by Dan Schipp
Recently, a young development officer, a few years into her work in fundraising, shared with me her frustration at not being as successful in soliciting gifts as she had expected to be. She asked, “What am I doing wrong? What do I need to focus on to be more successful?”
In responding to the young fundraiser’s questions, I reminded her of three keys to successful gift solicitation -- prepare, engage, ask – and I posed several questions to her.
- Are you properly preparing for your calls? Are you doing your homework? Are you clear about your objective for the call? Do you know the primary messages you want to convey? Are you taking the time before the call to think about the questions and objections you might encounter?
- Are you engaging the prospective donor(s) in the conversation? As you make the case for your organization, are you asking for the prospective donor’s views? Are you probing their interests and concerns? Are you truly listening to them or are you totally caught up in your own words?
- Are you asking clearly and specifically? Are you asking directly or are you being vague and “sugar coating” your request? Are you proposing a specific gift amount to the prospective donor?
I also reminded the gift officer of what she must bring to the call:
- Knowledge – sufficient knowledge of the organization to be able to talk informedly about its impact, priorities, challenges and opportunities;
- Energy – genuine interest in and appreciation for the chance to connect with the prospective donor and enthusiasm for the opportunity to align the donor’s interests with the organization’s mission and plans;
- Integrity – firm adherence to carrying through on her commitments and not promising what she and her organization cannot deliver;
- Passion – a fervor for the mission of her organization reflected, in part, by her own financial support of the organization.
Finally, I encouraged the aspiring fundraiser to approach her calls on prospective donors with the words of Maya Angelou in mind: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” I expressed my confidence that if she focused on these things, she would be more successful in her gift solicitation calls.