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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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Jerold Panas Interviewed on the Subject of Asking

Jerold Panas is author of Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, published by Emerson & Church.

You’ve been at this for 40 years. What motivates a person to make a major gift?

I’ve done studies on this and the results are almost always the same. The primary reason someone gives a major gift is that he or she believes in the mission of the organization.

A second important factor is the organization’s financial stability. Would-be donors have to be convinced the agency is prudently managed.

As you can imagine, people don’t want to give money away. They want to contribute to bold and heroic programs. They want to make things happen. And mostly they want to change and save lives.

To be successful in asking, what factors have to present?

As I discuss in my book, Asking, three pieces are important. The first is that the organization and the project must be relevant. The donor has to feel this is something that’s significant.

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Next, what you’re raising money for has to have emotional appeal. I like it best when the hair on the back on the neck stands up! I want it to be exciting and have snap, crackle, and pop.

But most important, there has to be a sense of urgency. The donor must feel this can’t be postponed. The project has to move forward and the decision to give must be made as soon as possible. Time is working against us. Lives are being lost. Kids aren’t being served.

The single most important quality of an effective asker is what, in your opinion?

That the solicitor has passion for the cause.
You can’t always achieve it, but the ideal is someone who’s “burning in his bones” for the organization.

I’ll also include persistence. That’s because it often takes at least two visits to secure a gift. So you’ve got to stick with it.

And, finally, the ability to listen. I tell clients that they should talk 25 percent of the time and listen the other 75 percent.

Who’s the best person to call on the would-be donor?

This will seem simplistic, but it’s key: you send the person who the would-be donor will have the hardest time saying no to.


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.

In some cases, it may be the CEO. It could be a member of the development staff. Or a faculty member who’s had a great impact on the person. Or the doctor who performed open-heart surgery on the individual.

I like taking two people on the first call, if it can be arranged. For a potential major donor, I like having the chief executive officer accompany a volunteer. I call that a magic partnership.

I also believe the volunteer should testify to the gift he’s made. If it’s sacrificial or a stretch gift, that’s powerful and compelling ammunition. Of course, you never take anyone with you who hasn’t already made his own gift.

When the solicitor makes the call, what’s usually going through the donor’s mind?

The would-be donor wants to know, why should I give to this organization? What’s so important about this cause that I should give it priority?

Next, why is this particular program important enough that I should give? Does the project have my full interest and will it make a difference?

Third, the donor wants to know why he should give now. Is it really urgent? Is it more important to give to your organization than some others I’ve been considering?

And finally, why me! She wants to know, why are you calling on me for this gift? Why have you singled me out?

My colleague Harvey McKinnon has a terrific book on the subject: The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave (www.emersonandchurch.com).

Many people fret about the words they intend to use when asking. They even rehearse them beforehand. Is phrasing really that important?

When I coach solicitors, I give them language I know is successful. I’ve learned this over the years. But I’m quick to point out they should use their own words - sing their own song. I want them to feel totally comfortable and as relaxed as possible.

I also coach our solicitors to say out loud the amount they’re going to ask for. Go ahead, say it out loud - fifty thousand dollars. Say it! The more it’s repeated, the easier it gets.

You say that printed materials and computer presentations aren’t that important. Really? Even in this age of smartphones and tablet computers?

I put campaign brochures very low on the list of what motivates a donor. Every study I’ve done supports this. Those fancy line-embossed, die-cut, four-color brochures just aren’t read, though the photos will be glanced at. Worse still, publications are often a turn-off, due to the perceived cost of producing them.

And as far as a computer presentation is concerned - ugh!

In my experience, there’s nothing that takes the place of a one-on-one presentation, the solicitor probing and asking questions - and listening most of the time.

I do bring a few pieces to leave behind. One is usually a three-ring binder. That’s because no one has ever thrown away a three-ring binder! Another is a simple question and answer folder – one that can fit in a breast pocket or purse. Think of seven or eight questions that are likely to be asked, or questions that simply must be answered. This Q & A piece will be one of the most read pieces in your arsenal.

Reveal the secret once and for all: What makes a great fundraiser?

In every study I’ve done, the most important quality is integrity. If it isn’t there, your donors feel it, and they’re turned off.

Closely behind is the skill of listening. Prospective donors want to be heard. I call it, “listening loudly.” Listen carefully enough and you’ll learn everything you need to know about the donor, what they’re most interested in, and how much they’re willing to give.

And when I ask donors what qualities they like to see in the solicitor, they mention the three Es. It starts with energy. They want someone who is a spring ready to be sprung. They want someone who is enthusiastic about the organization. Head over heels committed. And finally, donors talk about the caller being empathetic. And you gain that by listening and caring.


A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift - NEWLY REVISED EDITION (2013)

by Jerold Panas, 108 pp., $24.95. (Click here for quantity discount information)

It ranks right up there with public speaking.

Nearly all of us fear it.

And yet it is critical to our success.

Asking for money. It makes even the stout-hearted cower.

But now comes a new book, Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Staff and Volunteers Must Know to Secure the Gift. And short of a medical prescription, it’s the next best thing for emboldening you, your board members and volunteers to ask with skill, finesse … and powerful results.

Jerold Panas, who as a staff person, board member and volunteer has secured gifts ranging from $50 to $50 million, understands the art of asking perhaps better than anyone in America. He knows what makes donors tick, he’s intimately familiar with the anxieties of board members, and he fully understands the frustrations and exigencies of staff.

He has harnessed all of this knowledge and experience and produced what many have called a landmark book.

What Asking convincingly shows — and one reason staff will applaud the book and board members will devour it — is that it doesn’t take stellar communication skills to be an effective asker. Nearly everyone, regardless of their persuasive ability, can become an effective fundraiser if they follow a few step-by-step guidelines.

You have to know your cause, of course, and be committed to it. But, nearly as important, you have to know how to get the appointment, how to present your case, how to read your donor’s words, how to handle objections, how to phrase your request, and even what behaviors to avoid.

Panas mines all of this territory, and because he speaks directly from his heart to the heart of board members, staff, and volunteers, the advice is authentic, credible, and ultimately inspiring.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to the book is simply to say that any board member who doesn’t read Asking is at a serious disadvantage to those who do.

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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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