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Posted on Sep 1, 2011

Defining Your Ask

Defining Your Ask

The more you ask, the less you get.

This is a basic tenet in fund-raising, so we need to understand what constitutes an “ask”. In the mind of the asker, it may be only direct requests for a gift for the school, but in the mind of the person being asked, it may include many other things. If your parents think, “The school is always asking me for money’,” then probably too many things are coming across as an “ask”. 

Example:  If parents receive monthly requests for money for a field trip, lunch program, products or whatever, then parents will feel they are always being asked for money. If they are feeling that way when you run your important annual drive or some other significant fund-raising event, then you can be sure that you will receive a smaller gift than you would if your school eliminated the frequent requests for small amounts. The best practice is to include all additional fees and expenses in one fee that is added on to the tuition.
 
Example: Are all your sales called fund-raisers? If so, change the language. If you are selling a product (and there should be very little of this in your school), then call it a sale with the profits going towards something. It only becomes a fund-raiser when students or parents are expected to buy the product. (I still have wrapping paper that my son was selling in high school.) Otherwise it is a consumer purchase and the consumer can decide to purchase from you or from some other business that sells the product. “We understand that you can buy pie anywhere, but we’re sure you’ll enjoy our pies, and at the same time you’ll know that the profits will purchase books for the library.”
 
Example: Do your students provide any sweat equity to earn money for a special trip? Then call it sweat equity. “Would you like your car washed or your leaves raked? The charge will be $– and the money will go towards the expenses of the mission trip.” Don’t ask for a donation for services rendered because that becomes another “ask”.
 
Example: Do you sell grocery certificates to your community? Remind people that it is the store that is giving the gift, not the person purchasing the certificate. They are only exchanging one form of currency for another. Thank them for doing so! But don’t give the impression that the person is making a gift to the school.

Best Practice:

Limit your major fund-raisers to one, two or three significant activities and “asks” each year for which you give charitable receipts. Eliminate all other fund-raisers. Change the language on other activities to reflect what is actually happening. Yes, people’s choices will provide additional funding for projects or materials, but those choices are not gifts.

Finally, inform your parents at the beginning of each year what they can expect over the course of the year in terms of “asks” to support the school. Clearly delineate between charitable support and support through purchases and payments. And then stick with it! Resist the numerous requests from students, teachers and parents for yet another fund-raiser. I’m sure you’ll see that less asking will result in more giving.

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