Tag Archives: donor cultivation

A Chance to Tell Us the Answers – How Are You Responding To Tough Donor Questions?

The firm’s October 2010 News You Can Use e-newsletter focused on the advice being given to donors. Specifically it looked at two lists of probing questions that donors should be asking charities before they make a gift.  The assertion is that if we take time to review these questions in advance, we can be better prepared when potential donors confront us with their issues or concerns.  Donors are increasingly looking to be in an ongoing dialog with their charities, a dynamic that sets them up as active investment partners rather than passive contributors only.  They feel they have a stake in your organization’s success, so they want to get some answers before they become part of your organization’s family.

A year ago on this blog I posted Charity Navigator’s “6 Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating” encouraging readers to be ready with answers.  This is an important topic, which is why I’ve brought it up again.

So what do YOU say when donors confront you with challenging questions?  What steps have you taken to prepare yourselves for the inevitable surprising requests?  How have you worked with your colleagues to make sure you had the answers ready when those questions came?

Leave a comment below and let’s see what others are doing out there to really engage their donors.

I will leave you with some thoughts to get the ball rolling:

  • For example, we know that donors are increasingly worried about the trustworthiness of organizations.  What are you saying to potential donors who day, “Can we trust you?  Are you an honorable nonprofit?”
  • Donors want to see results; they simply don’t take our word for it anymore that we’re doing the good we promise out there in the community. They want to see tangible data that demonstrates those results.  What does your organization do to communicate its results and impact in a way that engages donors while not overwhelming them with lengthy reports?
  • Recently there has been a greater emphasis on methodology, forcing nonprofits to explain exactly how they plan on addressing their various issues, causes or programs.  But balanced scorecards and logic models are still not the norm in nonprofit management circles.  How does your nonprofit help its donors to understand the means by which you hope to accomplish your mission?  How do you communicate that in a way that inspires understanding and confidence among your supporters?
  • Donors are being encouraged to find charities with which they can establish long-term, committed relationships, not just one-time giving opportunities.  What is your nonprofit doing to position itself as an organization worthy of long-term support?  How are you set up to maintain and strengthen those important donor relationships over time?

Share your stories.  Let us know what’s working in the field!  Thanks.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

Be Ready with an “Emergency” Ask

Picture this.  Your prospect is a very busy business leader. You’ve arranged a pre-solicitation meeting and you were sure that everyone understood that this was just going to be an opportunity to talk about the project, the need and the campaign.  About 2/3 of the way through the meeting, the prospect says, “This sounds really terrific, but I am leaving town for several weeks to oversee the opening of a new office facility across the country, so there will be no way that I can do a site visit.” 

It’s dawning on you that you’re not going to be able to see this prospect face-to-face for a long time, and she was rated as one of your top prospects.  You don’t want to waste this opportunity.  What happens now?

Even when you thought it was just going to be a cultivation visit you might need to quickly formulate an “emergency” ask.

When it comes right down to it, getting some form of ask out there might be better than nothing.  If you think an encounter like this is turning into your only or best shot at getting something from this prospect, go for it.

Now I’m calling it an “emergency” ask, but it really is something that you should have prepared in advance.  Take the time to practice this ahead of time.  If you need to make your emergency ask, you should be able to do it with confidence and without apologies.  Further, if you are going on a solicitation call with another person as part of a team, make sure you discuss this ahead of time.  Agree in advance who will say what, especially if the prospect goes off on a tangent or just cuts to the chase and asks for an ask, or as in this case, makes it clear that she’s not going to be around.

Here are some other possible responses…remember, you should make up one that feels natural for you.  So when the prospects says, “Just tell me what you want.” You can say:

“This effort is going to require meaningful stretch gifts from us all, and I hope you will agree that this project is critical.  I’ve gone the extra mile already, which is why I’m taking the time to talk to folks like you.  What I would like is for you to consider joining me in making a sacrificial gift to this campaign.”

“Thanks for being open to an ask already, but this capital campaign is very big project, and there’s more I want you to see before we get to that.  However, we would really appreciate your getting involved now as a donor to our ongoing programs.  Can we count on you today for a major donor level gift to the Annual Fund?” Make sure you include a specific $$ amount.

“We would like you to join the other community leaders who’ve already shown their support by making a gift to this campaign.  I know you care deeply about this issue, and I want to make sure you have the opportunity to play a part.  Can we count on you today to do something special?” 

Additionally, depending on which of these you might have used, you could simply follow up by suggesting a clear course of action for the prospect.  “Tell me what works best with your schedule.  Here are the next steps I see…First, visit our facility; second, meet with our CEO and third, consider financial commitment. Do you agree?  Are there other steps you want to take?   How do I best set these things up and communicate with you?”  Assume that there are going to be future contacts of some sort, and go from there. But be sure to suggest some form of action.

So don’t be afraid and don’t freeze up when all of sudden the script has to be tossed and you just need to get something in front of the donor.  Practice ahead of time and have that emergency ask in your back pocket.

This topic is one that we explored in “Just Tell Me What You Want: Answers to the Unexpected Things Prospects Say,” which was part of Extra Credit, a teleconference I hosted earlier this month.  Many of the participants agreed that taking the time to think through how we can respond when prospects go off-script and surprise us is well worth it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events and Activities, From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

Questions from donors – Are you ready with answers?

Donors have choices – lots of them.

Your organization is probably one of dozens that members of your community will hear from in the coming weeks.  Are you doing all that you can to set yourself apart from the “competition?”  Are you giving your potential donors the resources they need to make an informed choice?

Charity Navigator advocates that all potential donors take the time to ask charities questions about their programs, mission, and goals before they decide to support them. To help potential donors in this task, they have developed a list of questions that donors should ask before they begin the act of supporting a charity.

Regardless of what you might think about Charity Navigator – and I know many people struggle with the limitations of their rating system – these questions provide organizations a very helpful tool that can enhance their donor cultivation strategies. 

If you are an executive director, director of development, board member or other solicitor, are you prepared with answers to these or similar questions?  You know this is the advice being given to potential donors out there; change your approach to align your message with these issues.  Be ready to respond to the donor’s needs, not simply return to your organization’s pre-determined script. 

It’s like taking an exam when you were in school…except this time you know the questions ahead of time!

Here is an excerpt from Charity Navigator’s “6 Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating:”

  1. Can your charity clearly communicate who they are and what they do?
    If a charity struggles in articulating its mission and its programs, it will probably struggle in delivering those programs. If a charity can’t explain who it is and what it does, and why it is needed, find one that can. The stakes are too high and too many good organizations exist who know exactly who they are, what they do, and why they are needed.
  2. Can your charity define their short-term and long-term goals?
    Organizations without quantifiable goals have no way to measure success. If they have no way to know if they are successful, how can you be sure they are working toward something? Demand that your charity tell you what it is trying to do. Good organizations relish this opportunity.
  3. Can your charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal?
    Once again, it’s not enough to merely be concerned with a problem. Ask your organization what it has done to make the issue it confronts better. What are its results? You wouldn’t buy a brand of toothpaste if the manufacturer couldn’t prove to you that it fought cavities successfully. Why should you support an environmental clean-up organization if it can’t show you that it is cleaning up the environment?
  4. Do your charity’s programs make sense to you?
    If you support the mission of an organization, ask yourself if its programs also make sense. You believe in the cause, and you hope for the end result, but is the organization working toward that result in a way that seems rational and productive to you?
  5. Can you trust your charity?
    Research has shown that the overwhelming majority of charities in this country are not only responsible and honest, but well-managed. So we give with confidence. You should feel the same way before you give. Don’t support a charity until you feel comfortable with it. A happy and trusting donor is a willing and supportive donor.
  6. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to your organization?
    We like to think of giving to charity as a long-term commitment, more akin to marriage than dating. Intelligent giving is motivated by altruism, knowledge, and perspective, not a knee-jerk reaction to a television commercial. Ask yourself if your charity is the type of organization to which you’re willing to make a long-term commitment. When you do this, you agree to support them through good times and bad, and provide the funding it needs to weather economic downturns. In return, it promises to continue working toward addressing the issue you both think is so vital.

Charity Navigator

Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy and Fundraising