Asking Still Matters: Creating a Culture of Asking and a Giving Revolution

My friend and colleague Andrea Kihlstedt is our first guest thought leader. Andrea is the co founder of the brilliant site Asking Matters and the author of Capital Campaigns, Strategies that Work (Jones & Bartlett) now in its third edition.Andrea's innovative thinking around using technology to support major/donor fundraising has been an inspiration to me. She has challenged me to see opportunities I absolutely would not have seen. If you are helping a nonprofit raise money (staff, board, friend of, etc.) please read this post and share the post and Asking Matters.

It’s easy and fun to give on-line today. Kickstarter, Donors Choose, Kiva and a host of other sites make it a click to give to projects near and far with little muss and no fuss. Many of these sites harness the principles of great fundraising—a goal, a timetable, donor recognition, reporting and great communication. What they lose is the person to person, face to face focus on asking.Over a long career as a capital campaign fundraising consultant, I’ve worked with dozens of organizations that have quadrupled or quintupled their income from charitable gifts through a campaign. Organizations that raised, for example, $600,000 annually, raised $3,000,000 or more through a campaign.

What is it about these campaigns that makes such a difference? The answer is quite simple. Campaigns create a culture of asking. They set the stage for staff and board members to get out and ask.With the current crisis of under-funded non-profits, I wondered if we couldn’t harness the power of the internet to get more people out asking. Not just any kind of asking, but face to face, person to person asking. And not just asking anyone. But asking people who have the ability to give, an interest in the organization, and a personal contact with the organization. So I connected with my former colleague, Brian Saber, one of the best fundraising professionals I know. And together we set about creating a platform to help staff and board members find the will and the courage to get out and ask.We figure that if we can motivate even one-quarter of the 1,250,000 nonprofit organizations in this country to ask more and ask more effectively, we can help create a giving revolution. And in doing so, we can make a big difference in the world.

Penelope Burke in her 2011 Donor Survey found that 49% of the respondents said that they could have given more to charitable causes. According to the survey “Capturing that elusive next level of philanthropy is the issue, of course.” Brian and I know from experience that the way to capture that elusive next level of giving is through more person to person, asking.Asking Matters is the result of our work. Asking Matters provides a robust set of materials, some free and some for a fee, to help people learn how to ask in the way that suits them best. Our simple but revolutionary system of Asking Styles (complete with an on-line assessment) sorts people into four categories, Go-Getters, Kindred Spirits, Mission Controllers and Rainmakers, and outlines the ways in which people of each style can approach asking.

Free to everyone are over a hundred short videos of board members, executive directors, development directors and consultants sharing their experiences asking.In addition to the basic material, members have access to free webinars, a robust knowledge base of material about asking, and a variety of motivational tools.The platform serves organizations small and large, beginners and experts. It’s a valuable and fully affordable resource. We have small schools and social service organizations and large national organizations using the site to provide a common language of asking to their board, staff and volunteers.Consultants use the Asking Style system with their clients to get people talking about asking. And development directors use it to find better ways to support the people who are asking in their organization.

We know, of course, that the importance of asking extends far beyond the non-profit community. When we get good at asking, the world opens up to us. So perhaps this is just the first step in making the world a better place.Find your Asking Style. Are you a Go-Getter? a Kindred Spirit? a Mission Controller? Or a Rainmaker? Take the Asking Style Assessment. Let me know what you think.