Successful Fundraising for Ambitious Non Profits Mon, 31 Aug 2015 10:44:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Top 10 Fundraising Planning Questions Tue, 13 Jan 2015 10:54:12 +0000 Continue reading Top 10 Fundraising Planning Questions]]> fundraising planningThis tends to be the time of year for planning – both in life (yes, I was at the gym at 7am this morning!) and work.

Fundraising planning is the key to success – and it can also provide much needed clarity of your goals.  So here are a few questions to help get your planning started in 2015.

  1. How was your fundraising in 2014? Before you even start to consider 2015, it’s time to review 2014. Did you achieve or exceed target – or fail to reach it? What were your successes and what didn’t work so well? What progress did you make?
  2. Taking into account your successes and failures last year, what are you going to do differently this year?
  3. What does success look like in 2015? More money in? More engaged donors? More of the same?
  4. What’s your income goal for 2015? How much do you want/need to raise in total? How much do you want to raise from trusts? Do you want to raise more or less from individuals? What about sponsorship? Map out your income against your goals and break it down into each type of funding to get a clear idea of where your focus needs to be.
  5. What are the timescales for bringing in that income? Do you have specific needs at certain times of the year? Is there an absolute deadline that you must have all of your income in by?
  6. What about donor retention? How many of your previous donors are still giving to your organisation? Given that it’s cheaper to retain donors than it is to recruit new ones, do you need to improve your donor retention through better donor communications and stewardship?
  7. How do your resources match up to your income goals? Do you need to achieve more with less and if so, how are you going to do that? For example, if you need to raise more money but have the same resources for fundraising, what are you going to do less of or do differently that will allow you to achieve that increase in income? Do you need to concentrate less on one type of funding and more on another?
  8. Who are your perfect donors?
  9. What qualities do they have that makes them your perfect donors? Are they more engaged with your non-profit? Do they fit a certain demographic?
  10. Can you translate these qualities to help you to reach out to other potential donors?

Sit down with a sheet of paper – or a blank computer screen – and roughly map out the answers to these questions, and you will have the beginnings of a rough fundraising plan that will help you to focus your fundraising efforts.

Good luck with your 2015 fundraising – and please ask any questions you have in the comments below!

Just read a great post on planning from @heatheractivate
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A fundraising quote for the season… Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:24:00 +0000 fundraising quote for christmas

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Monday Motivation Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:05:41 +0000

Fundraising Quote of the Day!
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Getting the meeting with potential donors & sponsors: Fundraising Q&A Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:58:35 +0000 Continue reading Getting the meeting with potential donors & sponsors: Fundraising Q&A]]> sponsorship meeting I get lots of email enquiries from people asking for advice on specific questions to do with their fundraising – and I always try to respond directly to each one individually. However, as there are often themes that come up, it got me to thinking that perhaps I should share some of the responses more widely – so welcome to the first of my monthly Fundraising Q&A Sessions that deals with getting in front of donors & sponsors:


“I do lots of research to identify which companies have the greatest affinity with our cause but I still have difficulty getting an initial meeting. I know that if I could get in front of potential donors & sponsors, I could engage them with our work but how do I convince them to take time out of their busy schedules to meet with me?”


In a crowded marketplace it is often difficult to stand out from the crowd but, assuming the problem is getting in front of the right people in the first place (as opposed to making the ask and not getting the gift) there are a few key aspects to consider:


1. Start by focusing on your networks – I’ve said it before but your networks are the first place you should look.  Fundraising is all about relationships and, just because you’re looking at a company, that doesn’t mean the relationship rule doesn’t apply.  People make decisions about donations and sponsorship – not companies.  Look at the employers of your board (or companies that they are on the board of/own themselves); companies that are based in your local area or that recruit in your local area; company links with your partners or with your existing donors & sponsors.  Once you have that list THEN you should look at whether there is an affinity with your work.


2. Ask for referrals – rather than starting with a list of companies start with a list of your networks and ask those connections to make introductions to the key decision makers in companies that they have a connection to. Do you have well networked donors or board members who would be willing to introduce you to their networks? Do you work with a partner organisation who has strong corporate partners that they could (and would introduce you to)?


3. Flip it around – Once you’ve exhausted your networks for your research, then you should start to look at companies that you have an affinity with.  However, once you have this list, can you find out whether there are any networks that you are one step removed from there? You may think that your board has told you about everyone they know of (and to be fair, so might they) but they and you might not have realised that the person they live next door to is one of the main decision makers for sponsorship at the company you’d love to work with. 

