October 26, 2023

Need Donations? The Truth about Abundance Asking

What if a donor contacted you today and asked what you needed?

And after you answered said, “What would you do if you had unlimited resources?”
Would you be able to answer the question, after you recovered from the shock?

This video challenges you to turn the tables from scarcity to abundance asking and thinking at your nonprofit.


What if you got a phone call today from a donor, a new donor, and they said, ‘What do you need?’ And you gave your answer, and then they said, ‘Well, if you had unlimited resources, what would you do?’

After you got done picking up your jaw, would you have an answer for them?

This video invites you to turn the table from scarcity to abundance asking.

In the book ‘Measure what Matters,’ there’s a story about a foundation–you’ll probably recognize who it is–that, when they first started in 2000, gathered world health leaders together and asked them what would they do if they had unlimited resources. It encouraged them to stop their incremental thinking, and yes, if you guess the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, you’ve guessed correctly.

Why It Matters

This question is so important for your nonprofit, even yours, even if you never sit down with a large foundation and get asked it, because it invites you to think in abundance. It invites you to think, ‘What is our strategy to get where we really want to go?’ which allows you sometimes to drop activities. It has board implications. It helps you to recruit board members by saying, ‘We’re going to this really cool place; this is where we’re going; this is what abundance looks like for us, and you can be part of that.’


And then there’s the research: when it comes to scarcity thinking, nonprofits can be their own worst enemies. Scarcity thinking, research says, causes hyper-fixation. You can’t get that deficit out of your mind. It causes short-term versus long-term thinking. It causes stress, which you also probably already know. And what you might not know, a need to be hyper-aware of, is it causes lesser and poorer quality decision making.


So, what does abundance asking look like in the real world? Cindy worked at a food bank; she was in charge of that whole division of the food bank of the nonprofit. She receives a call from the donor. The donor says, ‘Hey, what do you need? I love the food bank.’ And Cindy’s looking at the forklift that’s trying to go inside the freezer, and it’s the wrong sides, and things are a mess, and she wants a forklift. But she says instead, ‘You know, I’m not the best person to ask; let me turn you to Kristen, who is a development staff member. She’s the best person to ask.

Cindy got her forklift, but she also got several other important things that were needed by the food bank.

Will You Take the Challenge?

So, I invite you to experiment with abundance asking, and to do that, I’ll give you three challenges: What would a request be for a donor that is one times your annual revenue, five times your annual revenue, and then 10 times your annual revenue?

Figuring out the answers to those can open new insights into what you need, what to ask for, and how to get your heads around abundance that is out there in the universe.

So, I’m Karen Eber Davis, and before you go, I have a story to tell about the dangers of scarcity thinking. But before that, I want to say, I’d love to have a chance to chat with you about your needs at your nonprofit. My work Quick Impressions deal with what it is to be an abundant thinker in terms of receiving Mega gifts and not your nonprofit.


A CEO goes to lunch with a donor, a brand new donor, done the research, knows that an ask for about $50,000 would be a really nice gift. And during the lunch, she makes the pitch for what they would need for $50,000, and the donor was insulted because she had a much greater figure in mind. So, another reason to avoid scarcity thinking and move towards abundance asking is you don’t want to make your donors.


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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