Why a Face-to-Face Ask Can Be Better, But Not Best
I recently realized that in my variety of roles as a fundraiser and nonprofit leader, there is one thing that never ceased to make me a bit uncomfortable, yet at the same time produced the greatest results for me: the face-to-face ask. Whether it was in an event setting or in a one-on-one meeting, face-to-face interactions often ended up more successful.
Recently, a new study has been conducted that shows face-to-face asks are truly more effective than email/text-based asks.
The study has been reported on in the Harvard Business Review and shows that,
“Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.”
The researchers, in two separate studies found that “nonverbal cues requesters conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests, but requesters were oblivious to this fact.”
In a world that currently seems to prefer and suggest email and text communication over face-to-face interactions, this is a striking study to wrestle with. On one hand, our ability to scale our businesses and organizations depends on finding ways to replicate and automate tasks and interactions to make us more effective. But if these interactions are making us less efficient, it should cause us to question the pros and cons of conducting them.
Having said that, I’ve found from my experience there are many factors at play when it comes to the effectiveness of an ask.
Factors feeding good fundraising
In the research quoted above, the researchers were specifically studying the approach of the solicitors themselves, and the solicitors’ perceived level of trustworthiness while making an ask. However, there are many other factors producing an even greater effect when making an ask rather than just the medium of the ask:
- You need to be asking the right people
- You need to be asking for an appropriate gift size
- You need to be asking at the right time
The name “development” suggests the key function of the solicitor. One needs to develop relationships and engagement between the prospective donors and the organization. You can take a look at my 4-part blog series How You Should Think About Donor Engagement for practical tips and examples of successful methods.
Putting it simply, to make effective asks it’s best to put both yourself and your prospective donor in an environment that makes sense. They need to have the capacity to make the gift, they have to have some motivation for making the gift, and it needs to make sense in the context of their relationship with the organization (or you). In this way, it’s not so much about the medium of the ask, but the overall environment of the ask. If your emails aren’t effective, it may not be because email is dead, but possibly because you’re emailing the wrong people at the wrong time, asking for the wrong thing.
It’s not too hard to begin thinking in these ways. We’ve created a great resource to help reshape this mindset. Download the Donor Engagement Checklist to start developing donor relationships in a way that makes them feel thought of and cared for.