact, asking to ask is as simple as that, but can vary based on how you anticipate making an ask and for what. 
If your fundraising is driven by events or direct mail, ask them if you can put them on the distribution list for sponsorships or your mailing list. If your donor is a major gift prospect, foundation, or similar grantor, ask them if you can submit a proposal. 
Fundraising consultant Terry Axelrod, has said before that the ask is often, “nudging the inevitable.” This is a good description of a permission based model. When an ask is anticipated and includes a personal and relevant message, then it really is just nudging the inevitable. Gail Perry makes it part of her asking conversation. Other consultants like the Veritus Group are formalizing this process for major gift work, but I think it also has application for donors at all levels. I have personally had great success in building a relationship with new donors by asking their permission to put them on our mailing lists. This type of conversation has also served me well in developing relationships with foundation program officers.
Getting the donor’s permission to make an ask shows them that you and your organization are truly interested in a relationship, are focused on what will be a success for everyone involved, and humble enough to respect that donor the way they deserve.

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