Don’t make people’s minds up for them

June 5, 2020

Sometimes, people who fundraise are uncomfortable when canvassing. It is usually related to the great unknown — how will the prospect/donor react? What will they say?

Unless you have been blessed with extrasensory perception, there is no way that you would ever know (with certainty) what the other person is thinking. There are, however, often clues that will help you read the other person’s general intentions. These can take the form of body language or even the tone of their voice — if someone is excited by what you have to say, it is usually a good sign.

Far too often, however, the fundraiser has a set of preconceived assumptions regarding the prospect/donor. This is where the fundraiser tends to get themselves into quicksand. I have heard fundraisers actually say “we can’t ask Mrs. X for money for this crisis now — she just gave us a major gift”.

The only time that you can (100% of the time) not ask for a subsequent gift is if that gift is a bequest. Anything else is up for consideration. So, I reiterate — don’t make people’s minds up for them.

An example

Perhaps there wasn’t a crisis when Mrs. X made a major gift to your institution. Looking at the situation through Mrs. X’s eyes, would it not be insulting to unilaterally exclude her from the opportunity to participate in a crisis campaign?

As this blog has mentioned numerous times before, the best prospects/donors are usually your current donors. You shouldn’t, however, blindly ask Mrs. X for support for your crisis campaign without acknowledging and discussing her recent major gift. To simply lump her in with all of the other potential supporters of the crisis campaign would be offensive.

Letting the donors make an informed decision is the root of good fundraising. (Informed decisions are always better than uninformed decisions.) It is incumbent on the fundraiser to illustrate as fulsome a picture of the organization’s needs as possible (realizing that what was at the top of the list six months ago may no longer be among the organization’s primary needs). Evidence is showing that donors are much more responsive than usual right now to requests for support.

Once the fundraiser has made their ‘pitch’, they will only hear five unique answers (if you want to know what they are and how to react to them read my post-https://yucks.ca/2017/07/14/the-only-unique-responses-you-will-ever-hear/). Now, there is no fear of the unknown because you know how to handle the five different responses!

Having candid, honest, and probing discussions with your donors will ensure that there is a heightened level of mutual respect and appreciation.

In conclusion, if you are telepathic, please drop me a line. I would love to win the lottery. Otherwise, don’t make people’s minds up for them.

Be well.