3 Stages of Building Your Fundraising Asking Rights

Paper dolls holding hands over a stack of nonprofit fundraising contributions

What gives your nonprofit the right to ask a foundation, bank, business, or individual for money? This is the question that inspired Tom Ralser’s book series on Asking Rights™. Ralser looked at fundraising efforts and results from hundreds of nonprofit campaigns and what the common ingredients were for success. Those who had Asking Rights had learned that to reach funding goals, they had to keep the investor’s perspective in mind, utilize the advantages of rational asks, and always focus on the outcomes delivered.

In our podcast, The Difference: Nonprofit Fundraising in a For-Profit World, Convergent recently unpacked the 3 stages of building your fundraising Asking Rights with nonprofit industry leaders. 

Stage 1: Building Credibility

In the first episode of the series, Building Credibility for Successful Fundraising, Podcast Host and Convergent Principal Jay Werth spoke with Tom Ralser. 

When it comes to credibility, Ralser states, “The critical fundraising advantage is that it gets you through the door.” This is why credibility is so essential to a fundraising feasibility study, the first step of a capital campaign. During the feasibility study process, a professional fundraising expert will confidently talk to key constituents to gauge how a capital campaign will perform. The study will also garner feedback on the organization’s leadership, positioning, and plan for the future. If a feasibility study reveals that a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts are not projected to succeed, it can often trace back to a credibility issue with the organization.

Credibility is the starting point for successful fundraising. Ralser explains, “Without [credibility], what you are really doing is jumping so far ahead in that fundraising lifecycle of simply asking people for money without the proper cultivation or without the proper evaluation—and that is a recipe for disaster.” 

For more insight from on building your nonprofit’s credibility, you can listen to the full podcast episode here

Stage 2: Improving Your Fundraising Skills

Improving Your Fundraising Skills is the topic of the second episode of our series. Funding Strategist and former YMCA CEO Len Romano offers insight from the nonprofit, board member, and investor standpoints. 

As a nonprofit organization, you distribute your time and resources across a wide variety of daily tasks: strategy, direction, leadership, outreach, and the heavy lifting towards your nonprofit mission. That is to say—you may not have an abundance of time to research and build your fundraising skills. A capital campaign consultant will carry most of the load, but they will need help from your board if you would like to reach your fullest fundraising potential.

One challenge that Romano finds in the nonprofit sector is that the board of directors tends to shy away from fundraising. He explains, “When they are prospected and recruited, it is not made clear to them that key jobs are not only to give at a leadership level but get others to give at a leadership level, to nurture potential investors, and to bring the executive around to meet these potential investors.”

So how do you improve your nonprofit fundraising skills? Romano suggests improving the science behind your selection process and communicating the expectations of your board. Inform prospective board members upfront about their vital role in the fundraising process while helping them understand and develop these skills. An easy starting point, according to Romano, is the board member job descriptions. He suggests making expectations clear by including:

  • Average board member pledge
  • The yearly fundraising goals
  • Explain leadership-level giving
  • The cause and the associated outcomes of the campaign

Board member prospects should be able to meet the average level of giving, meet a gap in your committee, and remain comfortable with storytelling in asking for money—among other characteristics. For further insight on improving your organization’s fundraising skills, listen to the full episode here

Stage 3: Communicating Your Outcomes

In the final installment of our Asking Rights podcast series, Outcomes & A Culture of Philanthropy, Jay spoke with development consultant Amy Sexton and former nonprofit CEO Rich Trickel about communicating outcomes and fostering a rich culture of philanthropy. 

Communicating your outcomes can help you grow relationships with potential investors by building trust, interest, and credibility. In addition to strong Asking Rights, Sexton suggests that organizations must also build a strong culture of philanthropy. This involves every “staff member, board member, and volunteer sharing [the organization’s] missions with a personal twist.” You must be able to identify the philanthropic intent of potential investors and meet them where they are. 

Trickel emphasizes the importance of reframing your mindset when approaching fundraising and communicating outcomes. Rather than shying away from asking for money, he suggests nonprofits see this as an opportunity to benefit the individual. He states, “the reality is, you have the opportunity and the privilege of connecting individuals with something they are passionate about and giving them the opportunity to invest in that.” In return, individuals will receive the benefit of seeing an impact on a mission they care about through your organization’s work. 

To communicate your outcomes effectively, Trickel suggests that investors need information. You should be prepared to help investors understand:

  • Your organization and its history
  • What your nonprofit has accomplished
  • Your mission and what you hope to accomplish as a result of this campaign
  • The goal of the campaign and how much money you expect to raise
  • How that money is going to be invested, used, and distributed
  • The outcomes or impact of their investment

Your case for support (or prospectus, as we call it) should provide this overview to help investors make a rational decision about your organization and their level of investment. Communicating your outcomes effectively is the most important piece of this to help investors recognize the value of their contributions and find alignment with your organization. For more on outcomes, listen to the full podcast episode here.

Capital Campaign Initiation: Convergent Nonprofit Solutions

If you need help starting or supporting your capital campaign fundraising efforts, our fundraising consultants are here to help. Convergent has helped support billions of dollars in fundraising for nonprofits across the nation. We invite you to test your Asking Rights and capital campaign readiness with our Fundraising Reality Check. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact our fundraising experts to get started today!

About The Author