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Making the Big Ask: Part 2


How many times have you managed to secure a one on one meeting with a potentially new and influential donor and was nervous about making the big ask? Maybe it was a fundraiser event in front of hundreds of people but you had no idea how to appeal to a large audience and to convince them to support your cause?

If you’re reading this article there is a good chance you’ve already read part one of “Making The Big Ask”, and you are now familiar with a successful formula.  Understanding the three step formula that creates your big ask is extremely important. Your ask needs to consist of a problem, a potential solution, and how your potential donor can become that solution.

In part one, I also mentioned the importance of crafting your big ask to be as personal as possible. You need to be able to influence your potential donor to become emotionally involved with your mission. There is a good chance you’re involved in your mission because of the passion you have for it. Your passion is connected to all sorts of feelings, emotions, and experiences. Now given, most people are not going to be as passionate as you are about your cause, and that’s okay. But it’s important to know that most decisions are driven by emotion and not logic. One of your first goals should always be centered on getting people invested emotionally in what you are trying to accomplish.

Here is what you need to consider when using the three step formula for your big ask. I will break down each step and share with you key points that will help you in crafting a personal and emotional ask.

1. What does the world look like without your organization?

  • A. In order to ask for anything, you must provide a reason why you’re asking. Your mission or cause has no purpose if there is no need. Build your case for the need.
  • I would recommend finding a way to connect your potential donor to the need. Try to get them to see how the problem touches their life personally. Sometimes this might be a stretch to achieve and if you can’t, then utilize stories or testimonies that they can relate to personally. Try to get them to visualize themselves facing that particular need or problem. Get them to use their imagination to paint a picture in their mind.
  • When building the case for your organization or cause it’s always important to use testimonies from real people. People connect and relate to people, not organizations or missions.
  • Describe a scenario with little or no hope. You want your potential donor to feel the pain or despair because this will set you up for the second part of the big ask.

2. What does the world look like with your organization?

  • This is the part where you start to bring hope back into the visualization. Once you have successfully made the case of a legitimate need, you need to start building the case of why your organization is the answer or solution.
  • Using facts and statics are great, but they should never be the focus. Facts should only be the supporting evidence because you will never sell your organization or mission on facts alone. They should simply provide a logical reason that supports the emotional decision they are about to make.
  • You should utilize more stories and personal testimonies that connect and include your organization to the newfound hope or solution. Remember, your organization should be the catalyst for this positive change. This is a great time to use testimonies of actual recipients who have been helped by you and your organization.
  • Paint a picture of the possibilities; get your potential donor to visualize the future of what could be.

3. Provide the reason why someone’s involvement is the solution.

  • Now that you’ve gotten the potential donor to see the need and the solution, now is the time to show him or her that the solution is only made possible with their involvement. Provide a reachable goal that is just shy of crossing the finish line. Illustrate to your donor that they are the key to achieving a goal.
  • Encourage the potential donor that he or she will be able to see, hear, or touch the outcome they will be contributing to. Allow the potential donor to experience gratification for their involvement. Each donor should experience some kind of reward for being involved.
  • Once you’ve made the case for the need, the solution, and their involvement, you can then proceed to ask for their support whether that be money or some kind of participation.

“Making The Big Ask” can seem intimidating but once you’ve mastered the formula above it becomes much easier. As horrible or disingenuous as this might sound, it is needed. Remember, we all got involved with our cause or mission because we are sincerely convinced that something must be done. Most of us involved in the non-profit sector have great hearts and good intentions but not everyone shares the same convictions. It’s because of this fact that we must channel our sincere heart and motives behind a formula that will help you win over hearts and minds for your mission.  

Learning to sell your cause or mission should never be viewed as selling out. Everything still hinges on the passionate people who are dedicated to making a difference. Learning to better communicate and win hearts for your cause will help you change the world. No one can change the world by himself or herself; it takes an army of world changers and it all starts with you! Now that you’ve been fully equipped to “Make The Big Ask”, go out and make a difference!

Written by: Matt Moore, managing member of Heartland Direct Intl. and President of The Young Businessmen of Tulsa

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Making the Big Ask: Part 1


Can you imagine the world without non-profits? Without non-profits, our world would be less effective in tackling some of humanities greatest challenges. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics in 2014 Americans gave a total of 358.38 billion dollars to charitable causes, and in 2010 almost 10% of wages and salaries paid in the USA were from the non-profit sector. That’s a huge impact! Imagine if those contributions never happened? Who would help provide aid for those who need it most? Where would all of these passionate people go to work? Who would have the time and resources to work on these admirable solutions?

