“You Want me to Give you WHAT??!” How to ask for money and stuff.

I’ve asked a lot of people and organisations for money and stuff over the years. Some people have said yes and some have said no. I’ve attended workshops and seminars, and researched the psychology of the ask and there’s a couple of principles you should always keep in mind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a grant, a donation or an investment.

The first principle is the most important: nobody ever gave money to somebody they didn’t know.

Asking for money and stuff is primarily about relationships. It’s why networking is important. If you want people to part with money or resources they have to be personally invested in you, they have to feel comfortable that you can deliver, they have to trust you  – and that means they have to know you.

My second favourite principal was given to me by the remarkable Kingsley Aikens. After you’ve asked, the first person to speak loses. In other words, after you’ve clearly asked for what you want the other person to do, shut up and wait. It may take a while. The person may say no. But if you keep talking the moment has passed. Make the ask. Shut up. Stay calm. Endure the silence.

The most profound piece of psychological simplification around asking for money and stuff was developed by Bernard Ross. You can apply these principles in face to face meetings or in writing a grant proposal, a sponsorship pitch or a straight investment document.

You can profile the person (or the organisation) along two dimensions: outcome and time. What is the person most emotionally susceptible to: a positive or a negative outcome on a present or future reality?  These two dimensions give you four possible proposals or pitches:

With your money we can do this great thing for these people now. (Present/Positive)

With your money we can do this great thing that will impact on these people in the future. (Future/Positive)

Without your money we can’t do this thing now and the negative outcome now is…(Present/Negative)

Without your money this thing/institution/people will suffer in the future (Future/Negative)

The really important things to remember is first, that  every person you ask is susceptible to a different one of these approaches and second, you have a preference for only one of them. Remember this, you have preference for only one of them. Therefore you have to do the research on the person you are asking, work out what their preference is, and align your ask to their preference.

Some people find this difficult and artificial but remember – you are not changing what you want to do to get what you want, you are not “chasing the money”, you are simply reframing what you do to make it easy for the person you are dealing with to say yes.

And yes is a great word to hear.

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