The Art of The Ask

The Art of The Ask

by May 27, 2015

For many, few things are harder to do than actually ask for something they really need. Americans are – by and large – self-reliant people. Artists are often even more individualistic and self-determined. So the very notion of asking others for assistance of any kind can be nerve wracking. On the other hand, asking is a key ingredient to the crowdfunding method of fundraising. So, how do you do it? What does it take to ask for what you really want — and actually get it?


Step One: You Have to Actually Ask

You may be thinking this seems obvious, but you might also be surprised at how often we all naturally tend to hint at things without directly confronting the issue. To be a successful at crowdfunding, you are going to have to be direct.

First, you need to know exactly what it is you want. All too often people do not clearly set a goal. Crowdfunding forces you to do this in some respects, but when approaching individual donors, you will need to set goals tailored for each individual. Start by understanding your own reasons for doing the campaign. Use this to create a mental and emotional resonance in the person you are asking. Help them to feel why this project deserves their contribution.

Once you understand why they need to donate, you should make your approach. Be direct, clear, and specific about what you need. Explain how much you are asking for and how it will be used. Avoid becoming overly detailed in your explanation, and be ready to respond to any questions they may have. Be sure to underpin your entire question with an emotional appeal, making this a question of heart, not just return on investment.

Step Two: Don’t Give Up After Your First Try

Asking for a donation may already feel awkward enough, so when someone says “no,” your first reaction may be to run away and pretend like the conversation never happened. Unfortunately, it is not just uncommon, but typical to have to ask more than once.

You do not always have to ask face-to-face. In fact, if you are not asking in multiple ways, you are not doing it right. You should be asking in emails, on social media, through blog articles, phone calls, videos, and of course, face-to-face when able. Of course, these communications should be targeted to the specific medium used. However, it is not enough to just float the question out there and hope that people respond. You will have to actively engage with them, pursue them, and politely but persistently ask them to help.

Ask everyone. They may seem unlikely to contribute to your campaign, but you just never know who might be willing to chip in a few dollars towards your funding goals. You cannot allow your own preconceptions sound like a “no” in your head before you have even asked.

Remember, “no” can often be the beginning of a conversation. If someone turns you down, take it as a challenge to better explain why that person should be contributing. It may actually help you to better craft your campaign, your pitch, and your own views of the project. If you can win over someone who initially said “no,” you may even convert them to one of your biggest supporters and promoters.

Step Three: Know How to Ask

This is the where the true art comes into asking, and things shift from focusing on yourself to focusing on the other person. This is not about overcoming your own fears of asking, it is about influencing other people to do what you are asking.

We have already said you need to keep it simple, but do not make it too simple. Be prepared to offer some reasonably acceptable alternatives. In fact, in some situations it is wise to ask for more than you reasonably believe you will be able to get. That way you can ask for something less (which is what you actually want), and the other person feels like they stuck to their guns but still did a nice favor.

Pay attention to context. You want to be sure you are making your approach at the best possible time and when the other person is at their most receptive state. According to, the best time to ask may be earlier in the day when the potential donor is less likely to be weary from a long day at work and unwilling to hear your pitch.

Be confident and friendly with your pitch. You do not want to come off as overly pushy or threatening. Also, use your artistic sensibilities to master creating just the right amount of drama in your pitch. Remember, asking is about getting the potential donor to identify with your cause emotionally. To do that, you need to use a little showmanship to draw the other person into your tale.

Final Touches

The final thing to remember is to leave the potential donor with a positive feeling after helping your cause. Be friendly, say “thank you,” and make sure they feel really good about helping you. Remember, a donor is often a supporter in other ways, too. If they were willing to open their pocketbook there is no reason they might not also open their mouth and tell others about you. Give them something exciting and compelling to say, and leave them feeling motivated to help you by virtue of your kindness and gratitude.

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