The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 30

A Systematic Approach to Asking for Money for Nonprofits, with Andrew Frank

In this Episode:

Whether you’re a nonprofit development professional, a staff member, or an individual with a passion for making the world a better place, asking for money is often a dreaded necessity. The only thing worse is the possibility of not being able to provide the service that your community needs.

How can we overcome our fears and roadblocks to ask for funding with confidence and increase the number of yeses we get?

Andrew Frank has been fundraising for projects and organizations his entire professional life. Now the Executive Director of NYC Children’s Theater and consultant to numerous organizations, Andrew teaches his step-by-step approach to nonprofit execs, development professionals, board members and even individual artists. He joins us to share his process for overcoming fears, approaching prospective donors, crafting a four-part pitch, and making the ask in a way that is most likely to get a “yes.”

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:17.040] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:19.860] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Today, I’ve got to give you a little bit of a full disclosure, if you will. Our guest today is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We’ve actually known each other for over 20 years now, because we are getting that old. Luckily, though, he also happens to be a nonprofit leader and a teacher. He teaches people how to actually ask people for money. A topic that I think is particularly critical at this time of year for organizations of all sizes, whether you have a large development staff or none at all, and you do everything yourself.

[00:00:55.870] – Boris
Really knowing how to talk to people, how to do that ask. How to properly seal the deal, if you will, or even start the conversation, I think it can be really intimidating to people. So I’m having my friend, Andrew Frank, on today to talk to us about all of that. Andrew is currently the Executive Director of the New York City Children’s Theater. I met him, like I said over 20 years ago in another theater company in another life. So previously, though, Andrew was the director of the Cultural Institutions Unit at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, where he oversaw relationships between the city and arts institutions.

[00:01:31.030] – Boris
He was also the Interim Executive Director of the Queen Symphony Orchestra and the President of TYA/USA, a national service organization that serves the field of theater for young audiences. And he now sits on the board of the Dramatic Question Theater Company, as well. As a commercial producer, in addition to a number of Off-Broadway projects, Andrew was an Associate Producer on Broadway with “Lombardi, a New American Play.” Andrew is also a personal coach with a certificate in coaching from NYU, and he describes his superpower as helping nonprofit fundraisers and artists remove obstacles, increase confidence, and increase success rates when asking for money.

[00:02:08.920] – Boris
With that, let’s bring Andrew on to tell us more of his story. Hey, Andrew.

[00:02:14.230] – Andrew Frank
Hey, Boris, good to see you.

[00:02:17.020] – Boris
Good to see you. We talk all the time, but we actually rarely get to talk on video like this.

[00:02:21.560] – Andrew Frank
No, very rarely. That’s right. We’re phone-people.

[00:02:25.690] – Boris
We are phone-people. We’re from that age. Oh, my goodness.

[00:02:29.060] – Andrew Frank

[00:02:30.250] – Boris
We don’t even FaceTime.

[00:02:31.520] – Andrew Frank
That’s true. No Zoom or FaceTime. Just good, old fashioned phone.

[00:02:36.930] – Boris
Amazing that that technology still works. It’s over a hundred and thirty years old now or something like that. I hate to misquote technology. All right, Andrew, so I’ve obviously talked you up a good bit over here, but why don’t you tell us what’s your story? How do you come to doing this?

[00:02:52.990] – Andrew Frank
Thanks, Boris. Well, I started in New York City. I came all the way from Long Island to be a theater director. And one of the things that happens when you’re 20-something and you want to direct a play in New York is you have to raise money to do it because no one’s going to hire you. So, before I even knew what I was doing, I was raising money to produce plays so I could direct them. After a while, when my circle got bigger, we started Manhattan Theater Source, which is where you and I met.

[00:03:23.450] – Andrew Frank
And I was raising money and building a board and putting that together. And then from there, I went to the Department of Cultural Affairs, where I really started to see how big institutions—my job really was covering a lot of board meetings. And so I was sitting around at boards, listening to how they were fundraising and asking for money. And then from there, I wanted to run my own organization again. So I took over New York City Children’s Theater about eleven years ago and have run a number of different organizations, as you’ve mentioned.

