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The Art of the Ask

The wise entrepreneur's guide to fundraising

Your marketing director wants to bump up his budget 20% to pay for a Web site that doesn't crash. Your head of sales has fabulous news about the prospects for next year—so fabulous, in fact, that she wants to hire five more salespeople and revamp your ordering system. Speaking of revamping, you,ve got 30 employees jammed into an office that was tight when you had only 10. Clearly, you've got to raise cash. So you pick up the phone and call...whom, exactly?

Most entrepreneurs, at some point along the way, need a good chunk of other people's money. Although many small business owners have great ideas and a generous dollop of charm, they often shortchange the relationships that can bring in capital when they need it. "Entrepreneurs can get so swallowed up in their enterprise that they don't take the time to romance those who they need to invest in them," says Jerold Panas, executive partner and CEO of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, a Chicago fundraising company that works with nonprofits, and author of Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift.