September 28, 2011

What's Your Asking Style?

Are you getting ready to speak the question every leader eventually needs to ask? “Are you willing to join me in giving…?"

In most of our congregations, we’re coming upon the time for annual pledge or giving campaigns. I consider stewardship formation a year-round ministry, but at least once a year there ought to be a specific campaign inviting everyone to consider giving for the following year. Whether those gifts are time, talent, or treasure, they represent individual or family commitments to further the mission of the church.

Even though they are “gifts,” pledges usually don’t flow in on their own. We need to ask. That’s the rub: most people don’t like to ask other people for commitments – especially when it comes to money.

I could spend all day and night writing about this topic – fear of asking, fear of commitment, fear of fundraising, etc. (Also the liberation and delight that comes from asking well and seeing people respond!) But I won’t. If you want a deep, refreshing, and transformative reflection on this theme, read Henri Nouwen’s Spirituality of Fundraising, a fantastic little booklet I’ve blogged about here before.

Today I want to share a practical tool that a friend recommended. Created by a consulting firm called Asking Matters, it’s a quick online Asking Style Assessment. After taking three minutes to complete the free assessment (plus providing name and email), the results identify you as having one of four possible styles, with tips to help you prepare for asking.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m really not trying to pitch you a consulting company or a new online gimmick. But the concept piqued my interest. I’ve been involved in fundraising and volunteer work (church and otherwise) for over 20 years, starting in high school. I’ve been trained formally, trained others, and learned a lot by trial and error. But I admit the idea of an “asking style” never really occurred to me. Of course we know individuals have different learning styles or personality types, so it makes sense we’d have different “asking” styles. If it is an essential act of leadership to ask others to commit to something larger than themselves, then every leader should strive to be a good “asker.” I figure any tips to get us over the hurdles of asking will help.

If you’re in charge of the pledge campaign this year, or heading a ministry which depends on the time and talent of volunteers, consider what you need to ask well. Consider what your volunteer team needs to ask others for their commitment. Can you prepare yourself and others to make “asking” not a fearful task, but a faith filled opportunity? Can you rest assured that no matter your personality style, if you care deeply about the church, you too can learn to ask for support? Because at the end of the day, every planning meeting or beautiful brochure will be for naught if you can’t confidently, with God’s help, say to another member of your congregation “Will you join me in giving?”