Luckily we don’t have to imagine such a world because philanthropy is alive and well. In a free market system non-profits are capable of organizing, capitalizing, and meeting the needs of others. Non-Profits are literally a gift from God! They are filled with energetic people with a passionate purpose and who live to change the world. It’s important that the mission and hearts of these organizations never die! Our world depends on them to harness the compassionate heart of the human race.

You might be thinking, but what does any of this have to do with, “Making The Big Ask?” I’ll explain. You see, the common denominator in all of this is that none of what I shared above is possible without people, “Making The Big Ask.” Sharing your heart and vision will not be enough to keep your organization going. You have to have the guts to ask for money. You have to know how to sell yourself and your mission all at the same time. You cannot just expect people to be as excited or passionate about your mission as you are. You have to be able to build your case in order for people to even feel compelled to give to your non-profit. They need to feel that the well-being of your mission is dependent on them and your “ask” needs to become personal.

As someone who runs a non-profit organization and has built a company for non-profits, I’ve noticed something very important. The best non-profits do three things very well when “Making The Big Ask”. It’s a case of support that all of them have mastered and in order to keep your mission alive you need to be able to paint the following picture in your ask:

  • What does the world look like without your organization?  – The Problem
  • What does the world look like with your organization? – Potential Solution
  • Provide the reason why someone’s involvement is the solution. – Makes the solution possible.

In part two, I’ll break down and explain each one of these points and share more critical information that will help you in “Making The Big Ask”.  Non-Profits are a vital key to solving some of our greatest problems and I believe your organization can do the same. Selling your mission and gaining support is a lot like selling a product or service and your mission’s success will depend on how well you can master and sell this three-step case of support.  The good news is, you are the answer, and you’ve just been given one of the most valuable formulas in making an effective “ask”.

Written by: Matt Moore, managing member of Heartland Direct Intl. and President of The Young Businessmen of Tulsa

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The Truth About Survivor Guilt

According to a quote I love by Peter McWilliams, “guilt is anger directed at ourselves— at what we did or did not do.” As human beings, we are prone to at one point or another, feel responsible for a negative event that happened in our life, whether it was in or out of our control. We allow ourselves to be trapped in this area of “guilt”. However, what makes survivor guilt different and more dangerous? Why is it important for parents, caregivers, or loved ones to know the truth about survivor guilt? Below, I will share my own experience of guilt as a third degree burn survivor and how I have learned to let go of what I couldn’t control and LIVE the life I deserve.

-Huyen “Kiki” Vo

11/20/2000 Vietnam

It was probably around 7 o’clock. My younger sister Nhi (8 years old) and I were studying in the living room. As a kid, I was a bit mischievous. My mom had a shop where she sold homemade candies to the neighborhood kids to make extra money, a little hut out in front of our house. I remember persuading Nhi to go with me to get some candy from my mother’s small shop. As Nhi and I walked to the store, we ran into my baby sister (Thuong) who was only 3 years old back then. The two of them followed as I led them to the store. Unexpectedly, we ran into our mother, who was busy pouring gasoline into a small bottle. She does this to pour gas into my father’s motorcycle so he could drive to the local shop to purchase a portable electric bin that enabled my sisters and I to study at night. The village did not have electricity. The next moment happened so fast that even to this day, I still can’t believe it happened.

Nhi was holding a kerosene lamp and without knowing so, she leaned in and lowered the lamp to where my mother was pouring the gas. Just like that, the fire ignited. It was only a small fire at first but because we were so frightened by it, all three of us sisters ran back into the shop. Seeing her children inside the shop, my mother couldn’t bear to run out first. For the next minute or so, she covered us with her arms, telling us that it would be okay; Daddy would come and save us. The flaming fire kept blazing and heating up. We were stuck. I screamed. I couldn’t breathe. I was getting exhausted. I remember feeling my skin bubbling and peeling. I looked and saw my sisters desperately gasping for air. In that moment, I thought I was going to be trapped and die in that shop. Just when I was about to close my eyes and fall into that scary deep sleep, my father jumped through the fire and saved me. One by one, he ran in and out of that burning house and rescued my mother and sisters.

We survived but suffered tremendous burns. I remember hearing the screeching scream from my sisters. “đau quá, đau quá ba oi.” Nhi was rolling on the cement crying with such awful pain. That night our lives shattered forever. I remember being on the ambulance and glancing over to see my mother. In her eyes, I saw the immense pain she was in. She cried out for help to stop the awful pain. At that moment, I did not feel pain. All I felt was guilt. Guilty that because of wanting to get some candy, I led my sisters to the shop and caused the incident to happen. Tears of guilt were rolling down my face as I looked at my mother and uttered “Con xin loi, me” – I’m sorry Mom.

