Thinking about Impact as you Ask this Year End (and always actually)

by Marcy Heim on October 11, 2018

You are expected to raise money.  Your success fuels the work of yourraise money symbol organization.  It is very important and honorable work.

In just the past 3 weeks I’ve shared my belief in believingwith scores of folks in keynotes and sessions across the Midwest.  This week I’m with AFP-Lubbock, Texas. Wohoo!

How you THINK about your life and work has a great deal to do with your success at both.  For over twenty years I raised millions at the University of Wisconsin.  When I started consulting people would ask me, “What was your trick to raising that much money?  What was your secret strategy?”

That got me thinking about what I actually WAS doing. And, why were some of my team members so successful and others not so much?  I coached them all the same.

I discovered I was thinking differently about my work, our givers and wealth. And, my thinking and my beliefs clearly impacted my success. And you know what?  It also impacted my JOY!  I could give my team all kinds of “how to” training and inspiration but only they could change their beliefs, fears and thinking around our givers and wealth. Only you know what is in your heart. I didn’t (and still don’t) have any “tricks.”

Do you think raising money is a “necessary evil?”

Bring joyMoney is not evil and neither is raising it. You experience joy in giving the perfect gift to someone you care about. Giving money to a purpose you believe in also brings joy. Our work, then, is to authentically create feelings between your givers and the impact they have. This brings them joy in giving to your organization.

Remember my often used quote, “We become what we think about!”?  Our thinking is so important because it leads to our feelings…and our feelings stir up our actions and our actions create our results. So achieving the giving (and living, by the way) results you want, begins with how you are thinking about those results.

Do you want your family and friends to have experiences that make them fulfilled and joyful? Of course! This is not so different than what we want for our givers. How does experiencing and investing in us – our programs, projects and/or people make them feel? Because their feelings will lead them to the action of giving to make those results happen…again and again. Manipulative, high pressure asking leads only to resentment, not giving and certainly not repeat giving.

Much of stirring up strong feelings to give depends on how you describe the opportunity. Why? Those words create our thoughts around the project, donor and giving potential.  Do you connect the giving to the real impact?

When you use my 3-Sentence Ask™, the second sentence begins with “You understand” and reaffirms the donor’s understanding of the impact the gift you are asking for will have.

(Note: How does the donor understand the impact? The experiences, conversations, materials, whatever you provide for them as you engage the donor over time PRIOR to the Ask. If you don’t believe your donor DOES understand, you aren’t ready to ask!)

Let’s look at some examples. The first sentence is fine. The second sentence promotes more connection to impact.

“You understand the importance of having nature areas at our facility.”

“You understand a rose garden would provide fragrance and beauty for all our residents to enjoy.”

“You understand the importance of sponsorships for our event.”

“You understand how your sponsor investment will ensure our teachers can spend quality time with their students.”


“You understand that your sponsorship will inspire a kid’s love affair with science.”


“You understand that your sponsorship will ensure women have a safe place to escape abuse.”

How do you THINK about, and describe, the value you bring to those you support, help, nurture, protect, educate, or care for? That creates the magic, social good, or impact for your prospective giver to say an inspired, “Yes!”

Now let’s talk about buildings and equipment.  We spend thousands on architects. (sigh) Yes, our not-for-profit causes are, indeed, worthy of beautiful spaces. It IS important that we have the needed facilities to effectively and efficiently do our work. However, keep the focus on how this SPACE is worthy of the education, fun, healthcare, service, spiritual growth, safety, healing, hope, protection, sheltering, whatever that happens within it.

Back to my 3-Sentence Ask™

“You understand quality space for math is important for our school.”

“You understand how the “Math is Fun” space will dramatically improve math skills in grade school children.”

“You understand the Science Museum will be a proud destination within our state.

“You understand how the Science Museum will escalate interest, skills and knowledge of science in kids and their families throughout Wyoming.”

“You understand that the new Shelter will help expand our services to women.”

“You understand how our new Shelter will help more abused women feel safe.”

“You understand how the Community Foundation provides resources for scores of community projects.”

“You understand the Community Foundation helps your community remain the place the next generations want to raise their families.”

“You understand a new software program will make our organization more efficient.”

“You understand a new software program will provide key data to measure and improve our service to patients.”

Does this help you?  Connect to the impact beyond the project in your ask.

One final thought….as you go forth presenting major gift asks, please don’t “settle.”  As non-profits, we often feel we must “settle” for someone’s “donated” space, or left-over computers, or used office furniture. Perhaps we even consider this a tribute to our humility. We are grateful for whatever.  We may need to make these concessions in order to do the work for which we have a passion. But really this is victim thinking. Poor me. Have big dreams.

Examine how you think about what your organization does and get very clear on how to describe the impact in a tangible and person-focused way.  Your donors may support scholarships, but their impact is ensuring the educational growth of middle school students.

How do we think about where we want to be and not be frustrated with where we are now?

Each night as I lay in bed, I say, “I am so grateful for my life exactly the way it is now.  I’m so in love with everything I get to do – my family, my band and the people I get to speak to, coach, inspire and be with right now.  AND, I’m so excited to see what’s next! I’m joyful and eager for the next opportunity, to continue to learn and grow, to attract more wealth and to make everything I do for myself, my family and all those I serve even better!”

YOU make an impact! I am grateful for what you are doing right now….and for thinking about all you will do in the future!

Invest in JOY®



Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at

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