[00:03:58.170] – Andrew Frank
All during that time, my love of theater and individual artists stayed strong, and I kept working with them. And I got so tired of having to watch them struggle, so that I created a course on how to help people ask for money. And I started that with individual artists and then realized that the boards that I joined didn’t understand how to ask people for money, and staff didn’t know how to ask for money. So I wound up presenting that course, and it evolved over really the last 15 years.

[00:04:30.460] – Andrew Frank
Basically a primer, an outline, on helping you ask people for money. Yeah. So that’s my story. Here I am with you. That’s the latest greatest achievement is being on the Nonprofit Hero Factory.

[00:04:46.320] – Boris
I notice your eyes go up to read that to make sure you . . .

[00:04:49.380] – Andrew Frank
I want to make sure I get the branding right. Yeah.

[00:04:52.510] – Boris
Excellent. I do appreciate that. So, in that story that you just told you mentioned that you codified this into a course, which, by the way, I should say, you and I recorded a version of this course a few years ago now, and it is on the dotOrgStrategy courses, courses.dotOrgStrategy website. But, this is not just about directing people to that or trying to make money off of them.

[00:05:17.770] – Boris
We’re really just trying to share as much information as possible and as much value as possible. And we’ll talk about a few other ways that people can learn more. But let’s start with why even make a course? What makes it so challenging that people need to learn how to ask people for money?

[00:05:33.800] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. What’s amazing, I think over the years is the anxiety and the emotional barriers that people have about asking for money. Most people have a problem just asking someone. Frequently, it’s because they’re starting with friends or family. But even when it’s not somebody that they know, they feel like by asking it means something bad about them or that they’re weak or that, you know, that they’re going to get a “no” and they’re afraid of rejection. I mean, none of us like rejection. No one likes to ask somebody out and be rejected and ask somebody for money and being rejected.

[00:06:11.480] – Andrew Frank
We just don’t like that. And so I think at the end, what’s happened is that people dream about asking people for money, but they don’t actually do it because they’re afraid of taking that step. Over the years, I’ve collected all kinds of reasons on why it sucks. You know, and it’s funny, you see where people say, “Well, I’m going to get a no”, or some people say “I’m going to get a yes and then I’ll have to deliver.” But at the end of the day, really, what it comes down to, I think, is that the sort of anxiety that we have around money and this misconception that it means something is wrong.

[00:06:49.800] – Andrew Frank
It means that we are not successful, or it means that I haven’t achieved the right thing, and I’m asking you for money because I haven’t made it on my own already, or I haven’t gotten there some other way. And I think that’s the headline that goes in our heads that it means that we’re weak, we’re unsuccessful, and we have to get over that. We have to.

[00:07:14.570] – Boris
So are some people just innately better at this than others? Are all of us born with this issue, or are there just some natural born winners, if you will, that can go out there and raise money anytime?

[00:07:27.220] – Andrew Frank
You know, I have to say, throughout my years in the nonprofit sector, maybe I bumped into a few people who say, “Oh, yeah, asking people for money is fun.” It’s the “fun” in fundraising. But I would say 99% of people do not like to ask other people for money. But that being said, I think it’s a skillset. I think it’s something that you can learn. I think it’s something you can get very good at. And I think it’s something that at least you can polish and create… I think it’s a skill set. That’s the best way to describe it.

[00:08:02.140] – Andrew Frank
It’s a skill you can learn and get better at. And really what you can do is you can raise money for your nonprofit or your project that you’re working on. And I have seen many people get much better at it and become successful fundraisers. I don’t think it’s something that you either have to be naturally good at it or not good at it. I think it’s something that’s absolutely learnable.

[00:08:28.980] – Boris
So then what do you tell those folks, like myself to be honest, who are afraid for one reason or ten reasons to ask other people for money? How do we overcome that mindset?

