The most common objection that volunteers and new fundraisers give to doing the work of fundraising is, “But I don’t know what to say!” Of course, it’s much easier to sit around and discuss prospects than it is to speak with them, but that hunted feeling that comes from not doing work when we should is so uncomfortable, isn’t it?
A fundraising visit can seem very technical. Anyone who has volunteered for a non-profit believes enough in the mission of the group that messing up a visit can feel like a major catastrophe.
I’ve trained many fundraisers during the past 2 decades and I can confidently say that not one has ever blown the visit by saying the wrong thing. Isn’t that great news? There is no such thing as “the wrong thing,” so long as it’s spoken from the heart.
That being said, there is one mistake that every fundraiser makes over and over again. Even if it doesn’t lose the gift, it can seriously lengthen the time it takes to get it.
Since we all are busy people and we want to be as effective as possible with our time, I thought I’d pass this knowledge on.
Three words that changed my life
When I was new to fundraising, I was apprenticed by someone who’d raised 10s of millions of dollars through one-on-one visits. He came to town and we arranged to go on several visits with my parishioners. He told me in no uncertain terms that my function during the visits were to do three things – and only three things –
That was it.
As we did our visits, I did precisely as I was told. Meanwhile, the professional fundraiser conducted the visit. After several visits, I noticed something odd – he wasn’t a fancy talker like I thought he’d be. Nor did he spend a lot of time describing our capital campaign. In fact, he did nearly as much sitting, smiling and nodding as I did.
The basic fundraising visit
At that time, I learned the basics of a fundraising visit. They are simple and can be done by anyone who has the burning purpose of the organization they are helping. They are:
- Contact. Ask your prospect to set aside time for the visit. Make sure to let them know why you are visiting. Resist the temptation to attempt a visit by phone.
- Ask the prospect for their vision. Everyone involved in the non-profit community has a product – something they want to achieve. What is the goal of the prospect in front of you? Ask power questions until you really get it.
- Relate the vision to your campaign. How will your campaign help the prospect achieve their vision? What bold and audacious plan does your campaign fulfill that will bring your prospect’s dream closer to a reality? This step is not endless. It’s the shortest part of the entire visit – maybe 10 – 15 minutes at most. Once the prospect sees the relationship,
- Make the ask. Ask for a specific gift. Jerold Panas has a wonderful phrase for this, “I’d like to ask you to consider making a gift of ______________.”
- Stop talking. Once the ask is made, don’t say a thing until the prospect does. Don’t fidget, look away, whistle or try to explain yourself. Shut up.
- Address objections. Through more questioning (not talking!), resolve any objections to making a gift. If the visit doesn’t result in an immediate close, set a new time for a visit.
This pattern works quite well so long as you remember the “Two Magic Words.” They are the most vital, most important words in all of fundraising.
The magic formula of fundraising – two words only.
These words describe why it doesn’t matter if a new fundraiser or volunteer doesn’t know what to say.
Follow these, and all of your visits will be an efficient use of time – both yours and your prospect’s!
I have these little cards I carry around in my pocket. They serve to remind me of the magic formula of fundraising. If you’ve ever been one of my fundraisers, you’ve probably received one or two of these in the past.
The magic and joy of fundraising is that it isn’t about the fundraiser. It isn’t even about the organization. It’s about the donor.
The fundraiser doesn’t need to be interesting, only interested. It’s the donor who supplies the interest.
Here’s the card I pass out to new fundraisers, and here are the magic words of fundraising. Apply them well and succeed.
I love working with non-profits. My company even has a wonderful service to help non-profits take advantage of a Google grant, which can provide the organization with tens of thousands of dollars of free advertising. Please feel free to contact me for more information.