When we’re young we’re taught first, to never speak with strangers. As we get older, we’re told ‘don’t talk about money, it’s rude’. Ironically, fundraisers talk to strangers about money. And it’s not easy. It can be awkward. If we’re not careful, it can seem rude, annoying, and worse, offensive. Or, it can be fun, beautiful, calming and enlightening. Here are my favorite words to include in just about every conversation..
Obviously the focus needs to be on them. Their philanthropic interests, how they help the community, what they’re looking for in an organization, etc. Ask questions about them. Whether it’s in written form or interpersonal, using ‘you’ makes them a part of the conversation, and eventually, the organization.
I’m not 100% sure about this one but I like it so far. Some donors see it as a ‘gift’ and (due to failures of previous organizations) don’t expect to get much in return. It’s important to discuss what the donor expects out of the organization, both in terms of results and inclusiveness. Using words like ‘Investment’ help them understand that they should see and expect a ROI – not necessarily for themselves, but for those being served by the dollars they give. The entrepreneurial and savvy donor may demand to know exactly what progress will be made with their gift. Speaking in investment language can help explain short & long-term gains, increased efficiency, etc.
Today’s donor has trouble writing a check without knowing the results they can expect. It doesn’t always have to be exact ($1k will improve 7 children’s reading by 2.1 grade levels) but the closer you can get the better. Keep in mind, however, that while institutional funders will want assessment, most individuals (one-on-one and in mass advertising, direct mail, etc.) make emotional giving decisions, not practical fact-based decisions. Stories of success can be just as powerful of a ‘result’ than anything.
Please don’t yell ‘silence’ at an event. What I mean is that the lack of sound is, for some reason, one of the scariest things for a fundraiser. You believe in your cause SO much that you feel you have to share everything you know and give a million reasons for support, tell 47 success stories, thus, you’ll fill any quiet space with babbling. In reality, once you ask the question, BE QUIET. Let them think, process, ask their questions (don’t answer the ones you think they have) and actually respond to your question.
5. Thank you
Everyone is busy and most are busier than you. Thank them for taking time out of their day, from their work, from their family and from their priorities. Thank them for their donation. Even if they declined, thank them for their time and what they do for the community. Have a ‘philanthropy first’ mindset. It takes all types of people, giving in all types of ways, to all types of organizations – all to make communities great. Hokey I know, but we’re all on the same team trying to make things better – thank them for that.
BONUS WORD (or the 5th if you felt cheated by #4)
What’s next? You should always have a next step and understand what’s next for them. Will you see them at your upcoming event? Should you follow up via phone next week if you haven’t received their gift commitment form? When will you get them the additional information on the program they requested? One of the worst things you can do is have meeting attendees not know (or not be in agreement about) what the exact next steps are.
What are your go-to words for fundraising conversations?