So far in this blog series, The Journey from Fear to Bold Asking™, I’ve talked about many of the components that are important to a successful fundraising ask:  the power of connecting with people in meaningful ways; leading with passion;  being willing and able to tell your story; developing and using good active listening (questioning) skills; and building a well-honed team to support the journey.   

You may want to take a few minutes to brush up on these past blogs, and the toolkits that I’ve included, before diving into this one. 

The final three blogs of this series will focus on Starting the Conversation; Boldly, Making the Ask; and finally Saying Thank You, Abundantly! 

So, let’s get started with the conversation, because that’s where it all begins.   

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On a recent blustery Sunday morning during the New Year holiday, my three-year old grandson, Walker, and I pulled out a couple of board games.  We enjoy hanging out together, but on this particular single-digit temp. morning, I was eager to find indoor activities that would be fun and occupy my very active grandson for a while.  Little did I know that our morning games would become a lesson in cooperative work and, together, winning!  As I read the instructions for several games to Walker, the same theme became apparent:  the object of the games was not just winning.  The real objective was learning how to cooperate and collaborate. 

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Listening is one of our most important life skills.  It can also be one of the most pleasant:  a baby’s first cry, the finale of Beethoven’s 5th, birds on a quiet walk. Think about it; how often do you truly listen, or just tune out all the background noise? I’ve certainly spent a lot of time walking down the streets of New York, trying to shut out the sounds of sirens. Unfortunately, more oftentimes than not, listening is also one of our most underdeveloped skills.  How much is missed, or is misunderstood, because we fail to truly engage, ask questions and listen!  In philanthropy, this can be the kiss of death to developing authentic relationships and meaningful donor engagement. 

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The Art of Story-Telling: The Journey From Fear to Bold Asking™ (Part 3)

Southerners are great story tellers. 

Now, that’s not to say that others are not.  But, I’ve found that southerners who know how to tell a really good story have an almost innate ability to draw people in and move them.  They weave a web with strong personal connection, oftentimes including family and community, and then add a touch of intrigue and suspense, and almost always inject a little, sometimes, wry humor.  As someone who moved to the south as an adult, I marveled at the affects of storytelling.   Of course, we’ve all known the great southern story-tellers from Faulkner to Tennessee Williams to Twain, Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell, to name just a few, along with the more recent writer-historian Jon Meacham and my neighbor, Ann Patchett.  They are the giants.

But, we don’t have to be literary giants to tell a good, authentic story that connects people to our cause, our hopes and our visions.

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Powerful Connections: The Journey From Fear to Bold Asking™ (Part 1)

Do you believe deeply in your organization’s mission? 

“What?”, you say.  Whether a board member, CEO or development staff, of course, you believe deeply in your organization’s mission.

Now, how do you feel about fundraising for that organization?

I ask this question at the beginning of our  Bold Asking™  workshops.  The answers are enlightening, but rarely surprising! 

Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a development officer, someone innocently asked me, “How do you do what you do? I could never ask anyone for money!”  Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to this question.  I even enjoy it!  But, at the time, I was stunned.  I felt like my chosen profession was, well, rude. 

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Winning Partnerships for High Impact Philanthropy: The Power Of Internal Partnerships In Creating Highly Effective External Relationships

Who are your most important philanthropic partners, the most critical relationships outside the internal team?  I’ve frequently heard development officers, and even CEO’s ask, “Where do I start?”  Your board!  They are among your most, if not the most, critical stakeholders.  Yes, your patients, students, alumni, and community may well be stakeholders.  But, the organization will undoubtedly stumble, at worst fail or certainly not reach its potential without a board that believes in the organization, is passionate about its mission and future, and understands and even embraces its important role in philanthropy. 

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Designing Powerful Partnerships II: From the CEO's Corner. Why Me?

A past blog (Design Partnerships:  What do your philanthropic partnerships look like?) focused on the Chief Development Officers’ role in creating powerful internal partnerships to support philanthropy.  In this article, I want to turn our focus to the CEO’s unique role in building effective philanthropic partnerships.  Although this blog is written with healthcare institutions in mind, many of the concepts may creatively be applied to other nonprofit institutions.

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The Secrets to Creating Meaningful Bonds: Promoting Social Connection and Valuable Experiences

I spend a lot of time in airports and on planes.  They are interesting places to observe human behavior.  Traveling is a pretty common activity for many development officers and certainly for consultants. 

I try to use the time productively.  One of the things I’ve begun doing is focusing on observing human behavior.  Emotions run the gamut.  Try it the next time you’re in an airport. 

One of the things you’ll see is how peoples' faces light up when they see their family or friends walk through the security area.  Or, when they connect at baggage claim, or at curbside pick up. People light up, no matter the time of day.  And, they start telling stories.... stories about the flight, the challenge to park, or maybe about a special family event.

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The Secrets to Creating Meaningful Bonds: What Does Research Tell Us?

There are many factors that help create bonds between people:  from deep friendships to shared dreams, experiences and values, to common hopes and visions, and sometimes a crises, or a crises averted.  Relationships are critical.  But, to nurture major donor relationships that truly endure, I prefer to focus on creating bonds; the bonds that undeniably tie us to one another.  This is what I want to devote a little time to here. 

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How do you get to Carnegie Hall (or a successful donor meeting)? Practice, Practice, Practice!

The vaudeville actor, Jack Benny, is well known for wailing away on his violin while bantering with others on stage using this famous Carnegie Hall joke.  Actually, it probably originated when a preeminent orchestra conductor, hurrying to the famed hall, was asked the innocent question by a stranger, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  The harried maestro’s response:  practice! 

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Enter Bold Asking™

Written by: Susan Holt

Welcome to the Art of Bold Asking™!  Maybe you are a development officer, the leader of a non-profit, a Board member or volunteer with an organization that means a lot to you.  Very likely, you are coming into contact, in some way shape or form, with your own feelings about asking people to support your cause. 

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