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Viken Mikaelian

Viken Mikaelian

CEO, PlannedGiving.com

Fearless Asking

In the 1967 novel Christy, a young woman born into privilege receives the shock of her life when she becomes a teaching missionary in the poorest part of Appalachia.  Densely wooded trails replace paved roads; the only running water flows in streams; and barefoot students attend a primitive school with no textbooks, let alone a library. 

Initial Impulse to Flee 

Once Christy Huddleston overcomes her initial impulse to flee those piney woods, she decides to ask for help from a wealthy businessman. She could have dressed plainly for the interview and begged for funds to buy books — it’s what one might expect of a mountain schoolteacher. Instead, however, she puts on her best suit and springs for an expensive new hat. As she enters the man’s grand office, she realizes from his expression that she’s made the desired impression. She then focuses on shifting his interest “from me to the cause.” Mr. Rural Rockefeller is so impressed by her approach that he writes a check right then and there. 

This Brings Me to You 

What is YOUR demeanor when you ask for money?  Do you go boldly, maybe where no one has gone before, or do you get all apologetic, mincing your way around the ask? Are you somewhere in between? And how are you dressed? Like you just got out of bed, or like you mean business and are deserving of attention? 

Some people would rather face gall bladder surgery without anesthesia than ask for money, which they regard as a cringe-worthy act of begging. The problem is that some of those people are working in fundraising! If this is you, either change your tune or find another profession. 

Whether you’re chasing annual gifts or securing your nonprofit’s future through planned gifts, fundraising is a noble calling. I repeat, fundraising is a noble calling!  Henri Nouwen saw it as “inviting people into a new way of relating to their resources.” In his book A Spirituality of Fundraising, he wrote, 

I remember visiting a successful fund-raiser in Texas whose office was filled with beautiful things. I said, “How do you dare to ask for money in this office?’” 

He replied, “My office is part of my way of approaching people. It is meant to communicate that I know how to work and money… how to make money grow. This inspires confidence in the people I meet that their investment will be well used.” 

I think Christy Huddleston would agree.  

When you ask for money, dress the part and act the part. And for Pete’s sake, don’t apologize for seeking funds for your worthy nonprofit. Keep this quote from Nouwen in mind: “I ask for money standing up, not bowing down, because I believe in what I am about. I believe that I have something important to offer.” 

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.