In our experience, a method we have found to be effective in qualifying potential partners is to simply ask if they are interested in meeting for the purpose of partnering. This is called, hard qualifying.

For example, you might say, “Hey John, as you know, Aaron and I are going to be teaching at a university in central Vietnam and we would love to sit down with you and Susie to see if you would be interested in partnering with us through prayer, giving, and in sharing the gospel with the students there. Is that something you would be interested in?”

Hard qualifying is an effective approach to financial partnership because it’s direct and forthright. It also maximizes your time if you have a considerable amount of contacts to work through. Through a correct hard qualification, you will know that the potential partner wants to give to your ministry because they have already agreed to meet with you to discuss funding. When you qualify someone appropriately, it sets you up for success.

Another way to qualify potential partners would be through the approach we mentioned above: meeting with people who may not be ready to make a decision, but they might be if they had more information. This is called soft qualifying.

The reasons you would take this approach rather than the hard qualify would either be because you don't have enough time to reach your funding goals, and need to meet with as many people as you can. Keep in mind, this approach could increase the chance of someone partnering because they're much more informed about what you're asking them to invest in. Another reason to soft qualify would be because you do not have enough relationships developed to the point where you can make enough asks to reach your funding goal; so you create meetings where you might have a chance to connect and share all the details of the ministry to peak their interest.

Qualifying is always nerve wracking because it will generally result in a yes or no answer. It is either an acceptance (yes, maybe, not at this time), or a complete rejection. I used to pace back and forth in my living room before making phone calls to qualify a potential partner (I think I've worn out the floor in some areas of our house from the stress). The qualifying step can be the hardest thing to do, because it is the ask before the ask. However, if you can learn to qualify someone correctly, the ask is easy.

A few years ago while living in Tennessee, my wife, Bethany, and I were raising funds for a ministry we were going to be involved with in the country of Laos. A friend of mine, named Steve, told me about a couple he knew that was very involved with serving a Laotian community while they were living in Fresno, California. He knew they had loved ministering to that people group, and had recently moved to Oklahoma into a new community where they were probably searching for ways to get involved in serving again. Steve told them about the ministry that Bethany and I were going to be a part of, and let them know I would be contacting them to see if they would be interested in being a part of it. I called the couple, introduced myself, and told them we would like to fly to Tulsa to meet with them over dinner to discuss the opportunity to partner with our ministry. I made it clear we were only coming to Tulsa for one specific purpose because we were flying in early morning and out later in the evening, only to discuss financial partnership. When I was telling him why I was meeting with them in this way, I was clearly communicating with him that we were coming to invite them to give something fairly substantial. We met with them for the first time, discussed the ministry and invited them to commit to a $5,000 gift over the next year. They agreed, and became one of our most substantial donors during our time in Laos.

Learn to qualify someone correctly, and your ask will be easier.

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