On Philanthopy, Part II – Asking for Money

man with babyOn asking for money, in a simple three step process. 

Warning: Metaphor in use.

Step 1.  Find a donor.

Step 2. “Oh, hi, it’s you.  Listen, can I ask you a favor?  Can you hold my baby for a minute?”

Step 3.  In a few moments, donor not only cuddles baby – but ends up nose-to-nose whispering nonsense noises – and then “I love you.”

If you’re trying to raise money for your organization, repeat steps 1 through 3.

Asking for money is no more difficult than “I love you.”  If you can say that, and inspire someone else to say that, you can raise all the money you’ll ever need for your worthy cause.

I’ve been the Annual Fund Co-Chair of my high school[1] for the past three years.  I’ve overcome squeamishness about asking for money by focusing on the shared love.  I love the school, and I’m usually soliciting money from people who also already love the school.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.


It shouldn’t be awkward

You’ve always assumed that asking for money is scary and awkward.  So was dating in junior high – which typically does not involve ‘love’ in the most effective way.

But if you love your cause, and if you’re helping your donor fall in love with the cause and the people around it, you’re winning.  You just need to say ‘I love you’ to your worthy cause and to help your donor say ‘I love you’ to you and your cause.  And that’s it.

The asking part follows naturally for people who fall in love with a cause.

Is it hard to ask the other parent of your infant child to warm up a bottle in the middle of the night?  No, it’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world.

But what about data?

You’ve read that the world of philanthropy is different now – in particular now that metrics and data have taken over the process.  You’ve learned that your non-profit must be business-like and show a ‘return on investment.’

Yes and No.

Best business practices like data-collection, efficiency, and metrics help you do your job better, so should be adopted by your organization for their own sake.  But if you’re collecting data just to have something to show current and prospective donors, you’re not making good use of anyone’s time, or making good use of the data itself.

Track numbers that matter and improve your non-profit practice all for their own sake, and that’s all the ‘metrics’ you’ll ever really need.

Irrational love

At the moment of giving, donors must have an irrational love for what your organization does better than anyone else.

All the data in the world cannot make a donor fall deeply, madly, irrationally in love with you and your cause.  Data doesn’t lead to love, only to a rational comparison between your group and someone else’s worthy cause.  Which rational comparison mindset is a place you don’t want to be if you’re trying to raise a lot of money.

When you think about it, the act of giving away money is totally irrational, so the more you engage a donor’s rational thought process, the further you are from success.

Donors give because they love the people in the organization – or because they love some tender feeling that your group inspired.

Of course data helps you do your job, but only love inspires donors.

So stay focused on the love.

If you raise money for an organization, remember this most important step:

“Sir, would you mind holding my baby?”


Please see earlier post On Philanthropy – Giving Money Away

[1] Which as I wrote before is the best.school.ever and everyone should know about it.  It’s called the Armand Hammer United World College.  Check it out.  Heck, if you found this blog post useful, you should donate to the cause!  See how easy that was?

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5 Replies to “On Philanthopy, Part II – Asking for Money”

  1. I must be one cold-hearted SOB. I get called as much as the next guy, being asked for money to support my college, my brother’s school, and about a dozen other causes. I support three causes and only three. I NEVER let a cause pick me, I pick the cause, and I always figured that everyone else thinks the same way. I must be wrong. But no amount of commercials with scruffy looking puppies or some hungry-looking kid in Africa are ever going to inspire me to open up the check book.

    1. It doesn’t seem cold-hearted to me, it seems wise. I think its worth supporting causes that you can really get into, understand, and support with more than just money. Funding lots of causes makes that impossible.

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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