Right-Sizing Your Ask

Posted on January 30, 2017
By Lisa Attygalle

Have you ever considered that maybe your ask is too small?Ask the right questions.jpg

When I work with communities, the thing I hear myself saying over and over is to make sure you are always offering people ways to get involved. Often, the organizers will go through all the effort to get people out to an event, or to participate in a consultation, and then they don’t capitalize on the momentum. It could be as simple as inviting the community to stay informed with a newsletter or it could be a bigger commitment of time, money or effort.

I was listening to the CBC radio last week and the discussion centered on what the next steps should be for the Women’s March in order for all of this momentum not to be lost. A postcard-writing campaign was suggested as an option. Both respondents said that they don’t think that this is the right ask and the reason why has stuck with me: “People are willing to do something big in order to win something big” (Becky Bond, Jan 24: The Current – How to rally Women's March spirit into action). They argued that it would be a wasted opportunity to ask something small to win something small at this stage because when people are mobilized― when 2 million people gather worldwide―they are willing to do big things for big gains.

I agree that the majority of people involved in the march are ready and waiting for the next big ask. I also know that peoples’ commitment to any given issue will range along a spectrum. So the question becomes: What invitation is being provided to people at the different ends of the commitment spectrum?

When I talk to groups about optimizing their ask, I often use Kickstarter campaigns as an example. In all Kickstarter campaigns there are levels of pledges starting from a small pledge of a nominal amount all the way up to an amount of incredibly generous proportions. As an example here are some of the pledge options for the Impress Coffee Brewer (one of my personal favourites):

  • Pledge $5 or more VIRTUAL HIGH FIVE: $5 is your way of saying, "That sounds great! I support you!" We will thank you by sending a virtual high five your way!

  • Pledge $25 or more GET A BUZZ: As a thank you for your $25 pledge, we'll help you catch your morning buzz by sending you a 12oz bag of premium gourmet coffee beans! Also receive 2 "I [heart] Coffee" stickers, postcard and a virtual high five.

  • Pledge $40 or more GET IMPRESSED EARLY: As a thank you for your $40 pledge, get one of the first Impresses produced in the world! We'll also throw in 2 "I [heart] Coffee" stickers, a postcard and a virtual high five.

  • Pledge $600 or more YOUR IMPRESS + COFFEE FOR YEAR + YER AWESOME:  As a thank you for your $600 pledge, get one of the first Impresses produced in the world. Your Impress will be customized with your name and "1st Edition" etched across the side. We will also send a monthly shipment of 2 12oz bags of fine gourmet coffee for a FULL YEAR. Also receive 2 "I [heart] Coffee" stickers and a postcard. AND have "Skype Coffee" with Aly and Beth and the Gamil team. They will call you via Skype (or some other facetime method) for a coffee chat, virtual tour of the Gamil office, and even a virtual game of fetch with Lulu, the office dog! You will be listed on our site as a premium backer. Lastly (but not leastly), we will send you a framed Certificate of Appreciation with your name as a premium backer that helped make the Impress a success. (Impress Coffee Brewer Campaign Page)

Most people would never even offer the $600 option. Community organizers who are planning to ask something of the community are often hit with guilt because we feel like we’re asking too much. We know people are busy and over-committed and we assume it’s too much to ask, and it likely is for most people.

The beauty with the Kickstarter model is that people can self-select what their commitment level is. So let’s learn from this example:

  • Instead of only offering one option for how someone can be involved offer several
  • Include many options from small to big, and if people are energized don’t shy away from going big
  • Consider the salience of the ask – too many options can add to the friction around making a choice (choice overload)
  • When three options are offered, most people will select the middle one
  • Include different kinds of recognition – from a gift to public profile
  • Humanize the ask – use simple and engaging language

It’s not always about how big or small the ask is, but more so ‘right-sizing’ your ask. Always re-focus on the community and the issue, and consider―maybe it’s time to include a big ask.

Community Engagement, Lisa Attygalle

Lisa Attygalle

By Lisa Attygalle

In her role at Tamarack, Lisa works with cities and organizations to improve the way they engage with their communities. Over the last seven years, her work has focused on creating engagement strategies for municipalities and organizations, integrated communications planning, and the use of technology and creativity for engagement. Lisa constantly advocates for simplicity in infrastructure, frameworks, and design and loves applying the principles of marketing, advertising, loyalty, and user experience to community initiatives.

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