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August 1, 2018

Thank you for Asking, Jerold Panas

While most of fundraising is a group effort, there are a few individuals who have had an exponential impact on our field.

One of those giants, Jerold Panas, died on July 14th. Nearly 90 years old, Mr.Panas continued to work into his late 80’s tweeting, teaching, and consulting in the nonprofit sector. He devoted his life to our sector and all the committed dreamers, devoted technicians, and especially the fearless fundraisers that inhabit it.

But at Front Range Source, we know Jerold Panas best as the author of the fundraising classic, Asking. In our view, this is the book to learn the basics of face-to-face solicitation. It’s a “how-to” that takes you step by step through the major gifts process. From finding a prospect to calling them for an appointment to sitting right in front of them and asking.

Best of all, it tells you what to say. It’s not a book of theory. It’s a book of the practice that honors the asker, the donor, and the process. It’s accessible to fundraising volunteers and staff alike.

It can be a bit outdated. There are mentions of the secretary working for the suited businessman that seem of another time. Ann and I have for years thought that someone should really bring it up to date. But who else could do it besides Jerold Panas himself?

The fact is that it still works despite all the changes in our society. It’s still the gold-standard of fundraising solicitation books in a 45-minute read. Amazing.

I’ve had so many copies over the year, but when I heard Mr. Panas had died, I went to look for a copy on my stuffed bookshelf and it appears I had given yet another one away. I’ve had so many copies over the years. I’ve bought Asking for fellow board members, pressed it on clients,  and made sure friends in the biz know about it.

And when Ann and I do our own writing, we nearly always bring the spirit of Asking to the table. (And even wrote our own Asking Workbook)

We want everyone to know that fundraising isn’t a weird science or an art that is bestowed on the charismatic. It’s a practice of figuring out what matters to you and articulating your values in a way that inspires others. You just need a few good stories and some sample language to make your own. Anyone can do it – that’s what Asking is all about.

We feel incredibly indebted to Jerold Panas for all he has done for our field. And on a personal level we want to thank him for inspiring us to be better fundraisers, better teachers, better volunteers. We strive to bring his incredible can-do attitude to every piece of our work.

The fundraising field will miss him, but Asking will live on! If you don’t have your own copy of Asking, here’s where you can get one.

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