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The Right Way to Prepare for a Donor Conversation

The Right Way to Prepare for a Donor ConversationNick Fellers’ first rule of fundraising is “Just Ask!”

Nick believes that you should always be asking and he’s developed a powerful approach to asking that dovetails well with what I believe.

The way to prepare for a donor visit, Nick says, is not to prepare an elevator pitch or any other “pitch” for that matter.

What’s Wrong with Preparing a Donor Pitch?

The more time and effort you spend writing and preparing a pitch to present to your donor, the more set you will be in your approach and the less open you’ll be to what the donor would like to do.

The goal of every donor visit should NOT be to convince the donor of the importance and worthiness of your organizations needs. No!

The goal of every donor visit should be to find out what the donor is interested in, and then to direct them to that part of your organization’s work and inspire them to ask how they might help.

Let me say that differently.

Your job is to help your donors make the difference in the world they wish to see.

Believe me, helping a donor fulfill his or her dreams is far easier and more fun than convincing them to part with their money.

How Should You Prepare for a Donor Visit?

You should prepare to ask and answer pivotal questions for every donor meeting.

First, prepare open-ended questions to ask your donor.

Go into your donor meetings ready to ask open-ended questions that invite the donor to tell you about their interests.

Simple questions work well. Here are some simple examples.

  • What do you know about our work?
  • Why did you agree to meet with us?
  • What has inspired your giving to us over the years?

Next, be ready to answer 3 key questions.

There are three essential questions you must answer for every donor.

1. What are you trying to accomplish?

Be prepared to tell the donor very simply what difference a gift to your organization will make.

How will lives be changed by the donor’s gift? This is a high level question—one that appeals to a donor's sense of hope and promise. It captures the impact you work to make.

2. Where will my money go?

Be prepared to tell the donor how you will spend their money.

Be ready to explain what your organization does to achieve the big high-level goal. Don’t fret that some of the money goes to running your organization. Of course it does.

3. How can I help?

The purpose of every donor visit is to elicit the question “How can I help?” And you must be prepared to answer that question the moment it’s asked.

Be sure you know how much money you need to raise to accomplish your goals and that you have a simple way to help the donor determine how they might help.

When a donor asks how they might help, you don’t want to tell them that you’ll get back to them. You want to give them some options right there and then.

With thanks to Nick Fellers of For Impact

This post was largely inspired by the work and wisdom of Nick Fellers, president of For Impact and the Suddes Group. I have long admired their work and have written about their incredible Engagement Tool in earlier posts.

This post comes on the heels of being re-inspired by Nick Fellers at his Boot Camp, which I recently attended in New York.

Whether you’re new in the business, or like me, you’ve been at it for a long time, I strongly encourage you to sign up for Nick’s Boot Camp. You’ll learn (or relearn) many powerful essentials about effective fundraising.

The Right Way to Prepare for a Donor ConversationThe preceding is a cross-post by Andrea Kihlstedt from the Capital Campaign Masters blog. Andrea is president of Capital Campaign Masters, which provides online resources to help organizations get ready for capital campaigns. She is the author of four books on fundraising, including Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work, now out in its fourth edition.

Topics: Fundraising Donor Relations Donors