Don't Forget to Ask

ASK-1This time of year I am spending a lot of my time working with clients on developing their end of year appeal.  And while I push for a multi-platform approach, the direct mail letter is almost always the launching mechanism and is always the piece that sets the tone. I work hard to make sure the letters I write reflect what the organization accomplishes in a very personal way.  And that the letter is clear about its purpose:  To ask for a gift.  That, after all, is why it is called an appeal.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

I don’t think that my words are perfect or that editing them is some sort of sacrilege. But I do worry when almost every edit is the one that takes out the ask!

If you are not willing to ask for support, you should not be surprised if every year you are scrambling to pay your bills, your staff, keep your doors open.  Or that first time donors don’t become second time donors and prospects never turn into donors.

The first thing to recognize is that people expect to be asked to support organizations and causes they care about.  But they also want to be shown what their support means and what it will help to accomplish.

The worst ask is the one that says we are in trouble and we need you to keep us afloat.  The best ask is to tell your donors and prospects how their gift supports the work that matters to them.

Simply put, that means that they don’t always care that much about the specifics of what you do as much as they care about the results.  Don’t talk about the 4 workshops or the 5 locations but, rather, tell what happens because of those workshops and in those locations.  How are lives changed?  How are things made better?  Problems solved?

Can you personalize it?  Tell a story—but keep it short and to the point.  Extraneous information is just that—extraneous.  And keep the focus on the purpose of this correspondence.  And that is?

YES!  The fact that all this happens because of you!  Your support ensures the success of our clients.  YOU—the donor—make the difference.

And so, won’t you give generously this year?


Janet Levine helps to move nonprofits from mired to inspired and helps them to raise more money to accomplish their important mission.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.