I’m looking at the similarities between professional selling and volunteer fundraising. Professional selling and volunteer fundraising have similar processes. In both cases getting a meeting is the most important step. During the first meeting the successful fundraiser finds out the passion the donor would have for the program and puts the donor at ease by not asking for the donation. The follow up meeting is where the fundraiser presents the project and asks for the donation.
At the first meeting the successful fundraiser learned about the donor. Their interest in the program, the passion they have for supporting it and since you are having the second meeting their willingness to donate. Yes, money is important. That’s the purpose of fundraising. But to be successful the fundraiser needs to follow the process. By confirming the donor’s need-fulfillment, the successful fundraiser can with confidence ask for the donation.
Start with a few minutes of pleasant conversation to make both the donor and the fundraiser comfortable. Then on to the reason for meeting. The presentation need not be long. Structure it to about 10 minutes including both what you learned from the first meeting and asking for confirmation. The presentation should focus on the benefit to the donor not the non-profit. For example how much joy knowing how lives will be changed or the honor of the recognition of the donation. A little ego stroking for the donor helps to get the largest donation. Use emotional appeal to make your case. “The need is now!” “People are suffering!” “Buildings are falling down!” Successful fundraisers use appropriate drama to make the case for a donation and emphasize the need is urgent.
Like in selling where no one will buy unless you ask for the order, fundraisers must ask to get the donation. Being careful not to make the amount of the donation the focus of the presentation, the fundraiser comes to the time when they feel it’s right to ask for the donation. The successful fundraiser has done the research and asked the right questions to have an idea about the donor’s attitude toward philanthropy, interest in the mission of your organization and their involvement in the institution.
According to Jerold Panas in “ASKING” the request for a donation is simple: “I would like you to consider a gift of …”
Filling in the blank takes some knowledge of the donor’s financial condition. You make have learned a bit from your earlier conversations. Or the non-profit gave you the donor’s history. But the overwhelming determination of the gift the donor will make is determined by their need-fulfillment.
A timid fund raiser might ask for a “donation in the range of …” Would a car salesman ask the buyer whether they wanted to pay $40,000 or $50,000 for a particular model car? Of course not. The range sets the price at the lower number. Likewise, in fundraising asking for a donation “in the range of $10,000 to $25,000” sets the bar at the lower number, according to Jerold Panas.
Once you decide on the amount of the donation to ask for, then just ask in a way that is comfortable for you: “I would like for you to give $10,000 to support this worthy cause.” Deliver this request with confident expectation, then wait for an answer. Wait until the donor speaks. Just sit there in “painful silence” until they speak.
Just like great salespeople know to wait for the prospects answer, successful fundraisers are patient, too. The donor will offer one of two answers: “Yes, I’ll make the donation.” In the amount you ask or a different one. Or they will give you a put-off: “I need to think about this.” Should you get a “yes” offer a thank-you, take the money and leave. I’ll address the put-off in next week’s blog post.
What You Can Do Right Now
- Think about how a sales presentation and fund-raising presentation are similar.
- Prepare an outline for a typical donor presentation.
- Practice the ask for a donation until it is a comfortable phrase for you to deliver with optimistic expectation.
The ideas in this blog post are from “ASKING” by Jerold Panas.
Other blog posts in this series are: