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BOOK REVIEW: The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose

By Tom Watson on February 17, 2006One Comment
Book ReviewBOOK REVIEW: The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose

For anyone involved in fundraising, asking a prospect for money can be a seemingly insurmountable and daunting task. In her book, Ms. Fredricks makes the impossible possible by breaking down the harrowing walls of intimidation that stand between the person and the Ask. Outlining a clearly defined, incremental, and dialogue-filled strategy, this book serves as a guide for even the most timid of fundraisers. The author is an established fundraising expert, serving as the Vice President for Philanthropy at Pace University in New York City for the past twelve years. In that time, she has clearly amassed a wealth of information that is essential to anyone faced with a prospective donor.

Beginning with forming an honest and friendly relationship with a prospect, and ending with the follow-through necessary after any ask, this book takes the reader along for every step of this ever-important journey. Every fear is allayed, every situation picked apart, and every facet of the complicated money dance is studied under Fredricks’ questioning lens.

Packed with over one hundred sample dialogues, this book serves as the definitive resource on personal solicitation. The first four chapters are devoted to the run-up to and preparation for the ask, leaving no stone unturned. Among the situations touched upon in this book are the pre-ask conversation, when to ask for money on the first visit, and the right tone for any ask. The author also looks into how to select the right team or person to do the ask, determining the characteristics of a good asker, and the script for each ask.

Among the kinds of asks that Ms. Fredericks chooses to cover are special event or community project gifts, increased annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts and complex and challenging capital campaign gifts. Each of these different situations requires a distinct kind of planning, direction, and slightly fine-tuned method. Be sure to check out the “looking ahead” portion at the end of each chapter, as it contains valuable information about where to go once the ask is made. In the last piece of the book, the author takes on ways to address the prospect’s response to the ask, with sample prospect concerns and responses to issues they may bring up.

And let’s not forget the most important part, the follow through. The final chapter outlines the next steps, and how to juggle and balance your time after the asks are done. Perhaps the most important piece of Ms. Fredricks’ book is the Ten Guiding Principles for Any Ask unveiled in the final chapter. This is a list that should be printed out and placed on every fundraiser’s desk. Sincerity, individuality, and specificity are highlighted, but I don’t want to give too much away. To get the real meat and potatoes, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

In short, Ms. Fredricks asserts that solicitation is a skill that can be learned. There are no sneaky tricks, underhanded scheming or subversive actions necessary. A straightforward and honest approach, a solid plan, and a realistic outlook can provide a person with the skills they need to help their organization realize their financial goals. Anyone can learn what it takes to be an effective asker with the proper tools and dedication to the task at hand. Armed with the knowledge contained in this book, a person could feel confident enough to ask any person on earth for any amount of money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to query Bill Gates.

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