How to Overcome the Intimidation Factor

I still get flutters

Let’s face it. Asking someone for a contribution can be scary. You are going out on a limb, putting yourself out there.

Whew.  Sometimes I can just feel my stomach start to tighten just thinking about it.

But asking doesn’t always have to be scary!

Here are 5 tips that will help you get over yourself, and your asking anxiety.

1. Focus completely on the cause you are serving.

It’s just not about you. I know that’s hard to swallow, but it’s true.

You just CAN’T take it personally.

Just focus on the children who will be served, the sick people cured, the art you will bring to your community, the animals to be saved.

Your cause is so much bigger than you are.

Take yourself out of the equation. Stand firmly in the urgency of the situation.

And invite someone to help solve the problem.

2. Focus on the problem to be solved.

Keep your focus

When there’s a problem to be solved, it puts the discussion in a different light.

It takes your “personality” out of it. And it places the cause front and center in the discussion.

Presenting a problem to a potential donor helps to involve the donor in the solution.

When you and your donor are figuring out how to solve the problem, then it becomes a team effort.

Your donor is involved. Her brain is thinking, thinking about the issue at hand. (not about you!)

We all say in fundraising: “involvement leads to investment.”

The more you can get her involved, the better.

3. Rehearse.


Ok, I admit that I tend to wing it more often than not.

BUT never on an important solicitation call.

I remember one solicitation for a $5 million naming opportunity. There were three of us.

I scripted the ENTIRE conversation: who was speaking on what topic and how it would flow.

We knew who was prepping the ask and who was asking. And who would handle questions.

And it worked!

Rehearsing helps take away your fear. It helps you imagine the situation evolving smoothly.

4. When in doubt shut up!

Seal those lips

If you are really nervous, then back off.

Remember that your prospect needs to be involved in this conversation!

If you are doing more than 50% of the talking, then you are dead.

Your prospect will tell you what matters to her and why she wants to help the cause.

But she won’t tell you if you are doing all the talking!

5. It’s not about money.

If you are talking about money, then you are lowering yourself.

This conversation is something high, full of light, shining up on the hilltop.

It’s a vision for a happier world.

Lord have mercy, as we say in the south – it is NOT about money.

Keep the conversation at a high level.

Stay in your vision of success.

And you WILL be successful.


Preparation can make a world of difference.

Plan things out ahead of time and you can relax and the donor can relax to.

  • Andy Robinson

    I knew a man whose solution to this problem was to bring “them” into the conversation: “They told me to ask you for $5,000.” I thought maybe “they” were the voices in his head, but he said no: “They” was the organization, the cause, and the people who were involved. By thinking of himself as someone who was serving other people — “they” — he created the emotional distance he needed to make the ask.

  • Ben Gonsher

    This is a wonderful piece, Gail, as always! Just last night I was visiting with one of our investors and for some reason I was jittery — I guess I felt that we were such good friends, how could I ask him to part with his money? But I reread this post, and remembered the obvious, which you are the master at so eloquently reminding us all of — it’s not about me! It’s about the kids, and he is passionate about how we are changing lives. So thank you a hundred times over, Gail. I truly look forward to these posts each week.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ben – yup, we all can get jittery when we are getting ready to ask. But taking yourself out of the equation and making it all about the kids is so much easier! 

  • Terry H

    At age 72 I am in charge of conducting the first campaign in 24 years of existence for a small Seminary in Texas. I am VP of Advancement (less than one year) after 35 years as a Manufacturing Engineering Manager in the Aircraft business. Can you spell inexperienced? We’re making progress but the grade is steep! Your tips have been immensely helpful Thanks!

  • gailperry

    Hi Ben, you are so kind! I”m glad this was helpful!

  • gailperry

    HI Terry- so glad these tips are helpful. Fundraising doesn’t have to be painful or scary! Good luck.