[00:08:42.510] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. So let me just start by saying, I think the first thing to do is to challenge this idea that asking people for money means something is wrong or that you’re not successful. And I would actually ask people to go look out in the world and see who successful people are. And when you look at very successful people, whether they’re political candidates, or CEOs, or philanthropists, even the ones that give away money, they raise money. They raise money, and they’re very successful at it.

[00:09:19.250] – Andrew Frank
And actually, people who raise money become successful. And it’s like, “Oh, my God, look at that amazing person. They’ve raised so much money for this charity.” Or “they’ve raised so much money for this political movement or for this project.” I mean, when have you ever heard somebody say, “Oh, my God, that horrible person who raised $10 million to support backpacks for people in homeless shelters.” You wouldn’t. You’d be like, “Oh, my God, that person is amazing.” So the first thing I think we have to sort of say, is asking people for money is a sign of success.

[00:10:02.900] – Boris
Just the act of it on its own communicates commitment, communicates belief in yourself, communicates the value that you bring to the world about the project that you’re talking about. So I think the very, very first thing to do is to challenge the idea of why we think it’s wrong and to get over that. The second piece that I think is a big deal is practice. We don’t do it a lot. And if there’s anything in your life that you just don’t do a lot, I mean, it’s hard to do. If you don’t cook, and then like three times a year you want to sit down and cook a really nice meal, it’s hard to do. If you cook every night, you get really good at it.

[00:10:48.790] – Andrew Frank
And I don’t care what skillset that you have—you read, you watch, you get better at it. So the other part of asking people for money is practicing and doing it, and doing it regularly. I would even say for myself, as an Executive Director, I have to make a lot of phone calls to foundations. And when I procrastinate, and I put it off, and I don’t do it on a regular basis, my own anxiety, even after all these years, goes up.

[00:11:12.750] – Andrew Frank
But when I do it every week and I make it part of my routine, it’s easier to do. And so I think those are the top two. I mean, we can go deeper at other times, but those are the top two, mental and a practice.

[00:11:29.090] – Boris
Awesome, I would also add to that mental part of it. One shift that I’ve seen really helpful both to myself and to others is rather than thinking about it as asking for money, it’s offering someone an opportunity to become a part of something. To become a part of, whether it’s an organization or a project or whatever it is that’s going to do good for the world. And hopefully they already believe in the outcomes that you’re shooting for your vision, right?

[00:11:56.000] – Andrew Frank
Yeah, for sure. And I think we can talk about this more later. But when you’re asking for money, you’re asking for a specific amount of money to have a certain thing happen. A certain outcome. Would you give $5,000 so we can run an arts and education program in a homeless shelter and you’re not asking for $5,000. You’re asking to run an arts and education program at a homeless shelter. The money is the conduit, but that is definitely a good point, Boris, in terms of the mental shift.

[00:12:28.620] – Andrew Frank
But it also speaks to your belief that the program is valuable. That’s part of why we’re asking in the first place, because we believe in what we’re doing.

[00:12:38.800] – Boris
So since we’re jumping into that already anyway. Let’s talk about this. What’s the greatest challenge that people asking for money are facing today? Obviously, things are always changing in the world, but certain things also stay the same. So has asking for money changed?

[00:12:57.940] – Andrew Frank
I think, you know, it really has. I wish it hasn’t changed as much, but it has changed for a lot of reasons. One reason is that in our COVID world, there’s so much noise. So to get your message through, to get people to respond to an email, or pick up the phone, or to meet you in person, is obviously so much harder. And that particular piece, meeting in person is by far the most effective way to ask somebody for money. In-person direct ask is the best way to do it.

[00:13:35.150] – Andrew Frank
And so that being taken off the table is certainly a challenge. And then also, there’s so much need right now in the world. There’s so much competing interest in terms of need, and they’re all relevant, and they’re all, you know… from homes being destroyed by floods and wildfires, and people being homeless, and all kinds of real specific things that are going on. It’s harder to make your case. But, that being said, it’s even that more important that we’re good at it and that we practice it and that we take it on, right?

