The Big Ask
1.) STACK THE DECK: Have more than one A list speaker. I like to have seven or eight speakers. And at our events we even asked Mike Pence to speak for only ten minutes.
2.) CARE FOR THE MESSAGE, IT IS YOUR MISSION: Curate every speech. Meet with every speaker in advance (three months prior) at your headquarters and map out exactly what they are going to talk about. Share an ideal script with them that fits with their story. These scripts should all be emotionally pointing toward the mission and the task.
3.) LEAD, BUILD, INSPIRE & CELEBRATE: Be intentional about the “emotion ark” of the evening. You don’t want to curate a conference of random speeches, instead think of it as a really good movie. Great movies develop characters and draw you in then they climax and pull at your heart. It’s best to start out events with lots of humor, and then draw people into deep emotion. I like to create an emotion graph when planning out the event. The biggest gifts come after someone who has a side sticker laughed themselves out of their chair, squeezed their partner a little, and then cried three times before it was time to give. What you don’t want is randomized emotion. You want the evening to build, and you want it to end in an abandoned celebration. It’s also very important that the evening has good stage management, leading up to the ask you need to seamlessly hand the stage off again and again.
4.) K.I.S.- KEEP IT SIMPLE: It’s important that the ask is simple, clear, and specific. And that there is a dollar goal for the evening. I like to let people know the goal in advance and tell them the goal at least four or five times before they ask. The goal needs to be for a specific amount but also for a specific thing like a new building or 100 sonograms machines. Then it also has to be clear what the building or sonogram machines will achieve such as 1,000 more clients per year or tens of thousands of sonograms per year, which accounts for lives saved and again best if we can specifically have a goal right down to our impact. Think simple, think clear, think specific.
5.) CAST VISION, ONLY YOU CAN: It’s the job of the CEO to cast the vision. They don’t need to be the closer and in-fact I don’t think they should. I recommend that the CEO gives a speech that is five to seven minutes and that is fun and impactful. This so each should be written three months prior and 100% memorized and practiced.
6.) ASK WITH CARE, ASK WITH EXCELLENCE: The actual ask should be emotional by a professional closer. And then should walk the people through the form. Don’t let anyone fill out the form early. Instead, ask them not to take it out of the envelope until they ask. Then during the ask, walk them through the four parts of the donation form.