I remember the echo of my own heartbeat as I sat across from a potential donor. My church's worn grand piano weighed heavily on my mind. We needed a new one, and here I was, about to ask for help.
With sweaty palms and the sound of my own heart beating in my head, I finally asked, "Dick, could you contribute to half the cost of the piano?". He nodded, smiled, and soon after wrote the check without hesitation.
Relief washed over me, but then he asked something that would forever change how I approached every aspect of life, including business:
"Why did you ask me for only half of the money when I could have given you all of it?"
That question was a gift, wrapped in the guise of gentle chastisement.
It wasn't just about fundraising; it was a fundamental lesson about human nature and the art of asking—a lesson that applies universally, whether you're raising funds for a church piano, seeding a startup, or asking someone to buy your product.
Here's the essence of that lesson, translated for the world of business and beyond:
Don't Assume, Ask: In business, just as in fundraising, we can't let our presumptions about what someone will give or spend dictate the ask. Customers and investors alike may be willing to commit more than we anticipate.
Request What's Required: As entrepreneurs, fundraisers, or salespeople, we must ask for what's necessary to reach our goals, not what we think the market will bear or guess what someone is willing and able to do. It's a delicate balance between valuation and need, but the act of asking remains the same.
Embrace Every 'Yes' Potential: Our gut might signal a 'no', yet every ask carries the possibility of a 'yes'. This isn't blind optimism; it's strategic hope. Today's 'no' could be tomorrow's 'yes', and this is true for closing a sale as much as it is for securing a donation.
Clarity Commands Action: Whether it's clicking the 'buy' button or signing a donation check, the clarity of instruction is paramount. People appreciate direction, and in a world cluttered with choices, being explicit about the next step is not just helpful—it's necessary.
That day, as I left with a check for half the cost of a piano, the lesson was clear: The principles of asking—and the generosity they can unlock—are not confined to fundraising.
They resonate through the corridors of business, within the boardrooms where investments are pitched, and in the psychology of why a customer chooses to buy.
In your entrepreneurial ventures, remember these truths. Whether you're negotiating with investors, setting prices, or seeking support, these are the touchstones of human interaction.
They remind us that the way we ask for things can define the responses we receive. So ask with courage, ask with clarity, and always be prepared for the generosity that might just meet you halfway.
If you need help figuring out your next move or trying to raise funds for your business or nonprofit are. Book a conversation with me, and let's figure out if we are a good fit for each other.