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

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

Reynold Levy

ISBN: 978-0-470-24342-8 September 2008 240 Pages


In Stock



Learn how to power up your fundraising-from Reynold Levy, the master of fundraising

Drawing on his experience in raising over one billion dollars in six years as President of Lincoln Center, Reynold Levy has written the ultimate insider's guide to asking for and receiving funds. Rich with insights and invaluable advice from Levy's own lessons learned, this powerful book is for you, whether your organization is concerned with health, education, the arts, or humanitarian causes, a think tank or advocacy group, established or fledgling. Insightful, creative, and humorous, Yours for the Asking draws back the curtain to disclose Levy's secrets of success and reveals how you can:
  • Tap into the resources of donors, large and small, for your institution or cause
  • Reach wealthy people and successfully bring home the bacon
  • Put aside fears, qualms, and hesitancies and confidently ask for funds
  • Locate the intersection between the interests of business and the needs of your nonprofit organization
  • Solve the mystery of fundraising from foundations
  • Explore your organization's future in fundraising and discern its long-term trends
  • Learn the best ways to combat the adverse impact of a wide, deep, and prolonged recession
Yours for the Asking will transform your view of fundraising from a dreaded aspect of your job to a high calling, from "pleading" for money to helping donors find pleasure in advancing social causes and strengthening key nonprofit institutions. Affluence and generosity abound. It's all yours-for the asking.

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

Bibliography 173

Appendix I. Fundraising on Steroids: Lincoln Center 179

Appendix II. Nonprofit Board of Directors Size: A National Sampler and Lincoln Center 185

Appendix III. Governance at Lincoln Center: 2007 187

Appendix IV. Three Direct Mail Home Runs from the

International Rescue Committee 189

Notes 199

Index 203

"Put simply, fundraising is nothing more than salesmanship. It's persuasiveness at work. It's a performing art." (Directors & Boards, Third Quarter 2009)

"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)