Those were my last words to my mother.

I will never forget that night and that fire. For the first few years after the accident, I was struggling emotionally with survivor guilt. I was very negative about life.

Negative thoughts and emotions:
  • I blamed myself for the incident and the reason why my mother passed away “Why did she die instead of me since I was the mischievous one?”
  • “What’s the point of living if she is no longer here? “ I refused to focus all my energy on recuperating and healing from my burn surgeries
  • “What if I didn’t lead my sisters to steal candies in the first place? Would she still be alive and I still have my whole happy family?”
  • “I should trade place with my mother so she could be alive to be with my younger sisters”
I wanted to know “WHY” even though it only led to further disappointment and regret. Eventually after several years of drowning myself with those thoughts, I found ways to refocus my energy on positive thinking instead.   Advice on overcoming feelings of survivor guilt:
  • Accept that your emotional reaction to the incident and/or a loss is normal.
Once you accepted this part, you will be able to start on your healing process. You will be able to grieve properly and understand that no one can ever explain the “what if” and “why” certain tragic things happened in life.  Whenever I catch myself feeling sad or guilty, I look back at my past accomplishments (academic, career, or personal growth) and give myself affirmations.  I would realize how far I have gone and know that I have potential to continue to succeed if I keep  a positive mindset.
  • Seek out friends, families, or counselors for emotional support and guidance.
It’s important to express your feeling in a safe environment that will encourage, nurture, and allow you to be 100% honest with your emotions. It is unsafe to hold back how you truly feel because it could lead to depression, anxiety or worst, self-destructive thoughts.  For me, I make a list of five “safe guard” people that keep me grounded and will make sure to give me a reality check when I’m in a depressive stage. I would have two adult mentors, a burn survivor friend, my two closest friends, and my sisters. I would call those people for support when I know I can’t handle my own emotions.  
  • Find positive outlets to process emotions
Besides turning to your “safe guard” people for emotional support, other outlets I found useful are dancing, exercising, and journaling. During my adolescent years, journaling allowed me to spill my negative thoughts on paper. I would journal about those thoughts then I would evaluate my own feelings. For me it was a good outlet to channel my negative thoughts and have my own internal check-in. In my 20s, I start exploring other outlets such as dancing and exercising. I soon found out the “perfect” outlet for me. It was dancing. Whenever I feel the wave of guilt surfacing, I would go out dancing. I would push my body to dance and through movements, I feel alive. I feel blessed knowing that despite being burned, I am still able to move my body. Thus, dancing saves my mind from wandering into negative zone and reminded me that I should focus on the beautiful moments and the fact that I’m alive to enjoy this magical life.  
  • Honor someone’s sacrifices for you by paying it forward.
Share your story with someone else that is going through the same situation. In the process of helping others heal, you are actually healing yourself just as much.  For me, I took every opportunity available to speak whether at burn conferences or workshops to share my testimony. I take on opportunity like this one to share my experience and hope that I can be a guiding light for someone else in need.
  • Focus on personal goals Give yourself a big goal so you are spending more time and effort looking forward to the possibilities of the future, not constantly consumed by the past and the things you can’t changed. I was fortunate to have grown up in a family very grounded in higher education. My father didn’t receive any education and therefore, wanted me to receive the best education as possible. Thus, since adolescent years until now, I focus a lot of my energy to furthering my education. For example, when I was in high school, I focused on getting into UC Berkeley for college. During my years at UC Berkeley, I gained knowledge and skills that helped shape my characters.  Whenever I feel depressed or sad, I would remember that I still have many big goals to accomplish and that I need to stay positive and on track. I need to do so for my future.
  • FORGIVE yourself and move on. Guilt stems from no rational basis; therefore, you have to forgive yourself in order to truly move on and live a happy life. For me, the first step was to realize that I was only a child when I led my sisters to my mother’s hut. I did not know better.

Final Thoughts: Ultimately, the key to overcoming survivor guilt is to understand the difference between what you can and cannot change. No matter how much I wish my mother was alive, she was meant to be on earth for a purpose: to sacrifice her life for her children. She did her duty and it was time for me to make peace with myself and let her go. I cannot control her destiny the same way you cannot control what meant to happen in your life. What you can control, however, is your present perspective and how you can best live a fulfilled life. Go out there and live that life you deserve! I know I am. One Love.

“God grant me the Serenity To accept things I cannot change Courage to Change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference”

– Serenity Prayer

Written by: Kiki Vo

Kiki Vo is a young adult who was burn injured as a child in a fire that that claimed the life of her mother and injured her 2 sisters. She is a Cal graduate with a degree in Social Welfare and Education and has been involved with the Burn Community since high school

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