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Asking A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and  Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift

Jerold Panas


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Acclaim for Asking

“Enriches my soul and elevates the whole development profession.”

- Clark David Baker, President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Houston

“Jerold Panas has demonstrated again that he is truly the poet laureate of philanthropy.”

- Kenneth Roberts, Chairman of the Board, The Frist Foundation

“Jerry Panas knows everything about fundraising, but how does he know so much about me? In ASKING, he tells my story from ‘jitters’ to ‘joy.’ Your confidence grows from page to page.”

- Edmund Toomey, Chief Operating Officer, Lesley University

“This book is full of gems. There’s no better blueprint for those of us embarking on the adventure of asking."

- Jerold Katz, Head, The Park School

“ASKING leaves you with no excuses. Using a step by step approach, Jerry Panas describes clearly and succinctly how to ask for a gift. He makes the process sound like fun!"

- Donna D. Nicely, Director, Nashville Public Library

“Destined to become another often used, often quoted Jerry Panas Classic.”

- David Gillig, Senior V.P. & Executive Director, Rady Children’s Hospital Fdn

“ASKING is the best of the breed. I can testify from firsthand experience that if you ask the Panas Way, you shall receive."

- Dr. Hugh B. Price, Former President, National Urban League

“Demystifies the asking process and makes it easier for donors to be understood as rational, intelligent, and generous.”

- Dr. Richard Ekman, President, Council of Independent Colleges


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A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift
by Jerold Panas, 108 pp., $24.95. (Click here for quantity discount information)

What are the factors that’ll make you successful and effective as a fundraiser?

Is it salesmanship – your ability to persuade someone by the sheer weight of your eloquence and the dazzling flow of words? Or is it that you know the prospect so well, it’s hard to say no to you?

I needed to know what makes a great fundraiser. So I conducted a number of focus groups among men and women who recently gave large sums. Here’s the nature of the questions we probed:

  • What can you remember about the man or woman who called on you (whether a friend, staff person, casual acquaintance, or someone unkinown to you)? What stands out most in your mind?
  • What was it that made that person an effective solicitor? We assume the cause and the institution are important to you, but what was it about the solicitor you liked most? What impressed you most?

>>> Here’s what I found.

I call it my Three Es: Empathy, Energy, and Enthusiasm. These are the qualities the donors all talked about.

The need to be heard is one of the most powerful motivating forces in human nature. The donors we spoke with commended the solicitor for truly listening. The caller somehow entered into the donor’s world and experience.

OF RELATED INTEREST: After spending just one hour with David Lansdowne’s bestselling book, Fund Raising Realities Every Board Member Must Face, board members everywhere will understand virtually everything they need to know to raise major gifts.

I was reminded the other day how listening is directly linked to empathy. I was digging through an old file and came across a newspaper clipping I’ve saved for years. The date was 1933.

It’s a photograph of Franklin Roosevelt, leaning on his cane. Bent markedly forward, listening intently to two ragged men, perhaps homeless, who appear to have stopped him. The caption underneath the photograph reads: “He knows how to listen.”

That’s your role as a solicitor – to listen.  And that’s how donors in our focus groups identified empathy. They want to be heard! Studies are clear on the subject: people care greatly about those who listen to them.

The next of the Three Es is energy. Time and time again in the focus groups, our donors talked about the energy their fundraiser brought to the visit. They said there were sparks.

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. It’s what Robert Frost called “that immense energy of life which sparks a fire.”

I find this true in all effective fundraisers. There’s a highly charged energy. You feel surrounded by it. Like being in the eye of a tornado. The really good fundraisers have some internal reservoir. They’re able to bring forth a torrent of energy. And then to forge on for unlimited periods.

Donors said the callers they liked best all seemed to be peak performers, filled with intense and concentrated energy. They weren’t talking about nervous energy, but the kind that exudes enthusiasm and joy.

Enthusiasm is the third “E.” Everyone in my focus groups spoke about it. It’s probably the ingredient that was the most telling and effective in the asking-mix.

Enthusiasm comes from two Greek words. First, there is ‘theos,’ which means God. The prefix ‘en’ means “within you.” Enthusiasm: God within you. And that seems to be what all of the donors felt from their solicitor.

Unbridled, unflinching, undying enthusiasm – the great fundraisers are driven by it. A magnificent presentation, dazzling literature, even a great cause – none of these would matter if there weren’t enthusiasm. It’s what is called, “working near the heart of things.”

Empathy.  Energy. Enthusiasm. It’s your job to bring these qualities to the solicitation.

But there’s one last factor, and all of the donors we interviewed spoke of it. They can feel it. It permeates everything the fundraiser does and says. For the sake of catchiness, I wish it started with an ‘e’ but it doesn’t. I’m referring to integrity. You never tamper with the truth.

Integrity is the mightiest weapon in the fundraiser’s arsenal – more important than the campaign literature or anything that is said. Its power is explosive.

Integrity alone is no assurance of getting the gift. But without it, you can’t even begin the journey. You are a cannon, ready to be fired – but without ammunition.

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About the Author

Jerold Panas is among a small handful of the grandmasters of American fundraisers.

He is considered one of the top writers in the field and a number of his books, including Asking and Mega Gifts, have achieved classic status. His newest book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards is also published by Emerson & Church.

Hailed by Newsweek as "the Robert Schuller of fundraising," Jerry is a popular columnist for Contributions Magazine and a favorite speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the nation.

He is executive director of one of the premier firms in America and is co-founder of the Institute for Charitable Giving. The very term "philanthropy" would mean less without Jerry's influence.

He lives with his wife, Felicity, in a 1710 farmhouse in northwest Connecticut.

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Table of Contents

  1. The Joy of Asking!
  2. Thanks for Being a Friend
  3. You’re Never a Loser Until You Quit Trying
  4. You Won’t Get Milk from a Cow by Sending a Letter
  5. Enthusiasm Is Contagious, Start an Epidemic
  6. Enlightened Givers Feel the Rapture of Being Alive
  7. It’s Easier to Get the Gift than the Visit
  8. Successful People Do What Others Never Get Around to
  9. The Secrets of Success Don’t Work Unless You Do
  10. No One Ever Listened Himself Out of a Gift
  11. Donors Give to the Magic of an Idea
  12. The Archer Strikes the Target, Partly by Pulling, Partly by Letting Go
  13. You’ll Never Know if You Don’t Ask
  14. Consistent Hard Work is the Yeast that Raises the Dough
  15. A Successful Fundraiser Shoots at a Target No One Else Sees, and Hits It
  16. Some Aim At Nothing and Hit It with Remarkable Precision
  17. The Line Between Success and Failure: ‘I Didn’t Make My Own Gift First’
  18. Triumph is Just ‘Umph’ Added to Try
  19. An Obstacle is What You See When You Take Your Eyes Off the Objective
  20. Objections Aren’t Bitter If You Don’t Swallow Them
  21. Great Opportunity Stands Beside You, in the Form of Objections
  22. A Desk is a Dangerous Place to Raise Money from
  23. It’s Amazing What You Don’t Raise When You Don’t Ask
  24. You Don’t Have to be Great to Start, but You Have to Start to be Great
  25. In All You Do, Act as if It’s Impossible to Fail

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