Imogen Ward, Director of Marketing and Communications at Merlin, blogs on the seven questions every fundraiser should ask a potential donor.
Silence is golden...
Anyone who has ever attended one of the great Karen Osborne workshops will know the power of silence. That indeed the most important skill any fundraiser should have when faced with a potential donor is probably the one that most of us struggle with.
And this is the ability to, well, shut up. To keep still, quiet and schtum.
Because, ladies and gentleman, listening to our donors is the only way that we will make any sense when we do actually open our mouths. In an ideal scenario any questions we ask will be prompted by the nuggets of insight gleaned from the donor's monologue. Thus the eloquent donor will allow us to effortlessly and elegantly prompt more insight, more engagement and ultimately dosh...
But what happens if our donors need - let’s say - some encouraging? Let’s face it, they often do! So I’ve asked colleagues from the world of fundraising in the UK and the US for their thoughts and here are a few recurring themes.
Two assumptions! We’re talking about a six figure gift potential here and it’s early on in the relationship. It is not conclusive of course…there are heaps more options…but we feel this is a good starting place.
1. Tell me a bit about why you support x? Now obviously you’ve done your research so you’ll be able to speak about any past giving that you are aware of…and allow the donor to speak about this relationship. You’ll find out heaps. You’ll also find out about support which perhaps isn’t in the public domain….and probably a lot about personal life and motivation.
2. What’s been the most motivating part of this relationship? Again hopefully this will give you insight on what pushes buttons, what rings bells and, if you’re lucky, a few clues to anything that was a big turn off.
3. What part of my charity’s work do you find the most interesting/inspiring? Hopefully the above has allowed you to move effortlessly onto your cause.
4. There are lots of ways I can get you more information and insight on this project/country/programme…what’s best for you? Now depending on how early into the relationship this is, this could be where you introduce that visit to your office to meet the Programme Director or the CEO or even the Chair. It is also when you can ask...
5. How would you feel about visiting one of our programmes/projects? I went to x recently and it was fascinating….? For my charity, Merlin, this would entail a trip to difficult and dangerous places. For others this would be more straightforward….but whatever the ‘seeing is believing,’ options are, a mention here opens more dialogue.
6. I don’t want to bombard you with information but what background reading do you require right now? And how would you like to receive this? We’re assuming at this stage that a full bells and whistles funding proposal isn’t on the table but you need to get a feel for what and how.
7. And number 7…? Well, I return to the wonderful Ms Osborne. However you end the conversation make sure that you leave it with your potential donor saying ‘YES!’ Of course ideally (but not at this stage) it would be ‘YES! I will give you trillions!’ but in reality it will be more like. ‘YES! You can email me next week to firm up that meeting.’ ‘YES! I will come to your event on xxxx’. ‘YES! I will tell my friend and contact Mr Richman about your work.’
And so fellow fundraisers. Do what Karen and all successful fundraisers tell you.
Make sure that your donor does the talking and whatever you ask leads to a big, wonderful YES.