This post is part of our definitions project: a collection of fundraising industry words to help you get by. Our favourites just might be regular words that have been appropriated to have weird fundraising significance, but we’ll see.


The Ask


The specific moment when the fundraiser reaches out to a donor (or donors) about making a monetary donation.


Frieda, I’m not sure the ask in our February direct mail appeal is clear enough for our donors.

This phrase is used with professionals or colleagues, but rarely with donors. I think it would be unlikely to say to the donor. “I’m going to make the ask now.” The ask is different than activities fundraisers do to build a relationship with the donor. The ask could be a direct question, or it could be a statement that alludes to a question. For example, “Would you like to make a gift to Save the Pond Charity?” or “Some people have made a gift in their will to Save the Pond Charity.” The ask can be done in writing, via phone or in person.

Somewhat surprisingly, most fundraisers find this part scary. As a result, most of the work in fundraising is done prior to the ask – setting yourself up with a plan, including knowing who you are going to approach, what their connection is to the organization and understanding (as much as you can) their ability to give. It also helps if you set yourself up with information about the charitable organization you are asking on behalf of – such as its mission and what the money will be used for. Finally, know your fundraising details: what to do if they say yes, what to do if they say no, and what happens in between.

I think the ask might be the pivot point around which a fundraiser’s world revolves. Being clear about when you ask, and when you don’t, makes it easier. For instance, you could say thank-you or share information. But everything else is pretty much leading up to, or coming down from, the ask.

There you have it – a simple question is now a big deal for fundraisers.

Wanna play? In the comment below tell us the words you need defined or let us know what you think.

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