Friends Don't Ask Friends

When I ask board members what gets in the way of their fundraising, two things always always pop up:  The fear of rejection and the fear of imposing on their friends. The first I get.  I’ve spent the last 40 or so years asking others either to buy something—my products, my services—or invest in the organization for which I was raising funds.  And no matter how good a salesperson I am, there are a whole lot more no’s out there than yesses.  But, honestly, I think board members are more afraid of those yesses, because they then feel they “owe” the giver and that will undoubtedly result in them making a gift to the other’s organization in return.

This sense of obligation is often the deterrent to asking friends to support the organization they care so much about.  And yet, if not their friends, then who?

One thing I tell board members is that clarity of purpose will help to make fundraising from friends less fraught.

When you talk to a friend about your organization make a clear distinction that you are now speaking as a board member, wearing your organizational hat.  Once you do that, get immediately down to business.

Nothing is more upsetting than thinking the phone call, lunch date, coffee get together is for friend time only to discover that no, the purpose is to ask you to reach into your wallet and support your friend’s cause.

On the other hand, like any other prospect, if—knowing that the meeting is about that cause—I say yes, I will listen, meet, or even read the rest of this email or letter, I am also saying yes, I have some interest in your cause.

The board member’s job, then, is to ratchet up my interest, involve me in what is going on, and then ask me to invest in what they are doing.  Now, it is not that the board member has incurred an obligation, merely that they have provided me, the prospect, with an opportunity to become as passionate about the organization as they are, and to support it in whatever way works for me.

When board members understand that their job is not to get money from their friends but to invite their friends to become supporters if the organization and cause resonates with them, everyone wins.

So I agree—friends don’t ask friends to give money.  Friends DO open doors for friends to walk through and contribute to something that has meaning, brings joy, and allows that friend to make a difference.

Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build strong, committed board who embrace fundraising.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the free monthly newsletter