Seven Questions to Answer Before You Make Your Ask

While written to help nonprofit leaders think strategically about public policy advocacy, these seven steps are useful to follow when developing fundraising asks, internal programmatic or organizational policy proposals, or other kinds of requests. (Shared with permission by Lisa Hazirjian, Ph.D., Win Together Consulting)


What outcome do you want? Are there short-term steps that will help you reach that ultimate goal?

Stating your mission may help to introduce your organization to your audience, but it helps your audience if you offer a specific step they can take right now.


Who holds the authority to make these things happen?

In some cases, it’s one individual; in many, it’ll take many people reaching agreement. Asking yourself this question may help you identify a wider range of people who might be in a position to help; it’ll also help you to avoid expending energy on trying to persuade people who really don’t have the authority to do what you want.


Of all these people, who does it make the most sense for YOU to ask for support?

If you’re engaging in legislative advocacy, most frequently you’ll want to address your request to the people who represent you. Just type in your address at the NC General Assembly’s “Find Your Legislators” tool to get the names and contact information for your member of Congress, your NC Senator, and your NC House member.  You might also realize that someone else at your organization is better suited to reach out to one of the people on your list!


What do you know about what they care about? What do THEY want?

No matter who you’re approaching, an investment of five minutes on their websites and social media can reveal a lot about their values and priorities. Generally speaking, all policy makers care about how issues affect their own constituents and appreciate opportunities to demonstrate their values and commitment to the communities they serve. Additionally, both lawmakers and their aides typically welcome opportunities to learn more about issues from local experts and appreciate well-sourced data to help inform their decisions.


How can YOU help them get what they want?

Can you give them an opportunity to demonstrate their values through their actions? Can you help them make evidence-based decisions? Will taking the action you request please voters in their district?


What specific request do you want to make of them?

Make sure to come right out and make a direct ask!


What details will matter the most to them?

Pick a compelling anecdote that will stick with them, present any relevant data in digestible ways, quantify (as best you can) how many of their constituents are connected to your organization, and remind them of any connections you’ve made in the past.


These sample communications to elected officials are written using the steps and questions above:


For further advice on how to structure emails and letters to lawmakers, see the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest/National Council of Nonprofits article “Writing a Letter to Your Legislator”.