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Yours for the Asking: An Indispensable Guide to Fundraising and Management, Revised and Expanded



Yours for the Asking: An Indispensable Guide to Fundraising and Management, Revised and Expanded

Reynold Levy

ISBN: 978-0-470-50553-3 November 2009 252 Pages


Praise for Yours for the Asking: An Indispensable Guide to Fundraising and Management

"Reynold Levy is a master at persuading people to give money—lots of money—to worthy causes. Now he shares his wisdom with us all—and at a bargain price!"
Tom Brokaw

"Ren Levy is the master of his trade. He can squeeze big dollars out of a stone and he tells here just how to do it. Anyone raising money for a good cause must read this book!"
John C. Whitehead, former Co-Chairman and Senior Partner of Goldman Sachs and former United States Deputy Secretary of State

"Ren Levy has written the definitive handbook on fundraising. It should be required reading for boards of directors and senior staff of nonprofit organizations. The lessons learned from Ren's broad experience are equally relevant to corporate executives as they endeavor to establish and strengthen customer relationships."
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

"I have raised money for a living for several decades. But I could not articulate better than Reynold Levy has done in Yours for the Asking the many secrets to successfully acquiring investors. If you wish to learn how to politely and effectively ask for contributions to a favorite organization or cause, you really need to purchase this highly readable, enjoyable and useful book."
David Rubenstein, Co-founder and Managing Director, The Carlyle Group

Acknowledgments xv

About the Author xxi

Introduction xxiii


Fundraising: A Call to Alms, a Call to Action 1

America’s Charitable Potential 6

Activating Philanthropy: The 92nd Street Y 9

Galvanizing Giving: The International Rescue Committee 10

Fundraising on Steroids: Lincoln Center 11

A Call to Alms, A Call to Action 15


Soliciting Individual Prospects 17

America’s Astonishing Affluence 19

Trustee Engagement and Support 23

Volunteer Service: Beyond the Board 29

Engaging Volunteers: A Management Priority 31

A CEO’s Modus Operandi 33

Attitude and Temperament 35

Overcoming Economic Bad News and Psychological Resistance 37

To Ask: Popping the Question 38

Qualities of Excellent Fundraisers 41

Ready, Set, Ask 42


Asking, Face to Face 43

Appointment Secured: Now What? 45

Please and Thank You 46

Donor Recognition: Here to Stay 47

Merit Matters: The Formal Written Request 48

The Lure of the Challenge Grant 49

The Generational Divide 50

Confessions of a CEO 52

The Written Proposal: A Prizewinning Example 54

Obstacles to Overcome 61

Individual Donor Checklist: Some Vital Questions 62


The Institutional Donor: Corporations and Foundations 65

The Corporation and the Small Business 66

The Parlance of Corporate Aid 67

Corporate Support Magnified 69

Small Business, Large Impact 70

The Corporation: Pathway to Affluent Donors 71

Winning Business Support 72

The Lincoln Center Experience 76

Take a Walk, Read Widely 80

The Foundation 81


Technique: Special Events and Direct Mail 85

Special Events 86

Direct Mail Fundraising 94


Tough Questions: Candid Answers 99

Emerging Nonprofits: Newer, Smaller 100

The Philanthropic Postmortem: Critiquing Performance 102

Fundraising In Stormy Weather 104

Fundraising: Who Is in Charge and When 106

Fundraising Myths and Realities 108

A CEO’s Two Friends: The Watch and the List 111

Four Hall of Fame Fundraisers: My Nominees 113

Donations that Can Cost Too Much 118


A Passport to Successful Fundraising: Lessons of a Lifetime 121

1. Diversify Funding Sources 122

2. Diversify Funding Methods 122

3. It’s the Board of Directors, Stupid 122

4. Advice and Money: The Relationship 123

5. Fundraising: Anytime, Anywhere, Any Season 123

6. The Solicitor’s Magic Words 123

7. The Right Way to Ask 123

8. Shoe Leather Trumps Mail 124

9. No Is Not an Answer 124

10. Baseball, Not a College Exam 124

11. Fundraising as Apple Pie 124

12. Fundraising Is a Team Effort 125

13. Practice, Practice 125

14. Philanthropy Is Biography 125

15. Speed and Agility Matter 125

16. The Corporate/Nonprofit Meeting Place 126

17. The School of Hard Knocks 126

18. Early Money: The Best Kind 126

19. Donors Crave Recognition 126

20. Philanthropists Need Help 127

21. Merit Matters 127

22. Reputation: Hard to Acquire, Easy to Squander 127

23. Communicate, Early and Often 128

24. Roles that Fundraisers Play 128

25. Plan and Prepare 128

26. Spread the Gospel 129

27. Fundraising Is All about Tomorrow 130

28. Leaving a Legacy 130


Humor and Fundraising 133

The Relentlessness of Fundraisers 134

The Elusiveness of Prospects 135

Fundraising Is Heavy Lifting 135

The Imperative of Donor Recognition 136

The Lore of Frank Bennack, Jr. 137

Politics Is Inexpensive 138

Major Prospects Enjoy Healthy Egos 138

Self-Deprecating Humor: It Wears Well 138

A Classic: Many Variations on a Theme 139

She Was One of a Kind: Beverly Sills—Part A 139

She Was One of a Kind: Beverly Sills—Part B 140

She Was One Of A Kind: Beverly Sills—Part C 141

An Excusable Lateness 142

Introducing a Gala Honoree 143

The Ask Reduced to Its Essentials 143

Intellectual Flight and an Empty Wall No More 145

The Philanthropic Marine Corps 147


Fundraising: Dimensions of the Future 149

The Board of Directors Transformed 150

Willie Sutton Goes Global 151

Philanthropic Converts Become Proselytizers 155

Underperforming Businesses 155

E-Philanthropy: Unrealized Potential 158

Think Big: It’s a New Millennium 160


Quotations that Matter 163

Epilogue. The Great Recession: A Farewell to Alms? 173

Bibliography 183

Appendix I. Fundraising on Steroids: Lincoln Center 189

Appendix II. Nonprofit Board of Directors Size:

A National Sampler and Lincoln Center 195

Appendix III. Governance at Lincoln Center: 2007 197

Appendix IV. Three Direct Mail Home Runs from the International Rescue Committee 199

Notes 209

Index 213

"Reynold Levy offers a straightforward, on-target approach to virtually every fundraising concern, including those experienced in tough economic times." (Arts Management, Jan-Feb 2009)

"Most fundraisers are uncomfortable asking for money, despite the fact that they are soliciting funds for worthy causes. However, author Reynold Levy makes the case that not only do individuals, corporations and foundations give money to organizations and causes they care about, they do so because they are asked. In addition, despite the current economic crisis, Americans continue to enjoy staggering wealth, and the wealthy can comfortably increase the amount they now give to charity without depriving themselves. All it takes is a disciplined and creative approach to soliciting those funds. This book shows you how." (; 11/08)

"Reynold Levy, could not have predicted the economic climate into which his new book would land. But "Yours for the Asking" now seems eerily prescient - particularly which chapters like "Fund-Raising in Stormy Weather" and "Overcoming Economic Bad News and Psychological Resistance". Regarding tough times, Mr. Levy asserts in the book that affluent people donate more from their assets than their income, leaving their contributions less vulnerable to a downturn." Moreover, worthy causes remain worthy, Mr. Levy said in an interview, no matter what the current state of world." (The New York Times; 11/11/08)

"Reynold Levy, a veteran fund raiser and former grant maker whose new book is called Yours for the Asking, argues that even in a troubled economy, a lot of people still have the resources to give generously…. His new guide seeks to reverse their discomfort and create an army of solicitors with the gumption to go after the stockpiles of money that Mr. Levy says are readily available." (The Chronicle of Philanthropy, November 27, 2008)

"The real value of Levy's work lies in his ability to demystify the process of fund-raising and his personal touch that will appeal to those seeking funding…" (Library Journal XpressReviews, 10/7/08)

“…I found Levy's stories, suggestions, tips, and philosophy completely applicable to any nonprofit, large or small, high flying or grassroots. What did I like most about Levy's book? It is hard to pick out just a few favorite parts, but I read with fascination about how a fabulous event was put together; welcomed Levy's thoughts about the worth of soliciting the small businesses that surround one's organization; and appreciated his thoughts about e-philanthropy.” (, 9/19/08)