I’m blogging about the similarities between professional selling and volunteer fundraising. Professional selling and volunteer fundraising have similar processes. Previous blog posts on volunteer fundraising and selling covered the importance of getting a meeting, preparing for the meeting, how to handle the first meeting and asking for the donation. Just as when a professional salesperson asks for the order, fundraisers are likely to hear questions from the donor. Successful fundraisers are expert at answering objections.
What Is An Objection?
In fundraising, like in selling, objections are reasons the customer or donor is not yet ready to commit. Objections are valuable because once they are cleared the donor is closer to giving the asked for gift. Successful fundraisers like great salespeople know valid objections are the way donors or customers mask their concerns. So welcome objections as one more step to achieving the goal.
How To Recognize An Objection
So there you are. You completed the presentation. The donor was smiling and nodding giving positive feedback. You were confident all you had to do was ask and the gift would be given. But then the donor didn’t say “yes”. They objected. What’s the fundraiser to do? First don’t panic. The donor didn’t invite you to leave so it’s time to be answering objections. Jerold Panas in “ASKING” suggests these are commonly encountered objections:
- “I’ll need to talk this over with …”
- Ask who else needs to be involved and schedule a meeting with all who need to be consulted. Be sure to push to be present to answer all their questions. After all you are the expert on the organization and the project.
- “Leave the material and donation form and I’ll mail my gift.”
- Validate the commitment to mail the gift and push for a meeting again expressing how important it is to receive the gift in person.
- “The timing is all wrong for me to give now.”
- Empathize with the donor about the current financial position. Ask for an idea of what they would give if not in this situation.
When the objection is the very common “I want to think it over.” Panas probes to find out whether the primary concern is about:
- The non-profit organization
- The project or program needing the funds
- The amount of the gift requested
- The timing of the donation
By asking questions about these components of the ask, the successful fundraiser can address each issue. After listening to the concern and addressing it. The successful fundraiser confirms the donor’s objection has been answered. Then if necessary asks for another meeting to clear up the concerns.
Just like great salespeople monitor objections, successful fundraisers keep track of the objections they get. When a fundraiser finds answering objections often enough it’s time to revise the presentation to include the answer to the often-asked questions.
When “No” Means “No”
Not all donors will give. Even if you do your best there are many reasons a donor won’t donate. But none of those reasons are about you. Don’t take it personally. Move on the next prospect. Before you do think back on your experience with the donor. Take inventory of your performance. Panas offers these reasons a fundraiser may not get the donation:
- You never made the phone call to get the appointment. Be courageous and dial the phone. You won’t get donations if you don’t meet with donors.
- Lack of preparation. Learn all you can about the organization and the project. Practice your pitch and handling objections.
- Preparation eases this. Remember not everyone will be enthusiastic about your cause but there are those who are. Relax and enjoy the conversation.
- Assuming too much about the donor. How much they know about the non-profit. The significance of their involvement in the organization. Taking for granted their interest and not “selling” the program.
- Not asking probing questions. The meeting went well. The donor seemed enthused, but you left without confirming the commitment and asking the probing questions to identify any lingering concerns.
- Talking too much. You can’t learn about the donor unless you ask good open-ended questions and listen intently to the answers. Remember it’s the one who asks the questions who controls the conversation and the outcome.
- Failure to promote the benefits. Focus on the outcome of the program. How many lives are saved or changed. What is the benefit to the community. Stroke the ego of the donor by reminding them of the personal gratification of being a part of the successful program.
- Selling before presenting. Use the presentation to make the program or project irresistible before asking for the commitment. Even if the donor seems “sold” make sure you cover all the points to build the maximum enthusiasm.
- Win-win. Focus on the outcome not the needs of the organization. Concentrate on the benefits to those clients of the organization who will be served.
- Not asking for the donation. Make the best presentation you can. Ask for the donation. Listen to the concerns. Probe to understand them. Clear the air. Ask again.
Fundraising And Selling Are A Lot Alike
Great salespeople make successful fundraisers. The processes are similar. The skill set is the same. So if you are a great salesperson, why not give some time to your favorite charity and help with fundraising. Both salespeople and fundraisers can identify with this quote from Jerold Panas in “ASKING”: “Triumph is just umph added to try!”
What You Can Do Right Now About Answering Objections
- Commit to thorough preparation before being fundraising
- Be passionate in following the fundraising process
- Have the courage to ask for the donation and overcome the objections
The ideas in this blog post are from “ASKING” by Jerold Panas.
Other blog posts in this series are: