The Ask: Seek Advice
Let’s assume you have a powerful case statement and you have the clout to get some doors open. What exactly will the “ask” look like in making first contact with potential donors?
Clearly, no one will be asking anyone else for money during a first review of your project’s case statement. NO WAY! In the beginning, you are seeking counsel and advice. Yes, your ultimate goal is to raise money, but I have found that if you want to raise serious money, you ALWAYS begin by asking for advice.
If you want advice, begin by asking for money because you will so offend people they will direct you to the door and refer you to other people, people they don’t like very much. They’ll have a great laugh at your expense as you amble off to irritate those people.
So if you’re honestly seeking advice (and you had best be really sincere about this) what kind of advice should you be seeking?
Most important of all, you want an honest, no-holds-barred review of your project, and that includes the need, the proposed solution, and the anticipated benefits. Everyone should be asked to thoroughly share his or her appraisal of your project AND invited to share the unanswered questions that surface as a result of reading and reviewing your case statement. Your job is to collect those questions as if they were gold nuggets, with a sincere commitment to get answers. In fact, collecting questions and getting answers to them will become your full-time job for a few weeks, maybe even for a few months.
If those reviewing your case have thoughts and suggestion that will improve your case statement, these should all be noted and catalogued.
There is no such thing as a stupid thought or suggestion. Your case review process will surface ideas, thoughts, and suggestions that you may think silly or stupid, but your reviewers don’t think so.
It’s so important to demonstrate you are a great listener.
This is true especially in these early review meetings. Even if you listen respectfully to those who are disrespectful of your project, you win points for honoring them with attentiveness and a welcoming spirit. Remember, once you leave their home or office, you always have the right to cross them off your list as a potential new friend. Even if you do this, you must do it with the greatest kindness and respect for their point of view.
But while you are in their presence, they are your most important priority, and what they have to say is of the greatest interest to you. This must always be the case. I have often learned more about the obstacles a fundraising effort has to overcome by listening to antagonistic prospects than I have learned from the friendly ones. Remember:
Listen to all with an open mind.