6 Steps To An Effective Private School Fundraising Ask

Private School Fundraising Ask: Steps Of An Effective Strategy  

Sometimes the responsibility of fundraising falls on a development officer, but often times administrators themselves have to ask individuals for contributions. And while all donations are helpful, the large ones have the most impact. Making a big fundraising ask can be one of the most intimidating tasks for any fundraiser, let alone an administrator who often has little fundraising experience and plenty of other responsibilities.

Yet, the ability to make a fundraising ask in person or on the phone is one of the most essential skills any professional fundraiser or administrator can possess. Writing great fundraising letters and holding seamless events is important, but nothing compares to the ability to feel comfortable when making a thoughtful, impactful fundraising ask.

A key thing to remember is that the vast majority of fundraising dollars from your school will come from individual donors (not foundations or corporations). A significant portion of this giving (and a vast majority of the largest gifts) is the result of direct, personal fundraising asks. As a fundraiser, it’s essential that you know how to ask for money effectively.

This is no easy feat. After all, asking for money, let alone large quantities of it, can be intimidating. The number one piece of advice that I can give you is to practice. Practicing asks will help you overcome the anxiety that naturally comes from making asks and will make you a better fundraiser overall.

Breaking Down The Fundraising Ask

With more than 15 years of consulting for clients like Blackbaud K-12, BLOCS (Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools) and Phil-Mont Christian Academy, and making major donor fundraising asks myself, I’ve been able to develop a simple, six step process for making asks. Following these steps will form the foundation of the conversation you want to have with donors either in person or on the phone as you make an ask for your school. The 6 steps are:

1. Start With Small Talk.

Talk about the kids, family, work, the last time you saw the other person. This is the time to get the pleasantries out of the way so you can focus on why you’re meeting.

2. Transition.

Make a transition so that it’s known that the topic has changed to something far more serious. Good transitions include “Listen… I want to talk about something important”, “I’ve got a serious question for you”, or, “Kim, I need your help”.

3. Highlight The Connection.

Remind the prospect of the connection that they have with your school (either as an alumni or parent, or through the work you did during the cultivation phase). For instance, “Jerry, I know you love our school. We greatly appreciate all of the years you have spent on our board. Can you believe it has already been 10 years since you first joined?”.

4. Share Impact.

Ensure that the person you are talking to grasps the impact of your school on your students, families, and community. Remind them of what makes your school special, and why it is important. Good examples are, “Seth, our school is the only K-8 institution in the city that teaches using a classical education model. A classical education was life changing for me, as I know it was for you” or “Jessica, I’m heartbroken when I have to turn students away from our high school because of financial need. Every student deserves a Smith School education!”.

5. Establish Need.

Share background information for this specific ask. Why are you asking them to make a major gift? How will their money be used? (“We are building a new library” or “We want to provide more scholarships to needy children”).

6. Ask.

When asking, be sure to ask for a specific amount, and make sure it’s a real question, not a vague statement.

Final Thoughts

Practice these steps frequently, and soon they will become natural. If it’s helpful to you, write out a script and practice so you’ll be ready for your ask. And remember, always profusely thank everyone who responds to you, and be sure to thank those who say “no” for their time and consideration.

Talking to big donors can be a daunting task for most administrators, but that does not mean that administrators don’t have the capacity to become successful large donation fundraisers. By breaking down the fundraising ask into 6 simple steps, any administrator can become a successful fundraiser and continue to bring upgrades to their schools for years to come.

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