Making a Strong Ask
Inviting someone to take action on an issue they care about by giving them a specific organizing task or set of responsibilities
- We rarely get what we do not ask for. The more people we ask to take action, the more power we can build and the more likely we are to win our campaigns. Sometimes we hesitate to ask others to join us out of a fear of rejection; other times, our request is diluted to the point where the person we are talking to doesn’t realize that something has been asked of them.
- Making a strong ask is 90% mindset and 10% skill. In our society, we are taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but in organizing, making a strong ask is just the opposite. We are not asking someone to do us or the organization a favor, we are inviting people to join our cause and giving them an opportunity to take action on an issue they care about.
- Practice makes perfect. Making a strong ask is an art form— it's worth spending some time practicing in order to build this important organizing skill. Practice making a strong ask by role-playing with another organizer. Oftentimes we think we are making a strong ask but the ask gets lost in the details. It’s always helpful to practice with someone who can give you feedback on your ask.
- Connect and listen carefully. Build a connection based on common values by sharing your own motivations for getting involved and asking the other person to share theirs. Listen carefully to the information they are giving you about their background and why they want to get involved— this will help you personalize the ask you are making based on what they are telling you.
- State your ask clearly. In order to make a strong ask, you have to let the other person know exactly what it is you are asking. We often worry that the other person is going to say no and so we end up making asks that are unclear and muddled. You want to make sure they know exactly what it is you are asking of them.
- Set up clear expectations. We want to set people up for success. So let them know everything they need to know about the event you are asking them to host or the leadership role that you are asking them to take and create a plan to give them the skills to succeed.
- Be confident, enthusiastic, and assume the "yes." We are asking people to get involved because it matters and it will make a difference. If we don’t sound confident and excited, it’s unlikely that the person we are asking is going to feel confident that what we are asking them to do matters.
- Not everyone will say yes and that's OK. Some people will not have the time or ability to take us up on that opportunity and will say no— but as organizers it is our responsibility to give them a chance to say yes.
Sample strong asks:
"Can you call 10 people who came Saturday's event and invite them to the Council meeting next Monday?”
Why? This communicates exactly what you are asking someone to do and results in a clear yes or no answer.
“Hi, on Saturday we’re holding a canvass from 2 to 4 p.m. to reach out to first-time voters. Will you join us?”
Why? This is clear and concrete.
Sample weak asks:
"I’m calling to see if folks can help out with follow-up from the event this past Saturday."
Why? Its not clear whether or not you are even asking this person to do something much less what specifically you might be asking. A good ask should end with a clear question that results in a clear yes or no answer from the person you are talking to.
"Hi, I know you're probably busy and it's getting cold, but if you're free on Saturday we were wondering if you might be able to maybe join us for a canvass?"
Why? It’s important that we do not make assumptions about people’s reasons for not getting involved in our work. By suggesting reasons why they may not join us, you are unintentionally downplaying the importance of the event and are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that they will say no. Remember, you are giving them an opportunity to get involved in a campaign they already care about—you have no reason not to sound confident.