On a sleepy Saturday morning in Poughkeepsie, twenty or so people filtered into a large room in Christ Episcopal Church, where they were greeted with bagels and coffee. All of them were organizers and volunteers from youth programs, food pantries, and other parish-based outreach programs across the diocese. All of them were there for the same reason: to learn how to fundraise.
Asking for money from potential donors might seem daunting and uncomfortable, but it’s an essential skill for anyone involved in nonprofit or charitable work of any kind. With that in mind, Episcopal Charities organized a fundraising workshop, Making Your Case and Making the Ask as part of our annual Sustainability Institute Workshop series.
The workshop, which was held in both Poughkeepsie and Manhattan, was intended to empower programs with the tools and resources they need to confidently and effectively solicit donations. Henry Enright, Director of Development at Episcopal Charities, walked participants through the science of “making the ask”: what words to say when requesting funds, how to say them and whom to say them to. His presentation, punctuated with anecdotes from his own long fundraising career, explored topics from how to identify potential donors to how to utilize certain psychological concepts to best appeal to those donors. The workshop participants represented a wide range of fundraising experience, from seasoned grant writers to new volunteers nervous about the prospect of soliciting donations, and they were able to swap stories and share advice throughout the morning.
One of the most dynamic parts of the workshop was an interactive activity in which participants divided into small groups to practice “making the ask.” One participant would be the asker, making a case for their program and requesting a donation of a certain amount, while others would play the role of the donor or observe and give feedback. Many participants were enthusiastic about this exercise, which gave them some hands-on experience with requesting donations as well as the opportunity to think about which aspects of their programs would be best emphasized in fundraising efforts. Overall, the workshop was a hit: one participant described it as “time well spent and good food for thought.” Molly Jones, of the St. Paul’s Poughkeepsie Food Pantry, described the workshop as “excellent in every way,” and said that she “had several ideas for raising money during the course of the day.”
Sustainability Institute Workshops are a vital part of Episcopal Charities’ mission because they allow us to support parish-based outreach programs with resources as well as with funds. We’ve made all the resources from our latest workshop available here. We also have another workshop coming up in October, Making Sense of Mysterious Behavior: Mental Health in Feeding Programs, which you can register for here. It’s our hope that by providing workshops like this one, we can help programs become stronger and more sustainable.