Tag Archives: visits

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.

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

Everyone on Your Staff Can Play a Part of Your Fundraising Success (Part 1 – Site Visits)

Yesterday I gave a presentation in Arlington County on this topic.  We had a great mixture of development professionals and program staff from organizations in DC and Virginia.  The goal of the program was to address how all staff members should embrace the roles they play in a successful fundraising effort.

Site visits are a great way to get the whole staff involved.  Lots of people play a part, from the receptionist to the program staff to management.  It’s important to take the time to carefully plan out the various elements of an upcoming site visit.  Staff members need to be briefed and understand what’s at stake.

Key preparation items include being clear about the visit’s schedule, the message you hope to get across to the visitor and what follow-up tactics you plan to employ.  It’s also a great time to clean up the office – nothing makes a visitor feel more welcome than when you’ve taken the time to show pride in your organization.

As part of our session yesterday, I had participants design a “Brown Bag Luncheon” on development.  The set-up was the executive director had asked each department to lead a presentation so that everyone could better understand the work of their colleagues.  One of the suggested topics was preparing for a site visit, and the group came up with some excellent ideas.  Here’s their outline for a 30-minute lunch-time presentation:

  1. Explain why you’re having the site visit; discuss who is coming (donor, media, government representatives, etc.).  Explain what the visitors are going to want to see.
  2. Talk about why the staff is so important to the site visit – Staff members are the ones who do the work; they are the closest to the organization’s programs.
  3. Discuss how to handle the site visit – Be friendly; think in advance about what you’re going to say; involve the visitor in a conversation, thank them for coming, etc.  Reinforce that staff members will get some help in doing this, such as training or scripts.
  4. Address the follow-up steps – How will you thank the visitor for coming.  Thank you correspondence can refer back to a meaningful exchange they might have had with a member of the staff.

Other ideas raised by program participants when I presented this session back in the summer included:

  • Talk about the “spiel” or “elevator speech” that staff members can use, it’s part of helping them to be prepared.
  • Try some role-playing exercises.  What will you say when the visitor stops by your cubicle?
    • Talk about the “Don’ts” not just the “Dos” for example, they don’t have to ask for a gift, and they don’t need to overdo it.
    • Discuss how you might involve volunteers and past program participants in the visit.
    • At the end, describe how this discussion of site visit preparation is in fact a “microcosm” of the way that staff members can support all of fundraising throughout the year. 

Do you have a story of a good site visit?  If your organization addresses a particularly sensitive subject or if client confidentiality is a big issue for you, how have you creatively approached this topic?

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Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches