Social Enterprise Resource Bank

A place for nonprofit staff and social entrepreneurs to find resources to help them build innovative and sustainable health and social services ministries.

Making Friends by Asking for Money

Written by: Jordan Bles, NBA Director of Development

Social Enterprise Resource Bank - July 20, 2018


For lots of us, talking about money at all makes us uncomfortable. Much less asking someone for money! And yet, to make our ministry dreams realities, it is one of the most necessary skills to learn. But fear not – I am here to let you know that it doesn’t need to be unpleasant, uncomfortable, or even hard. Ground your ask in relationship and in the vision of your ministry – and it can even be fun.

Fundraising is about your ministry!

This is your starting point. You are asking people to invest in your vision for bringing God’s kin-dom a little more into being on this earth. Ground your ask as an invitation to join you on that ministry journey. To partner with you in the work. You have the gift of the vision. You and your team have many of the gifts needed to put that vision into action. The person across the table (or on the other end of the phone) has the gift of financial resources to partner with you. You are both putting the gifts you have been given by God to work. Let that be your focus.

Fundraising is about relationships!

This is the next step. I hope we all have the opportunity to just randomly bump into that person ready to invest six figures in our ministry right away! But, really, this isn’t how it works. The term donor cultivation often turns people off. So, instead, consider it what it really is – relationship building.

Over the course of my career, I have had the chance to invite donors to join me in ministries of environmental justice, nuclear disarmament, ecumenical hunger ministries, and now Disciples health and social service ministry. And, at each stop, I have made lifelong friendships that I treasure. Get to know these people – their passions, their lives – go deeper than just who they are and what they do. These are your partners in ministry – they will likely invest because they believe in the work as much as you do. Treat them as friends – and who knows! You might just make a few along the way.

Making the ask!

Okay, so now for the good part, right? You have shared your vision for ministry. You have built a relationship. Now, they will just naturally give you money, right? Wrong! You still need to be intentional, and specific, as you make your ask. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Know what you are going to ask for – don’t make an ask that is generic, but ask them to invest because of the specific part of your ministry that you know excites them the most.
  • Be ready to hear no – way more than yes – if you have built a good relationship with who you are asking, they will be perfectly comfortable saying no to you. And that is okay. Maybe it isn’t the right time. Maybe it isn’t the right ask. Take “no’s” as an opportunity to keep them involved, and keep building the relationship. If you manage to bat .300 (like in baseball), you are doing amazing!
  • Make a specific ask! – whatever you do, don’t just ask them for “a donation”. This is again where the relationship comes in. Know who you are asking well enough to know how much to ask them for. With a good relationship, you shouldn’t worry about asking them for too much – because they are comfortable saying no, and working with you to get to a comfortable amount.

So, let’s do this!

I know that all sounds quite easy, and you are now ready to just jump in! Right? In case a little more specific guidance would be helpful, here is a sample script you can use to practice, for making the actual ask (please feel free to adapt and use this in whatever way is helpful for you). Let’s pretend we are about to make an ask of Angela, whom we have been cultivating for a couple of months at this point:

You: Angela, it is so good to see you again! How was your recent trip?

Angela: It was wonderful! Thanks so much for asking!

You: It has been a joy to get to know you, and to be able to explore our shared passion for (insert ministry or program here). It is a huge part of my life, and it is always wonderful to get to share it with others who feel the same way.

Angela: You know this means a lot to me, and it is great to hear about the impact you are having!

You: I am so glad you feel that way. We both also know there is still so much to do, and in that vein, I am hoping that we can count on you for a $2,000 contribution to help us continue this work.

Angela: I have been wondering about how to get more involved in this work – thanks for this invitation. I don’t know if I can make that kind of commitment today.

You: I certainly understand that. It is a big ask! What about a monthly commitment of $50?

Angela: I think I can do that!

You: Wonderful! It is such a joy to partner with you in this work, and I am so looking forward to continuing to see the fruits of what we will do together!

There you go! Build from a foundation of your passion for your ministry, build a relationship, and seal the deal by making a specific ask. And, on a good day, make a few friends in the process.

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Jordan Bles is the Director of Development with the National Benevolent Association. The NBA incubates new ministries, supporting social entrepreneurs of faith who are serving their communities in a variety of innovative ways and empowering these Disciples-led health and social service projects to focus on growth, impact, and sustainability. Learn more at nbacares.org/incubate or by contacting Rev. Ayanna Johnson Watkins, Director of the NBA Incubate Initiative.

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