What should I say to get Ms. Kent to make a bigger contribution?
How do I ask for more money?
What will move the Gibson’s up the donor pyramid?
Yikes. Just thinking about these questions makes me uncomfortable.
They also show me that the person asking these questions has the wrong focus – their own nervousness. Which, in turn will make the donor or prospect uncomfortable.
Authenticity creates connections.As you prepare for a donor meeting, remember the reasons you set the meeting with this person in the first place:
• They have a passion for something you do.
• They want to make an impact that is bigger than they can do alone.
• They agreed to meet and talk with you.
Notice the first word in each of those three sentences: They. It’s ABOUT THEM.
Savvy fundraising professionals understand every meeting is a fishing expedition to learn more about the donor or volunteer. Genuine interest and conversation is much more effective than statistics and memorized phrases about your mission.
Things to consider as you prepare for the meeting:
1. Why does this person cares about your mission. If you don’t know, ask them.
2. Who is the exact right person to invite a larger gift from them? Don’t send just anyone.
3. Do you have a “mission moment” prepared and a funding gap update ready to share?
4. Are you willing to set aside your agenda for a meaningful conversation that is more than talking about how great your organization is?
5. And finally, are you willing and able to listen for more than 50% of the visit – whether or not you “get” the gift?
Some of this I’ve learned the hard way. And some of my experience with asking for money comes from being an attentive student of the prolific writer, teacher and fundraiser: Jerry Panas.
Last month the social sector lost a fundraising legend when Jerry passed away at age 89. He’s been a presence in my career for as long as I can remember. I especially loved that his trainings and writings always focused on making “asking for money” easier and enjoyable for both the asker and the donor.
Whether you are new to our social sector, or a seasoned veteran, Jerry’s books are filled with advice, humor and best practices that stand the test of time. One of my favorites is Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift. It’s a must and re-read.
But back to where we started: Please don’t have uncomfortable donor meetings.
Prepare yourself AND your donor for an exciting opportunity and conversation. That way our work will allow Jerry’s legacy to live on by remembering to listen carefully and attentively to our donors.
And when we do invite a gift, allow each person to feel great about their impact.