We’ve all been there.

You’re raising money for a project.

You’ve identified someone who can give to move you toward your goal.

You find their contact information. You might even have a pledge form ready.

Everything builds up to the moment when it’s time to ask and…..

You freeze.

You either can’t get the words out or you mangle it so badly your donor looks at you like you’re speaking Latin.

Why does this happen?

Why is asking someone for something so hard?

Why does it seem so easy for some people to ask when others struggle?

It doesn’t matter if you’re asking a volunteer to work a Saturday morning shift, asking for a gift certificate for your silent auction, or asking a big donor for a $50,000 gift, making that ask can be scary.

Reasons why it’s tough to ask for money

There are a lot of reasons why it can be hard for you to ask for money.

  • Inexperienced. If you’re new to asking, it can be scary. Lots of people are nervous the first time they attempt something new, because they have no idea how it’s going to turn out or how they’ll do. We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time, which really isn’t fair. You wouldn’t expect a child to ride a bike the first time they get on, would you?
  • Not prepared. Maybe you don’t know what to say or how much to ask for. This is not the time to wing it or shoot from the hip. Without a clear idea of what how you want the conversation to go, it can take any number of courses and end badly for you.
  • Lack of confidence. Sometimes, you just don’t feel ready. Maybe you think you’re not the one who should be asking or that you don’t know enough about the organization. And guess what? When you don’t feel confident, it comes through, which usually reduces the chances that the donor will say “yes.”
  • Mindset. What you believe about fundraising and money and giving and practically everything makes up your mindset. If you believe that your cause isn’t as good as another nonprofit’s, you’ll downplay the work your nonprofit does and people won’t be as inclined to give. If you believe that the economy is bad and people won’t give, they won’t. If you believe there’s too much competition for fundraising, you’ll struggle to get your share. See how this works?

How to get better at asking for money

The old saying is “practice makes perfect” and it’s absolutely true when it comes to fundraising.

So, get out there and ask.

Start with someone you know who cares about your organization’s mission. Choose someone you know pretty well and ask for something small. The point here is to get a quick ‘win’ because it will boost your confidence.

Be prepared. Don’t wing it. Outline what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. Think through questions they might ask about your nonprofit or your project, and how you’ll answer them.

Practice. Rehearse your ask in front of the mirror. I know, I know – this seems silly, but it will help you if you’re nervous. If you really want to practice, video yourself and watch the video. I always learn a ton from watching a video of myself doing something.

Believe in what you’re asking for. Focus on the mission, not the money. You’re here to change lives, and when your ask results in a “yes,” you’ll get resources you need to fulfill your mission.

Tips to ask for money

Stay focused on your ‘why.’ Why does it matter to you if you get what you’re asking for? Get in touch with the deepest reason in your heart why this matters to you and let it strengthen you. Visualize it and keep it firmly planted in your mind as you ask.

Imagine you and the donor on the same team. It’s not ‘you vs them,’ it’s ‘you & them.’ You’re partners in this work and they want to help you be successful. See yourself as already on the same team.

It’s all about your intention. When you come from a place of respect and integrity, you aren’t “hitting them up” or “strong arming them” to give to your nonprofit. You’re raising money for something that matters, and you’re asking for their help. That’s all.

Asking is important. You’ll never fully fund your nonprofit without it, so it’s time to start working on any mindset issues you have so you can get out there and ask for what your nonprofit needs.

3 baby steps to overcoming your fear of asking for money

Just like conquering fear of heights or fear of most anything, your fear of fundraising can be overcome.  It takes a few simple steps, a positive attitude, a little support, and a good dose of courage.

Focus on the reason why you care about the organization. 

Keep that in your mind as you go through this exercise and it will make things a bit easier.

When you’re ready, take these baby steps toward asking for a donation:

1. Pick a friend that you can ask for a gift.  Make sure it’s someone you trust – this will help you feel safe.

2. Practice telling him/her about your organization. It’s okay if you stumble on your words.  You’re practicing on a friend after all.

3. Then ask for a $50 donation.  (This is a slightly larger amount than most people give and a good place for you to start.)

Pay attention to how the experience goes for you when you ask for money.

How does it feel while you are in the conversation?  Are you nervous?  Sweating?  How does it feel after you ask for the gift?  Are you relieved that it’s over?  Was it easier or harder than you thought?

Afterward, write a short description of your experience, positive or negative. (There’s great power in writing this experience down!)

Hopefully, it was an exhilarating experience for you!

Once you get your fear under control, you may actually find it fun to talk with people about the organization you love.

Whether the experience was positive or negative, think for a moment if this is how you want fundraising to be for you. 

Is there a different way you think it could or should be?  Would you like it to be easy and light, with the words rolling off your tongue? Would you rather it be full of energy, with your donor prospect catching your enthusiasm like a spreading wildfire?  Would you like to have donors thank you for giving them the opportunity to support your organization’s work? (It can happen!)

Remember, when you focus on the baby steps that need to be done, and just DO one, you stop being afraid or overwhelmed by the big stuff or the things that might happen if you fail.

The Bottom Line

Remember that you’re not taking anything away from people when you ask for money. You are simply giving them to chance to participate in the work your nonprofit does. Simple as that.

And lives will be changed because of it.