One of my extracurricular activities that keeps me out of trouble is being on the board of a local nonprofit. My normal fuction is going to meetings and saying obvious things.

A few weeks ago, however, the ante was upped. A packet arrived with a list of businesses to solicit donations from and their contact information. I panicked. I am not good at asking people for money… I have a hard time even asking people who owe me money for money!

But I had to deal and here's what I've learned about asking people you don't know to give you money.

Get background information on the person or business.
Having a name of who you can talk to at a business and information about the person/business can give you a little bit of an edge in this uncomfortbale situation. Has he given money before? Does she prefer email to phone calls?  Has the business recently changed ownership? These are all good things to know. Ask around in your social circle or email your friend the supernetworker and get at least some of the information ahead if you can. I asked a few ad reps at the newspaper I work for, so helpful.

Go in person if you can.
I have too many businesses to do this with but I can tell the ones I visited in person had a lot harder time saying no then ones I called. Looking like the nice wholesome person that I am also didn't seem to hurt.

Be clear.
In the first sentence, I give my name and the organization I volunteer for. This way, they know I'm not trying to sell them anything and they can start thinking about the organization and how/if they want to give. Using their brainpower to figure this out rather than figure out who I am is a step in the right direction.

Be brief.
Small business owners don't have a lot of time and respecting that is key.

Be kind, even if they say no.
Sure, money is tight now and some poeple can't give. That said, if you're a jerkface about them saying no, you are not only representing yourself but the organization. They may not remember your name but they'll remember who you were representing the next go around. Being kind and gracious to all is only beneficial to your good karma but to the organization you represent…because you never know.

All in all, this hasn't been the terrible experience I thought. One place I called gave $100 without batting an eye. "That's a really special organization" the woman said when I went to pick up the money. And doing this little uncomfortable exercise in some ways made me realize just how much it was.

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