Don’t be afraid – ask for what you want

This Tweet caught my eye this week:

The link took me to a SFGate San Francisco Chronicle story about a serendipitous $1.3 million gift that the online charity received last Tuesday.

In case you don’t know, is an online nonprofit where individual classroom teachers from across the U.S. can list projects that they need funded. The site includes a comprehensive description of the project with a complete budget.  For example, I searched the site for the charter school on whose board I sit and found this request for $903 from a teacher at Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, RI. (The request includes an option for a donation to

To get back to the SFGate story, the CEO of related how he had received a phone call where he was asked how much it would take to fund all the requests from California teachers.  You can read the story for all the details, but it turned out the phone call was from the ED of a local foundation. They ended up sending a check to cover all of the California teacher requests and then some.

This is one of those miracle giving stories that just about every nonprofit longs for… the out-of-the-blue million dollar gift.  The fairy tale dream come true.

But what really impressed me in the story was the ability of two people in particular who reached for the big gift. The first, the really critical one, was the CEO of, who was willing to put the full number out there when asked what it would take to fund all the California teachers requests… “just over $1 million” he said, even thought he thought it would scare the donor away.

Imagine what might have happened if he, like so many volunteers or even nonprofit staff, had hemmed and hawed, trying to second guess the giving level of his donor. He likely would have ended up in the situation where he grossly underestimated the giving ability of his donor and received far less than he needed.

(One small example of this tendency to underask that drives me bonkers is the special event invite. I’ve never understood why anyone would design a special event invitation with the bottom ticket level as the only giving option.  I’ve rarely encountered an event solicitation where no donor was willing to give more than the ticket price when given the option to do so.)

The other courageous ask was mentioned farther down in the story. It turns out that one of the teachers had posted a very bold gift request — $10,000 for a traveling computer lab — much larger that the range of other requests.  And because she was so fearless in her request, she was nicely rewarded with what just what she asked for.

Again these serendipitous gifts don’t come along every day (or maybe they do, but we don’t hear about them very often).

Maybe someday your giving fairy tale will come true. But in the meantime, while you are waiting, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Leave a reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.