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How to Master 'The Ask'

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant recently tackled “imposter syndrome” in his Work Life podcast, a great topic in its own right. But I couldn’t help but process this topic about overcoming insecurities through my fundraising lens. Talk to any seasoned executive director, development professional, or nonprofit board member and they’ll tell you -- the “Ask” is the most daunting part of fundraising. It speaks directly to our insecurities and our fear of being personally rejected.

I coach my clients on the many methods, or what I call coping mechanisms, for working through these feelings to become a great asker (having personally walked this path myself).

That’s why four words jumped right out at me during Adam Grant‘s interview with stand-up comedian Taylor Tomlinson. So much about great fundraising has to do with finding people who are excited and feel a strong connection to the work your nonprofit is doing in the world and having some of those coping mechanisms kick in when you don’t find that match.

I’m paraphrasing Tomlinson here, but in essence she said:

“Not everyone is going to want to marry you. You just have to find the people who do want to marry you. And that's how standup comedy is. Not everyone is going to think you're funny. But you have to find 'someone' and just make a lot of those people aware of you until you have your fanbase. Those four words -- "Just not for me" -- that has made a huge difference...there are plenty of people I am for and that’s who I have to focus on."

‘Just not for me’. Having these four words in your belly as you’re asking a potential donor for support can become your superpower and give you the confidence to ask without fear of rejection. If someone says ‘no thanks’ or doesn’t reply at all, it’s not a personal rejection of you or even your nonprofit. It’s ‘just not for me’ or it could also be ‘just not for me right now’. Overcoming your insecurities of possibly getting a ‘no’ will make you a better asker overall, and ultimately leads you to those who say ‘yes’ …the most satisfying feeling of all.

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