So what is it that yields the greatest ROI (return on investment) in all of fundraising? I won’t leave you in suspense. It’s the simple act of asking.

Asking Offers an Incredible Return on Investment

When I was a child, my dad always said, “You don’t get 100% of the things you don’t ask for.”

In other words, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That quote is most often attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

In fundraising terms, you get zero gifts you don’t ask for. Zero percent. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like those odds.

Exceptions to the Rule?

I know, there are exceptions to every rule… and it may not actually be zero percent. I’m sure at some point in your fundraising career you’ve gotten a gift or even two without asking. But do you really want to sit around hoping for those one-off gifts to arrive?

Or would you rather actually improve your fundraising odds?

Increasing Your Fundraising Odds (and ROI) through Asking

One of the starkest examples of “going for it” I witnessed this year were participants in the Toolkit’s $100K Mini-Campaign program. It’s sort of like a fundraising boot camp, where participants are challenged and assisted in raising $100K or more in just eight weeks.

FYI — The next session of our Mini-Campaign program starts on February 4th (registration ends January 29th). As of the writing of this post, we have four slots remaining — click here for details).

Most participants in the Mini-Campaign program have the donors, but they haven’t had the time, courage, or know-how to get out and raise $100K over a short period of time – or even a longer period of time. And yet, with a little encouragement, peer support, and a clear structure for raising money, they achieved that $100K goal (and then some).

It’s Almost Never a Bad Time to Ask

At the beginning of the pandemic, my colleagues and I spent months urging board members, and even some Executive Directors, to continue their fundraising — step it up, in fact. That’s because so many were chanting the refrain “now’s not a good time to fundraise.”

However, those who stayed in touch with their donors and continued to ask for support were rewarded with significantly increased fundraising income.

Asking is the #1 Way to Increase Your Fundraising Results

In fact, asking (in-person, and one-on-one, virtually) is the number one way to increase your fundraising results. I’m not talking about sending bulk letters or emails — although those can be effective fundraising tools when done well. But still not as effective as asking.

When I encourage asking, I’m talking about one-on-one with a specific ask amount in mind. It’s fine to ask over the phone or on Zoom. But not in a group setting.

Improving Your Asking ROI

One of the key differences between those who raised significantly more money than those who didn’t this past year came down to asking. Those who asked raised far more.

It didn’t matter if you were in the arts, education, social justice, or healthcare. Organizations across all sectors raised significantly more than they did in the past when they took the time to ask donors, one on one.

The Act of Asking Makes All the Difference

My daughter, Zoe, is currently applying to a magnet school for high school next year. It’s unlikely she’ll get in because of how competitive it is. The other day, she asked me what her chances of getting in are. I told her, simply, her chances are better if she applies than if she doesn’t.

Of course, with fundraising, when you ask for a gift, your odds increase significantly — presuming you’ve done some planning, research and cultivation.

Overcoming Your Fear of Asking

I know asking for money can be scary, but I bet you’ve already successfully asked for many things in your life where the ROI was worth the risk:

  • Asking someone on a first date
  • Asking your boss for a raise
  • Asking your partner to marry you

Think about how it felt asking someone on a first date. We’ve all be there.

Sure, it’s terrifying at first. If they say yes — elation. If they say no, although it’s disappointing, you’re really no worse off than you were before. After all, you didn’t have a date to begin with.

It’s much the same with fundraising. If they say no, you didn’t have the gift in the first place. It’s unlikely you’ve lost anything.

The question is, after “no” can you pick yourself up and get back on the horse? Presumably, if you’ve currently dating, in a relationship, or married, the answer is “yes.”

How You Can Increase Your Fundraising ROI

My question and challenge to you is this:

What will you do this year to increase your chances of raising money? Your return on investment?

Asking one-on-one — whether in-person, on Zoom, or over the phone — will significantly increase your odds of fundraising success. And I’ll take increased odds any day.

It’s Sink or Swim…

If you’re ready to swim, a great way to conquer the deep end and push yourself to ask is to sign up for our Mini-Campaign program. This program’s track record is fantastic — nearly every participant has raised $100K (or more) over just a couple months.

Talk about increasing your odds!


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