[00:14:11.700] – Andrew Frank
Because we can’t get overwhelmed and say, “Oh, well, too bad, there’s lots of people in need. My project is just going to disappear.” That would be horrible. We have to dig in deeper, I think, and overcome the challenges.

[00:14:28.820] – Boris
So ultimately, as you were saying before, we have to believe that our mission and the work that we’re trying to do is still vital to the community. And if we don’t do this, and if we don’t find ways to rise above the noise or breakthrough and make these connections, then we won’t be able to do what we do. And people are relying on us. Just because it’s not the most pressing in some ways, the sexiest thing at the moment or the most in-the-headlines thing at the moment, doesn’t mean that our mission’s not important, and that communities don’t rely on us, right?

[00:15:03.360] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. I always say to people in a workshop that the world, the world literally is counting on those people, counting on you to go out there and make these really important projects in the nonprofit sector, and the art section, the cultural sector, happen. They have to happen. Our society is not going to just automatically support these causes without the energies of the people that are making them happen. And it’s crucial for us to keep doing it.

[00:15:41.400] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. So I feel like it’s an imperative that we work at it. We get better at it and we make our nonprofit survive.

[00:15:48.520] – Boris
So then how do we do it today? Especially in this COVID, hybrid, whatever world that we’re living in, where meeting in person is so much tougher. What do we do to overcome that challenge?

[00:16:01.760] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. So the first thing I would say to people is don’t be afraid of the phone. You and I were talking about this at the beginning. I make a lot of phone calls. I talk to people on the phone. In fact, many foundations are run by people of an older generation, and they don’t like Zoom, and so they pick up the phone. Obviously for people who are comfortable on video, Zoom is great, or FaceTime, or whatever video it is. But video meetings are wonderful, and I think they’re great.

[00:16:36.240] – Andrew Frank
And then also obviously email and texting. Actually, I was thinking about this before coming on. How many people I’ve actually started to text rather than email, because I feel like email is actually getting just so clogged. But if I have somebody’s personal phone number and I can text them and get them on the phone with me and talk to them about what we’re doing, it feels more personal and it pushes through the noise. Obviously, I have to have their phone number, but I think the key is personalizing what the outreach is.

[00:17:14.460] – Andrew Frank
I think if you send a general email to 50 people that that’s not going to cut it. I think you have to take the time to individually reach out to people and then meet them where they are. If they can meet you on the street for a cup of coffee and they’re comfortable in our Covid times, do it. Always meet in person. If not, and they’re willing to Zoom, or meet with you on video, do that. If not, call them. But I think you have to find them where they are and go to them and not expect them to come to you. I think that’s a big piece of it.

[00:17:50.920] – Boris
I think that’s right on and absolutely critical. Whether it’s because the person is an older generation and there’s almost a double-edged sword to it, or double whammy maybe is a better expression. Because with COVID, people are less likely to be out in the first place, and older generation folks are more in danger of adverse effects of COVID, so they might not want to be out as much. And at the same time, a lot of them are also the ones who are less comfortable with technology, and so can’t necessarily hop on a Zoom link real quick.

[00:18:29.240] – Boris
I mean, I’ve experienced this. I’m sure we all have so many times over the last a couple of years now, that it just doesn’t happen. And many of us today don’t think, wait, I can just pick up the phone and still use this computer as a telephone that’s been in my pocket all these years.

[00:18:48.120] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. I have to tell you, we’re in the beginning of our year at New York City Children’s theater, and we do cold calls to foundations. I will call a foundation, I will leave a message, and we talk to people. And, you’d actually be surprised by how many responses we get from an actual phone call and a message. I think we get more of a response than we do when we send an email because the email is being filtered through somebody. I think reaching out and… I feel like me saying, “Hi, I’m Andrew Frank. Can I talk to you about blah, blah, blah” gets a better response than the email.

[00:19:28.420] – Boris
Everybody talks about the oversaturation, the noise, the crowdedness of spaces. But there are continually spaces that are less crowded, that if you can utilize, why not? And sometimes it is going retro, if you will, to a technology that’s older than all of us combined, that still works.

[00:19:48.120] – Andrew Frank
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a huge believer in making a phone call. If you can’t show up in person, make a phone call.

[00:19:55.460] – Boris
Right. And sometimes people are on the other side of the country or even on the other side of the world, and you can’t necessarily meet in person. It’d be great if we all have the budgets to just fly anywhere that we want. But obviously, that’s not the most effective use of our funds. So let’s assume that we’ve overcome our fears and our obstacles to fundraising, and we have figured out the best way that we can meet with someone, whether it be in person or through video or the phone or email. Or, as you correctly pointed out, text is actually growing rapidly as a personal communications method, and you want your asks to be personal.

[00:20:35.890] – Boris
So let’s assume that we’ve set aside or overcome those challenges for now. How do you teach someone? How do you actually personally teach someone to ask for money? If every ask is supposed to be personal, right? It should be crafted to the individual. Is there something that you could actually teach?

[00:20:54.460] – Andrew Frank
Yes. Well, I’ve been doing it, so I think so. I think the answer is yes. You can teach it. At least I’ve been trying. And hopefully it’s not been in vain. But yes, everything is specific. And yes, every individual, you ideally want to know what the individual cares about. But that being said, when you ask somebody for money, I think there is a basic structure that you can hold on to, especially when you’re learning and you’re doing it for the first time. And it’s simple, but if you follow it, it’s helpful.

[00:21:29.670] – Andrew Frank
First, there’s an opening, there’s an intro. “Hi, I’m Andrew. I’m Executive Director of New York City Children’s Theater. I want to talk to you about supporting some programs that we’re doing in homeless shelters,” or free tickets or something. Then that’s the first section. And then the second section is a story where you’re telling some version of why you’re here. How you’ve come here. Why is it relevant? Why is it important? “We were asked by the city to start a program in homeless shelters. We’ve been doing it for five years, blah, blah, blah.” But there’s a story that is communicated so that’s the second section.

[00:22:08.440] – Andrew Frank
The third section is an ask. And you’re asking. And some good ideas are to be very specific. “Will you give us money?” is not a great ask. “Will you give us $5,000 so that we can support X program or pay for X expense?” is a better ask. And if there’s anything that you can give in exchange for that, that’s always good. So there’s an ask, potentially an exchange. And then there’s a closing where you say “thank you very much,” and thank them for their time, whether they’ve said yes or they said no.

[00:22:46.530] – Andrew Frank
So I think if you look at that sort of anatomy of an ask, where there’s an opening, there’s a story, there’s an ask, and there’s a closing. It gives you a format to hold on to. Especially when you’re doing it for the first time. But I still think about it, and I’ve been doing it for a very long time. I still think to myself, “make sure you’re introducing yourself. Make sure you’re telling why you’re here. And make sure that you’re asking for something specific.” It’s always so hard.

[00:23:16.370] – Andrew Frank
People always ask me, how do you pick a number? How do you know how much money to ask somebody? I mean, there are tricks to that. Another time when we have more time we could figure that out, but being specific is helpful. And I also just want to say, when people give you money, whether they give you money or not, the thank you is such a big deal. I’ve heard from philanthropists and from donors how often people don’t write really warm thank you emails or call and say thank you and don’t follow up.

[00:23:50.930] – Andrew Frank
Even major institutions struggle with this. I don’t understand why that is, but it’s a big deal because getting money and keeping someone as a donor is just as important.

[00:24:02.400] – Boris
So the pitch, and I’ve had several guests talk about this particular thing that you were just mentioning. The pitch is one thing. Getting a donation though, that’s the start of a relationship. Keeping that relationship, making it feel like a bidirectional, mutually beneficial relationship is absolutely critical. Otherwise, it takes so much effort to get that donor in the first place, that why would you want to repeat that process more than you have to. Rather than the genuine connective upkeep that you could do?

