Daniel Neel presenting at #SAWACON

Taking the Fear Out of the “Ask” (What would John Wayne do?)

Fundraising can be frightening. In his session, “Taking the Fear Out of the ‘Ask’ (What would John Wayne do?),” Daniel Neel of The Fundraising Resource Group, demonstrated the importance of conquering the fear of courting potential donors, and instead, replacing it with a dynamic storytelling confidence.

We fear things that are hard to do, as well as things we don’t know how to do.

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne

To overcome our fear, we need a new mindset.

What we’re really doing, when we fundraise is:

  • Telling people our story
  • Inviting them to join

Overcoming fear and achieving a new mindset results in feeling comfortable, confident and courageous.

Common fears include:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of damaged relationships
  • Fear of quid pro-quo
  • Fear of unrealistic expectations

Neel shared detailed advice for the four solicitation phases:

1. Appointment

Set yourself up for a quality visit by setting a dedicated, in-person meeting on their turf, prepare for their possible objections and suggest that others participate.

2. Preparation

Prepare by learning as much as you can about your prospect, personalize your message by including your story and practice anywhere you can- in the car, the mirror, anywhere!

3. Make the Visit

Be ready to spend time with your prospect and have a thoughtful, prepared ask that is:

  • Based on capacity and interest
  • Developed using giving history, public and anecdotal information
  • In line with gifts you need to succeed
  • Estimated on what you believe they can give
  • The right amount for your organization and the relationship

Don’t come empty-handed.

Be prepared with quality materials that speak to what moves you, what might move them and that demonstrate the impact their gift could have.

Make your ask.

Be personal, thank them and share specific results of their past gifts. Then, explain current opportunities and ultimately, make a specific gift request. Think about what inspires people. Offer enticing recognition and naming for their gift. Restate the verbal gift request.

Your prospect will respond. If they aren’t prepared to commit immediately and have concerns, use it as an opportunity to ask probing questions like “What is it about the opportunity that excites you?” and “What is it about the amount that concerns you?”

4. Follow up

Anticipate the process will take more than one conversation.

Immediately plan a follow up. Decide who is responsible for the next meeting, set aside dates, determine your best next steps, prepare again for objections, get back in front of your prospect and work through the process to close your gift.

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Winston Churchill


This article was written live during the 2015 Annual Society of Animal Welfare Administrators Conference. This post reflects our bloggers’ understanding of the session and the materials shared by presenters.


The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a community of professionals committed to excellence in the management and operation of animal welfare and control organizations.

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