Asking about Asking: Mastering the Art of Conversational Fundraising, M. Kent Stroman, CFRE, Charity Channel Press, 2011.
I love the "In the Trenches" books from Charity Channel Press. They are quick reads that provide immediately actionable advice for the overworked nonprofit professional.
One of the newer books in the series is Asking about Asking: Mastering the Art of Conversational Fundraising, by M. Kent Stroman, CFRE. Stroman is President of Stroman & Associates and has had a long career in all aspects of nonprofit management, training, and fundraising.
Of all the goals for the book that Stroman sets out in his preface, I like this one best: "to take a task that seems insurmountable--if not impossible--and break it down into steps that are manageable, achievable, and even enjoyable!"
That's what I like the most about the book -- Stroman's ability to break what seems like a really tough task into doable bits and steps.
So, here are the two things I most liked about Stroman's book. The first is his "10 Step Staircase." Stroman says:
"Think of gift solicitation like standing at the foot of a staircase and wishing to get to the second story. It would be nice to get there in one giant step, but that is neither possible nor ideal. Just as the staircase requires taking one comfortable step after another, soliciting major contributions consists of a number of activities--each taken in order."
That calms my breathing right away. I'm the kind of person who gets overwhelmed easily and because of that wants to vault right to the finish line just to ease my anxiety over the process. The 10 step staircase eases my anxiety considerably by giving me a road map that I can follow to the destination.
The staircase (illustrated above) moves from "Getting Acquainted" to actually "Asking." Most of the book fills in these steps with easy-to-follow advice and tips. The emphasis is always on listening to the donor, asking the right questions, using appropriate timing, and getting the right people to participate.
The "staircase" is like the conversation mentioned in Stroman's title, but also like a dance, with the donor as the lead partner and the fundraiser adjusting style, tempo, and direction as he or she follows the donor's movements. Stroman at one point writes:
"Bear in mind that we are in an exploratory mode--not an evaluation of the donor and his wishes. Regardless of what the prospect says regarding his intentions, desires and motivations he is not wrong. We are not in the business of force fitting people into funding our organization. It is our duty to find the point at which the donor's interests, priorities and resources intersect with our agency's plans."