[00:24:35.930] – Andrew Frank
Yeah, absolutely. When we start getting past the once you’ve asked for money and they’ve said, yes, the ongoing relationship management is really important. You really want to avoid the situation where you’re asking somebody for money once a year, and that’s the only time you connect with them. That’s generally not good.

[00:24:52.690] – Boris
And I want to tell you, yeah. There’s one organization that I’ve donated to. I don’t even mind calling them out. I use Wikipedia a lot. And so I actually am one of the few people, apparently on this planet who donates to Wikipedia. And I’ve donated different amounts over the years, and I got basically no communication with them year-round. And then just now I had an email saying, “Hey, Boris, you donated to us.” I don’t even remember if it was last year or two years ago that I donated last. “And we really appreciate it. And can you please donate again?”

[00:25:25.530] – Boris
Seriously, no sort of upkeep and no staying in touch with me over this entire time period of, “Hey, here’s how your money is working. Here’s what we’ve been able to do. Here’s how we’ve grown.” Nothing! It just comes back to me. And this is Wikipedia. Surely they know digital.

[00:25:44.100] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. Who raised these people? Don’t they know how to say thank you and then invite you to the party in the middle? I’ve heard horror stories. People give money to pay for events and then not be invited to the event. I mean, it’s not great. But the… coming back to our structure in terms of what it is when you’re asking people for money. Being gracious as part of that ask, whether they say no or they say yes, I think is really important. And I just want to add something here, which is that, when I ask somebody for money or even write up a grant or whatever, and we get a no, I always say every no is one step closer to a yes.

[00:26:32.160] – Andrew Frank
If you ask ten people, you’re not going to get ten yeses. You’re going to have to get nos. It’s just the way it goes. So whenever I get a no, I’m like, great, I’m that much closer to a yes. I mean, I think celebrating that is part of the mental and the practice in terms of getting good at it.

[00:26:51.080] – Boris
Celebrating the fact that you asked is an achievement in and of itself. That you had the chance to practice, that you’ve actually gotten some time in front of somebody. They may eventually develop into a better relationship anyway. Over time, we develop relationships that are stronger and truer and people are more likely to support you later on.

[00:27:11.140] – Andrew Frank
Absolutely. I’ve had many people say no in the moment, and then a year later or two years later, give money. Because they weren’t ready at that moment or their priorities changed, or it was a new project, and then they wanted the project to be more established. So sometimes the “no” that you get early on—in fact, one of the things that I always say is that when someone says no, one thing that you can ask them is, “I totally understand. Thank you for your time. Can I follow up with you in the future and just update you on the project? Would that be okay?” And often they say yes.

[00:27:47.430] – Andrew Frank
And then you just send updates on the project. And then you’d be surprised how often, six months later or a year later, they’re like: “Oh, wow. You’re actually doing this. I’ll give you some money.”

[00:27:56.300] – Boris
Andrew, could you also ask them if there are other types of projects that they might be interested in? So if you pitch them on one thing right now, maybe in six months, you could come back to them with something else?

[00:28:05.850] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. I think that goes to, like, trying to understand better what somebody is interested in. And, you know, there’s a classic version of people are interested in the mission, they’re interested in access, they’re interested in status, they’re interested in different things. And so sometimes when you ask somebody about a certain project, hopefully, before you’ve asked them, you have some inkling that they like, what you’re talking about. But it does happen, especially with foundations, but with individuals, too, where you say, you know… homeless shelters, and they say, no, I’m actually more interested in diversifying audiences or something. And then there’s another program that you can bring back to them. Yeah.

[00:28:52.630] – Boris
So we’ve got the intro. We got the story. We’ve got the ask. We’ve got the closing. Are there any pitfalls that we want to try to be aware of when we’re making the four sections, the four parts of a pitch.

