When I talk with other fundraising professionals I usually hear the same lament, “My candidate or incumbent doesn’t like to make fundraising calls or won’t make the ask for money.”
I have thought about this problem a lot. I know that sometimes there’s a discomfort when asking for money. Plain and simple, no one likes to ask his or her friends, or perfect strangers for cash.
As I’ve taught more and more fundraising seminars, I have come to realize that some of the fault might lie with us as fundraising professionals. Specifically, what are we doing to adequately train our candidates how to ask for the donation?
First, candidates come from all walks of life and it’s not feasible for all of them to enter a campaign with the skill set to know how to ask for money. We as fundraising professionals must teach our candidates how to make the ask.
The most important reason a candidate needs to be able to ask for money is that most donors won’t fork over money without a specific request.
For example, I like to ask my clients first and foremost to tell me why they’re running. That why then starts a dialogue with potential donors.
Donors want to know why your candidate is running but they don’t need a white paper on it. And if your candidates can’t articulate this point, don’t be afraid to be the one to help them get clear on why they‘re running.
Second, we work on the ask. What is it you’re asking a particular donor for? Is it just a contribution? Is it an event where you want that donor not only to contribute the maximum contribution but also bundle a particular amount? Do you want this individual to serve as the campaign’s finance chairman and oversee the recruitment of a finance committee that will raise the campaign’s budget?
Specificity kills ambiguity. The more specific the ask, the higher probability for success for getting your financial needs met.
The times my candidates have gotten on the phone and made an ambiguous ask of the donor we have ended up with little or nothing.
Instead of asking vaguely for help, here’s how to phrase it with more specificity.
“Mr. Jones, thank you for taking my call. This is Bill Smith and I am the Republican running in the open seat for Congress in District 25 in Florida. I am running because I want to work on tax reform, bring more jobs to Florida and as a Veteran I will work hard to make sure our men and women in uniform continue to have the benefits they deserve as they come home from service.
“I am having a fundraiser in your town and I would like to ask you to serve on the host committee and raise $10,000. In addition, I would also like to ask if you and Mrs. Jones would agree to give the maximum to my campaign, which is $2,600 each?
“You would? Thank you very much and I will have my finance director follow up with you today. I look forward to seeing you at the event on October 1.”
And here’s another little secret. There’s no substitute for human contact. It’s still the best way to raise money.
I know all you kids are enamored with this thing called the Internet but picking up the phone or a face-to-face meeting with a donor will get you closer to making a financial goal than sending an email. It’s much harder to say no when a candidate is making an ask sitting in your office.
I know this seems Campaign 101, but the candidates who know how to ask for what they want are more prepared in every other area of the campaign from debate prep to press interviews.
And if you’re going to take your candidate’s time making fundraising calls or going to fundraising meetings, why not make sure that when they get to the ask, it’s big, bold and you absolutely get what you want.
Ann is the president of The Woods Herberger Group where her primary fundraising focus has been on the Bush family, specifically raising money for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Ann has also served as a fundraising consultant to the RNC, RGA, NRSC and NRCC. She resides in Miami, Florida.