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. Regardless of your role—fundraiser, Board member, CEO, faculty, physician or staff member— I hope you will find some value in the conversation that we’ll be posting in this art of Bold Asking™ blog.

Six years ago, I founded Vision Philanthropy Group, a full service philanthropic consulting firm.  I had spent twenty-five plus amazing years working in major gift and leadership positions in the development programs at premier health sciences centers around the country.  

There, I learned early on that even the most ardent supporters at my institution usually felt uncomfortable, or at least ill equipped, to ask others to support the cause they frequently felt very passionate about.  Asking others for a gift would even send the most accomplished “deal makers” to their knees!  “Please,” I would hear, “Ask me to do anything, but don’t ask me to ask others for a gift!”  

Okay, so this causes a great conundrum because, as the most experienced fundraiser’s know, peer-to-peer fundraising is the most effective, at least for the penultimate gifts.  But, if our friend and great Board member (or, even CEO) never gets around to asking for the gift, well, that’s not going to be very effective!

Now, fast forward to Vision Philanthropy Group and our work as campaign and development counsel.  Even the most experienced and accomplished leaders, scientists and physicians who serve at the helm of institutions or lead complex research programs can be unsettled by the thought of broaching a prospect about a gift.  Frequently, this process can simply be outside the realm of these highly effective leaders' experience and training.

Enter the art of Bold Asking™.  Two years ago, at the request of a client,  we began  developing a program designed to help Board members, leaders, faculty and staff become partners in the quest to become effective, comfortable and even bold major gift fundraisers.  It’s been an interest journey; one that resulted in our new program: the art of Bold Asking™.  We’ve explored subjects like happiness, how our brains are wired to be connected with others, the psychology of giving, and the secrets to a meaningful life.  Pretty heavy stuff!

In upcoming blogs, we will delve into these subjects, invite our guests to offer their feelings and thoughts about philanthropy and what it means to their lives, and provide tips for how you can become a bold, effective asker, and bring others along in your organization.  

Before wrapping up, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts as you contemplate this subject:

1.    Think about what drives your own giving.  Why do you make a gift to an organization?  Is it your passion for the mission, an influential friendship or the opportunity to be a part of a community that’s meaningful to you?

2.    Can you tell a story about your gift?  What happened after you made the gift?  How did it make you feel?  

Now, try writing down the story of this gift and what you hope happens as a result of your support.

Thanks for joining this conversation!  We’ll be back soon!