[00:29:05.420] – Andrew Frank
I would say one thing, don’t skip the intro and the closing. It’s really annoying to get a letter from somebody or to have somebody call you on the phone and talk to you about something and then ask you for money. It feels like you’ve been hoodwinked. It’s not great. So, if you ever read a letter you get and then at the end, it’s like, oh, will you support us? It’s like, “oh, this is a fundraising letter.” It’s not nice. So it’s really important at the beginning to say, “Hi. I’m calling and I want to talk to you about supporting this organization.” So I think that’s really important.

[00:29:37.400] – Andrew Frank
The other thing that I would say is the biggest pitfall is to assume that the person understands the relevancy of the work that you’re doing or the project that you’re creating. I think we get so wrapped up in our own sense of how important it is [what] we do, that we forget that the rest of the world out there isn’t living in our office, in our head, in our programs. And we just think, of course, people would give this money, right? Because it’s so important.

[00:30:08.820] – Andrew Frank
And I think you need to make sure you don’t fall into that trap. And that you explain every time why the work is important, at least in the first ask. But reiterating it, reiterating it over and over and over again, why what you’re doing is important, why your story is unique, why the service you’re delivering is crucial, especially in this time where so many are in need. That would be the biggest thing to make sure. That’s the biggest mistake that I see is people just assuming, “Of course, people will support this, because it’s important, right? Doesn’t the world need this?” There’s a lot going on.

[00:30:46.890] – Boris
Absolutely. So if someone is just getting started, are there any tools or resources that you recommend? Or maybe someone has been doing this for a long time like yourself. Are there any resources that you recommend that they go check out?

[00:31:02.050] – Andrew Frank
Well, to start off, I’m doing the workshop with Candid on October 25th. It’s a free workshop, “How to Ask People for Money for Artists.” Feel free to join me for that. It will be an interactive webinar for a couple of hours, and it’s free. There are a few books that I like, and I’ve got them next to me because I knew this was coming. So I think I got “Fascinate”, which is all about making things attractive to people. “Positivity”, there we go. Being positive about it.

[00:31:44.520] – Andrew Frank
And I think this is one of the best books for leadership that anybody could ever look at. Leadership and Self-Deception”, and it’s all about mindset and getting yourself able to do it. It kind of addresses the issues about relevancy, and being positive, and getting out of your own head, which I think are some of the main topics that we’ve covered today.

[00:32:07.100] – Boris
Awesome. We’ll be sure to link all of those in the show notes for this episode. And of course, we’re going to link to your free course that you’re doing your free webinar at Candid. That’s coming up on October 25th. As you said. It’s specifically for artists, or is it for anyone?

[00:32:24.740] – Andrew Frank
It’s mostly for artists. But the topic is general enough. If you’re not an artist, I think you would get a lot out of it. I think Candid wanted to be specific about it, but I’ve done this workshop for board members and for development people, really for anyone that’s thinking about raising money for something that they care about. Yeah. And we shouldn’t forget that we have a great version of the course on dotOrgStrategy. So if you want to check that out, too.

[00:32:54.220] – Boris
Yeah, we’ll have that linked up as well. It’s called “How to Ask People for Money” and it really covers all of these things in detail with worksheets and step-by-step processes. So if people want to follow up with you, Andrew, what should they do if they want to get in touch and learn more about what you’re doing?

[00:33:12.640] – Andrew Frank
Yeah. The easiest thing is to email me at New York City Children’s Theater. My email is And because I am a coach and I work with individuals and leaders and nonprofits, I really do enjoy helping people pursue their dreams and make these projects happen. I sincerely believe like you, Boris, and why this work that you’re doing is so important, is that if we don’t help nonprofit entrepreneurs and nonprofit people succeed, then the world becomes not as nice a place and we need to help.

[00:33:57.760] – Andrew Frank
So feel free to email me and I’ll get back to you because it’s important.

[00:34:03.400] – Boris
Awesome. Thank you, Andrew, for being so generous with your time with us and with anybody listening, who wants to follow up.

[00:34:09.640] – Andrew Frank
Yeah, thanks, Boris, this is really great work that you’re doing.

