Today, I’m really excited to begin a series of six blogs that will introduce a new asking model that Veritus has created. It’s called Permission-Based AskingTM.
Jeff and I have a ton of energy about this because we’ve been searching for a way to fully express our values around honoring the donor in the giving process, while asking effectively. Many asking strategies are about getting the money – some of them even approach manipulation.
This is the ground floor of launching what we believe will be a major change in how donors are asked to become involved with the causes they love and support.
The model blends the most current concepts of thought leaders in the commercial marketplace on how to honor and retain customers, with the best practices from the non-profit world on donor and value retention.
This blog series is an introduction to the model – so I won’t cover every detail in this blog series. Veritus Group Academy offers online trainings where all the details and nuances of Permission-Based AskingTM are taught.
OK, here is some background.
In 1999, Seth Godin observed that successful campaigns were the ones that sought the customer’s consent. From that core idea he wrote the book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, which was published on May 6, 1999.
Permission marketing allows consumers to choose whether or not to be subjected to marketing. This choice results in better engagement and customer retention.
Permission-Based AskingTM is based on the concept that a fundraiser should ask for permission to become a partner in fulfilling the donor’s passions and interests. Interesting concept, isn’t it? Asking permission to ask. We don’t usually think about asking in this way – we just ask, presuming it’s OK. This is why donors feel abused – why they feel like cash dispensers – why they don’t feel valued and honored.
We need to change this. And that’s why Jeff and I, along with our Veritus team, have created this asking model.
Here’s what it looks like:

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There are three important concepts to keep in mind when using this model:

  1. At every step, you must always ask permission. This is about honoring and respecting the donor and, in your heart and mind, holding her in high esteem and treating her as an equal. This is not about the donor’s money. It’s about helping the donor fulfill her passions and interests.
  2. The model starts with connection, then moves into a circular process of alignment, curiosity and asking. The reason this part is circular is because alignment needs to occur at every point of the donor interaction. Often an ask does not result in a clear path. For instance, you might ask and get “let me think about it” in return. This forces a replay of the alignment process where you:
  • Confirm that the donor wants to “think about it.”
  • Ask questions (be curious) about why, so you understand.
  • Ask if it would be OK to contact the donor later.

There’s always a need to let the alignment process function for any type of answer or situation you may encounter.

  1. The model or process ends with celebration, no matter what occurred in the alignment process. If, at the end of alignment, the answer is:
  • Yes – then you celebrate what will happen in people’s lives or on the planet because of the donor’s gift. You fill the donor’s heart with the joy of knowing what she has just accomplished.
  • Maybe – then you celebrate what COULD happen. You celebrate the partnership with the donor and their interest in changing the world.
  • No – then you celebrate what has been accomplished by the past giving of the donor and their continued interest and passion to change X.

This celebration point is missed in most asking strategies and models. That’s because those strategies focus on getting the money rather than celebrating what the donor has accomplished. Don’t make that mistake. Your main objective in fundraising is to fulfill the donor’s interests and passions, not to secure the money. The money is a result of fulfilling the donor’s interests and passions.
There are two important roles you’ll need to play as you use this model with a donor:

  1. The Partner Role: The partner role is where you’re working through the model with the objective of fulfilling the donor’s passions and interests. In every phase of the model your heart, spirit and behavior is tuned in to serving the donor through your connection and alignment to her, asking questions and clarifying, asking for the gift, and finally celebrating what’s been accomplished. You must keep this focus as you’re going through each phase of the model.
  2. The Facilitator Role: This is the role you play between phases. You are facilitating a natural and comfortable transition from one phase to the next. This is very important in that you always have to signal to the donor that you’re moving from connection to alignment to being curious to asking, and finally to celebrating. In doing this, you’re respecting the donor’s time and ensuring that the phases are covered in your meeting. The speed and rhythm of this will change depending on the time you have and the personality of the donor.

Oh, there is one more very fascinating and useful feature of this model. It can be used to ask for anything in any situation. Just think of any aspect of your life – personal or professional – where you need to ask for something. Now go through the steps of connection, alignment, curiosity, asking and celebration. You’ll find that this works in every situation where you need to ask someone else for something. You’ll see how this works in a practical way as we get further into the details in my future blog posts.
In my next post, I’ll get into how each step works. Stay tuned. And remember, as you’re dealing with your caseload donors, keep honoring them by being curious about their interests and passions. Keep serving those interests and passions with passion, energy, and care – and make sure you’re asking permission along the way.
Read the whole series on Permission-Based Asking:

  1. Permission-Based Asking: An Introduction (this post)
  2. Permission-Based Asking: Making Connections
  3. Permission-Based Asking: The Alignment Circle
  4. Permission-Based Asking: Celebrate
  5. Permission-Based Asking: The Alignment Cycle Matrix
  6. Permission-Based Asking: Dealing with Fear, Developing Conversation