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Small Business Tips

Five fundraising tips for entrepreneurs

Dayna Steele
African American businesswoman throwing money in the air

Somewhere in the middle of my The Rock Star Principles of Success speech presentation, I will stop and ask the audience to give me a dollar. That’s all I say, “give me a dollar.” Simple, short and to the point with no dramatics, no lengthy explanation, and no details at all. “Give me a dollar.” And, you know what? They do it. I have gathered as much as $500 in just a few minutes on stage. Even audience members who don’t have a dollar but do have a $20 will hand that over, no questions asked.  

So, how do I get strangers to hand me money? I asked. And, these five things went into crafting that ask:  


I am very clear about what I need. A dollar. When you start fundraising for your business, ask for a specific amount of money from each person. You stand a better chance of getting a financial investment in your company if you are specific with your needs than if you are vague or say something like, “whatever you can give.” Please don’t make people think any more than they have to.


Be as brief as you possibly can. We are all bombarded with information, texts, emails, posts, and so much more every day. People are overwhelmed with all the information, and their attention spans are not what they used to be. A five-paragraph email is not going to get you what you need. Keep your ask short and specific.  

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If you don’t have a mentor, get one now. A mentor can introduce you to like-minded people who had gone before you and succeeded. Those are people you are going to want to ask for help throughout your career, whether it be fundraising, networking, marketing, or something else.  


Many startups and entrepreneurs forget about the people that care the most about seeing you succeed—your friends and family. When I ran for Congress in 2018, someone taught me “Rolodexing*.” In addition to your Contacts list, spend a few hours (or more) and make a list of everyone you recall in your life as far back as you can go—neighborhoods, schools, sports, clubs, vacations, you name it—if you remember someone, write their name down. It’s easy to find people these days. You’ll be surprised how many people are happy you remember them and that you reached out—whether they can help or not.


The more you ask for money, the more you will realize it’s not as scary as you thought. People don’t bite or get offended. They don’t hang up on you or yell at you (OK, some do in politics.) Just remember, if someone says no, be gracious, say thank you, and move on. The good thing is you’ve put it out there in the universe, and someone may change their mind and be back later to invest in you. Or they may send someone else with investment dollars your way.  

The most important thing you can do to raise money for your business or to raise startup capital to create something new is to ask.

If you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.  

If you don’t ask for money, you won’t get any.  

If you don’t ask for whatever you need, the answer will always be no.

The more you ask, the easier it gets, especially if you incorporate these five tips.  


* A Rolodex was a rotating file device used to store business contact information. Its name is a portmanteau of the words rolling and index.

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