[00:34:13.140] – Boris
I appreciate that. All right. And thank you everybody for joining us today. I hope you found this conversation with Andrew Frank around fundraising and crafting a great pitch helpful to you and the work that you’re doing. Feel free to follow up with him. Feel free to follow up with me on any questions that you might have. Including if you want something specific featured on a future episode, a specific part of the work that nonprofits do. You know, I love everything at the intersection of storytelling and technology and how that can be applied to everything. And certainly a lot of storytelling is applied to fundraising and the work that Andrew does.

[00:34:46.650] – Andrew Frank
So thank you all for joining us. We’ll see you again next week. And if you like the show, please, please, please like, comment, leave a review so that more people can discover people like Andrew and the work that we’re doing here to help you create more heroes for your cause. Bye bye.

[00:35:21.200] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think, by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Andrew shares his story: how he learned about fundraising, why he decided to teach others, and whom his techniques designed to help. Andrew believes that anyone looking to make a contribution to the world, whether through nonprofit work or through the arts, owes it to the world to make their project or their mission a reality. (2:52)
  • Most people have a tough time asking people for money. They feel that asking means something bad about them or that they’re weak, or they’re just afraid that they’re going to get a “no,” and feel rejected. (5:44)
  • Asking people for money is a skillset. It’s something that most people can learn and get very good at. (7:46)
  • Asking for money is actually a sign of success. All successful people raise money. We need to challenge the idea of why we think it’s wrong and get over that. (8:42)
  • Asking for money is like most skills; the more you do it, the better you become. (10:21)
  • One mind shift that is really helpful is rather than thinking about it as asking for money, thinking of it as offering someone an opportunity to become a part of something. Everyone wants to be a part of something that makes a difference. Asking for money is also indicative of your own belief that what you and/or your organization is doing is valuable and deserves support. (11:29)
  • Meeting in person is the most effective way to ask for— and receive— donations. But it has become harder over time. Especially with Covid. (12:55)
  • When the work you’re doing is vital to the community, you need to find a way to continue to educate and break through the noise to make real connections. (14:42)
  • What’s working today? Phone calls, email, and texting. Find potential donors where they are, and personalize your outreach as best you can. (15:48)
  • Andrew breaks down the “pitch” into a four-part structure: Intro, Story, Ask, and Closing. In each, there are specific elements that should be communicated to whomever you’re meeting with. (21:19)
  • Keeping someone as a donor is just as important as getting the donation, if not more so. This is the start of a relationship. Make sure to keep connected with them throughout the year. And always say “thank you.” (23:57)
  • In some ways, asking for money is a numbers game. Whenever you get a no, it means you are that much closer to a yes. And you never know when that connection you made might turn into something great further down the road. (26:39)
  • Before you ask somebody about supporting certain project, make sure you have some inkling as to what they like to support. (28:05)
  • The biggest mistake to avoid is skipping the intro or the closing. This is where you establish what the donor would be giving to, which is absolutely critical. (29:05)
  • We often get so wrapped up in our own sense of how important our work is, that we forget that the rest of the world out there isn’t living in our office, in our head, or in our programs day in and day out. (29:37)
    • Make sure to state and reiterate why your work is important, why your story is unique and why your service is crucial—especially at this time when so many are in need.

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Andrew Frank

Andrew Frank

Executive Director, New York City Children's Theater

Andrew Frank is the Executive Director of New York City Children’s Theater.

Previously, Andrew was the Director of the Cultural Institutions Unit at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs where he oversaw relationships between the city and arts institutions, the Interim Executive Director of Queens Symphony Orchestra and the President of TYA/USA – a national service organization that serves the field of Theater for Young Audiences. And sits on the Board of Dramatic Question Theater company.

As a commercial producer, in addition to a number of Off-Broadway projects Andrew was an Associate Producer on Broadway with “Lombardi, A New American Play.”

Andrew is also a personal coach, with a certificate from NYU.

Connect with Andrew Frank