Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Always Ask - Even When You Don't

ask you
ask you (Photo credit: Victor Bezrukov)
Pamela Grow has two great sites (one focused on grants and fundraising and one focused on one-person development departments) with loads of terrific information. In a 2013 post I recently read, she challenged some assertions made by another nonprofit blogger and finished up by saying:
Remember, too, that every communication from your organization shouldn’t be an “ask.”  You’ve heard it before: your donors aren’t ATM machines.
Very true. But though your donors may not be ATM machines, I still think you should ask - just not always for money.

Other Things to Ask For Besides Money
  • Time (volunteering for the NGO)
  • Expertise (lending experience in a field the NGO has no staffer for)
  • Sharing (spreading the word via social media)
  • Information (completing questionnaires or polls and surveys)
  • Endorsement (signing a petition, writing a letter or email, or making a phone call)

Via Woody's World on Flickr
The nature of engagement implies reciprocity - not tit for tat - but give and take. Even though you are posting or emailing, you are participating in a conversation. Though it takes place on a social media platform in the public eye, it must always be a one-on-one communication.

And even if you do not ask directly for any of the above or for money, your communication must always have the essence of an ask within it; the content should be such that the reader can't help but react. When you tweet a link, the 120 characters you use to preface that link is your ask. When you pin a picture on Pinterest, the board name on which you place that picture and the description that accompanies its posting are your ask.

Ask Yourself First

Via Gary Thompson on Flickr
All of your communications are asks, though you may not be aware of it. But in order for you to get the most out of those asks, you have to ask mindfully. When you put together a communication, ask yourself what action you want the reader to take. If you keep that in mind while crafting the post or writing the description and title, you will find it easier to shape that ask within the content, making it a seamless and logical proposition.

I'm not talking about definite asks - a short email with URGENT to ask for last-minute contributions should be very up-front about what you are asking for. Instead, I'm talking about those interactions you have with your community that are about your mission, that share information, that are touchstones to keep your small nonprofit visible and alive in their minds. Like the birthday card you send a distant friend, they are ways of saying you are thinking about them and, in an unstated way, ask them to remember you as well.

Always ask. Even when you don't.

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