In this series of blogs I’m looking at the similarities between professional selling and volunteer fundraising. Great salespeople know the first step is to convince the prospect to meet with you. Likewise in fundraising, getting a visit with the donor is the first step. I’m reading the book “Asking” by Jerold Panas. In chapters Seven, Eight and Nine, he outlines his process of getting a meeting. Writing to set up a phone call to set the time then calling to convince the donor to meet is the same process great salespeople use to arrange meetings with prospects.
Why Send A Letter?
Panas recommends sending a letter to set the stage for a phone call to arrange a time to meet. The purpose of the letter is to prepare the donor for the phone call. Like in professional selling, the fundraiser needs to present an overwhelmingly compelling reason to meet. The letter should be personal. Take a paragraph to promote the organization in need of the donor’s money. Briefly describe why the campaign is important. And here are the most important sentences: “I promise not to ask for money during this visit. All we will discuss is the program and your good counsel and advice on what we should do next. What comes next is up to you.”
Prepare For The Phone Call
When you get the meeting you are 85% of the way to your goal asserts Panas. There are many reasons salespeople put off making calls for appointments, too many to list here! But great salespeople do what others never get around to doing. Getting ready to make the phone call to schedule a visit to a donor is like a prospecting phone call. Success depends on the preparation. Write a script for your opening and practice it until it is second nature. While you do have a written script don’t read it. The script helps you to remember all the important points and practice builds confidence. Then open your calendar and pick a couple of dates that work for you.
Just Dial The Phone
Yes, even for great salespeople, picking up the phone and dialing is intimidating. Over the years they have had all sorts of negative experiences with prospecting phone calls. But then they are successful because of the positive experiences. It helps to make the phone call standing up. I even use a mirror to check that I a smile while dialing the number. That smile on your face is what the donor will hear in your voice.
Goal Is To Get The Visit
Like the prospects salespeople call, donors are busy people. When they answer get right to it. Here’s how Panas does it:
“Hi, Mary. This is Jerry Panas. I sent you a letter the other day about the new library at Middleton School. When is a good time to see you and John, next Tuesday or Thursday?”
Yes this is terse but the task at hand is to get the visit. Of course you will use your own script but keep the small talk to a minimum and push for the meeting. Notice the choice of meeting days. Salespeople recognize this as an alternative close. People feel less threatened when offered a choice.
To be fair to the donor let them know how much time you will need. If you ask for an hour and they will only give 20 minutes, take it. My experience in sales is once I get the meeting if there is reason to continue past the allotted time it is not a problem.
How Many Ways Will A Donor Say “No”?
Be expectant to easily get a date but prepared to have to work hard to get it. Donors have many “put-offs”:
- “I don’t think I want to contribute to this campaign.”
- “Tell me how much you expect me to donate and we can take care of it on the phone.”
- “Just send me the information and I’ll send a check.”
- “I’ve already given a lot over the years.”
- “Just tell me about the program and we can take care of it over the phone.”
- “We are both very busy, and I know you’re coming to talk with me about a gift. Just tell me about it now and save some time.”
I know these objections are real because I have used every one of them myself at one time or another.
Be Persistent And Set The Visit
Yes, it’s hard work to get past the “no’s”. But it is rewarding. The task is to get the visit not make the case over the phone. So press on. Prepare an answer for each objection. Be sure to include two statements in the answer: “I’m coming to talk about the program; not ask for a gift.” And: “The choice will be yours whether to give or not.” Once you answer the put-off, again give them a choice of two dates and ask to meet.
If all else fails tell the donor how much you dislike fundraising but you made a commitment to the chairman that you would meet with all on your list. In your own words with a bit more passion and close by telling them: “you are one of the important ones I really must see!”
What You Can Do Right Now
- Prepare a couple of versions of personal letters (yes letters written and mailed) giving notice you will phone.
- Write and practice the opening script and answers to various objections.
- Once you are prepared, pick up the phone and begin.
If you want a copy of “Asking” by Jerold Panas you can get it HERE.