I have to admit that I find it very hard to celebrate anything. It is one of the wounds I carry. I am so focused on doing and reaching objectives that I just forget about stopping to celebrate what is or what has happened.
Luckily, my wife helps me remember this, as does Jeff, two prolific celebrators in my life.
When we were designing the Permission-Based Asking Model™ we all realized that a celebration point needed to be in the model. First, because thanking is not enough, and secondly, because even if the response you have received from the donor is a “no” or anything negative or different from what you expected, the best thing to do is honor and empower the donor by celebrating their personal choice and their independence.
If you stop to think about it, most of the material on asking out in the non-profit sector ends the process with a thank you. And that is good. But they don’t celebrate the donor’s choice and independence. And that’s why Jeff and I, and our team, feel this point is so important.
You could influence and pressure the donor to give out of obligation, and you might get a gift. But the long-term effect of that strategy is disastrous, as it violates the donor.
Think of how freeing it will be for the donor to be very comfortable in saying “no.” What this does is keep the relationship intact, which is the most important value. (Tweet it!) Over and over again, Jeff and I have seen donors treated with honor when they said “no” – and these same donors turn around and give again, and sometimes give transformationally. You need to value the long-term.
The objective of the celebrate step in our asking model is to fill the donor’s heart, mind and spirit with joy. In this phase you are providing information, stories and pictures that will drive satisfaction in the donor. When you leave the donor’s presence you want her to experience significant joy in knowing that her decision to give was the right thing to do, and that great things are going to happen as a result. You need to share not only facts but also stories and pictures.
And if she decided not to give, or not to give now, or not to give as much as you asked – you want to leave her feeling honored, heard, and appreciated.
If the donor agreed to your ask, your comment back might sound like this: “Anita, thank you for being clear with me about where you are in relation to giving to this project. As your partner, knowing how you think about this is what is most important to me. It helps me serve you and keep you connected to what is most meaningful to you. I want you to know that this (your prepared outcome) will happen because of your gift.”
Then you go on to explain in more detail how a life is going to be changed – how an animal will be saved, how a lake will be restored, etc. – and what this means to the people involved. Then you continue: “This is just amazing! I hope you can feel the joy, the restoration, the hope and the thankfulness coming your way.”
If your donor did NOT agree, you will first be curious and ask great questions about where your donor is at this time. And then your comment back might sound like this: “You know, Jane, I completely understand what you are saying. And I want you to know that I celebrate and honor your decision not to get involved at this time. It is really important to me and the rest of the team at (name of organization) that you have a total sense of freedom to do what you need to do in your relationship with us. So many times, the fundraising thing is filled with obligation and pressure, and that is the last thing we want you to feel. In fact, later today or tonight when you think about this conversation I want you to experience tremendous peace, calmness and comfort in knowing that all is well in our relationship. You have made a decision that is right for you, and I respect and honor that.”
Of course, as you have been in the alignment circle with this donor, you have secured information about what the next step should be if the answer is “no.” That should be part of your objective. If you are sensing a “no” coming, you should be curious about what the “no” means and therefore what the next steps should be.
The most important thing is to leave the donor with a full sense of worthiness, adequacy, calmness and satisfaction. You don’t want her to feel like she has disappointed you or let you down. No – this is all part of a longer-term journey. Keep that in mind.
In my next post, I’ll take you through the Alignment Matrix – a handy guide that will lead you through the various ways a conversation with your donor can go, and what do to about it. See you then.
Read the whole series on Permission-Based Asking:

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