Fundraising — Ask for What You Want

Just Ask—It Really Works

The good news and the bad news is that people aren’t mind readers.

Not that my thoughts aren’t always kind, generous and pure as the driven snow. The trick as a nonprofit leader is to tell people what you want and then to graciously accept no if they aren’t interested in your cause.

I was preparing for my trip to Rwanda as a board member for the African Health and Hospital Foundation. Their mission is to bring reconditioned medical equipment from the U.S. to East Africa. They get the equipment and the reconditioning donated and raise funds for the shipping.

From years of working with other cultures and because I think everyday should be Christmas, I knew that I should be bringing presents for the folks I was going to see. Jeff and Jill Rose clued me in that the nurses at the hospitals we are visiting love Mardi Gras beads and the kids in the hospitals and the orphanages need quiet toys such as art supplies and more active toys such as balls. And then the necessities such as underwear.

I was giving a fundraising workshop for Main Street Florida and the place was strewn with Mardi Gras beads. I asked the organizer what would happen to the beads that were left. She said to help myself. I asked the participants if they didn’t want the beads, I would take them to Rwanda to the hospital workers and moms. Not only did they give me all the beads, but a week later, I got a lovely note about the workshop and another case of beads.

Dr. Rose Jonas with granddaughter and gifts she bought for orphans

My friend Dr. Rose Jonas  and I swalk three times a week. (this is Rose’s term for walking in a swimming pool). She asked me if I need anything for my trip. Rose and her granddaughter spend most Sundays together having “Bubby School,” talking about  Judaism, mythology and other most recently about the Jewish concept of Sedaka, which is charitable giving.  I asked her if she and her granddaughter would like to contribute some toys for the children. They talked about what it would be like to be an orphan, what children with little to nothing really need and what it would be fun to have. They set out for Target with a fixed budget and only went 250% over it. The good news is that Bubby School doesn’t focus on economics.  

Questions to take back to your nonprofit:

  1. Do we have a wish list?
  2. Is it time to go to our front line staff and ask them what it would take to do their jobs more effectively?
  3. What do we need in addition to good old money? Do we need someone to help us with Search Engine Optimization or childcare during meetings or 72 lap top computers? Focus on talent and material goods.
  4. How are we communicating our needs?
  5. Are there publications, either in print or on-line that are read by folks who could help? For instance, if you need an accountant who has an interest in the arts, you might want to try contacting the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in your area.
  6. Are you willing to graciously take no if someone isn’t interested and move on?
Carol delivers toys from Rose and her Granddaughter to one of the orphans in Rwanda


I need Carol to