In addition, you should drill down into your ‘affinity’ company list to identify whether they have sponsored a charity that you know? Could your contact in that charity make an introduction on your behalf or even provide a testimonial in an initial approach letter?  Obviously, not all will be willing to do this but charities are often more than happy to help out so it’s worth asking at least. And if they won’t give you an introduction, they might be happy to give you some background or pointers that helped them when they made their own successful approach.  Remember, if you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.


4. Do your research – make sure that you’re pitching your approach to the right person in the first place by doing some basic research. That can be as simple as phoning reception and asking who deals with CSR activity or sponsorship or you could Google the company name + sponsorship (or donations).  What you want to do is make sure that it ends up on the desk of the right person in the first place. Not only does that mean you aren’t wasting anyone’s time but it also shows that you are interested in the company – interested enough to have found out who to write to in the first place.


5. Ask for feedback – If you’re still getting nowhere, ask for feedback from those companies that you’re approaching but try to be specific.  Don’t just ask for general feedback but explain that you’re wondering whether your pitch isn’t right or if it’s your timing or amount you’re asking for.  This might help you to begin to assess where and why your approaches aren’t hitting the mark.


By looking at your prospect research differently, you should begin to develop a list of potential corporate donors & sponsors that it feels as though you can assign actions to  – rather than having a long list of companies with no clear action beyond ‘get them to support us’. If you’ve any other tips for getting in front of potential supporters, please leave them in the comments below – and of course, if you’d like to feature in a future Fundraising Q&A Session, let me know.

Tweet: Click to Tweet: I’m reading all about getting meetings with sponsors via @HeatherActivate – great post!

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3 questions to help you to engage donors with your stories Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:16:04 +0000 Continue reading 3 questions to help you to engage donors with your stories]]> engage donorsMany of the clients that I’ve worked with do amazing work and make a difference to people’s lives but often, they struggle to engage donors with their stories. Sometimes, this is because they’re used to working in a specific sector and use too much jargon or insider language. Other times it’s because funding comes from government or other statutory bodies that require ‘reporting’ in quite a different way from donors and so they aren’t in the habit of writing in a more engaging, emotive way.

Whatever the reason, there are 3 key questions that you need to ask yourself in order to make your story – and therefore, your non-profit – more engaging to potential and current donors. In other words, to raise more money and keep donors enthusiastic about your cause.


It doesn’t matter if you have an ‘obvious’ cause – such as a cancer, poverty, children – the questions that you need to ask remain the same:


1. Can you put yourself in your donors shoes? This is probably the most important question you need to ask yourself if you want to develop an inspiring story that won’t just catch your donors attention but will encourage them to put their hands in their pockets. In order to answer this question, you need to have a good idea of who your donors are – or are likely to be.  Once you know that, you will have a clearer idea of the work that you do that resonates with them, the way that they like to be communicated with, and the aspects of your work that are important to them and most likely, therefore, to gain their support.


 You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird 


2. What is your why? Donors care more about why you do what you do, than what you do.  Your ‘why’ reflects the values of your non-profit – why it does what it does – and in turn, donors can start to see themselves and their values in your messages. Ultimately, that recognition will help to inspire them to give to your cause and to continue to be involved and inspired by your work.

Simon Sinek is the leading expert on discovering your why – and this TED talk that he gave in 2009 illustrates exactly why your ‘why’ will encourage loyalty. He’s talking about consumers but the same rules can easily apply to donors and non-profits. They are, after all, one of your customer groups.


3. What would happen if your doors closed tomorrow? Every fundraiser should have a clear idea of the need behind their non-profit’s work but what would the world look like without you – and where would the gaps be – what would the landscape look like for your beneficiaries 6, 12 or 24 months after you ceased to exist? That will help to give donors a real sense of why you are important and why what you do is needed – and of course, why you are the organisation to provide it.


There are, of course, many other messages that you could choose to weave into your story and:

  • knowing your audience,
  • getting to the heart of your mission/your ‘why’
  • explaining the need for your work

are all central to your story helping to form the structure of better stories to engage more of your donors.


No-one should underestimate the power of good storytelling.  It is vital for every non-profit.  After all, we all work in a crowded marketplace with literally hundreds of messages competing for our the attention of our donors. Getting it right by understanding your potential donors – and fuelling their imagination – is key to your survival if you want to raise more money.


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Non-Profit Storytelling: How to Stand Out in a Crowd Fri, 06 Jun 2014 11:59:44 +0000 Continue reading Non-Profit Storytelling: How to Stand Out in a Crowd]]> nonprofit storytellingOne of the common questions that I’m asked about fundraising is:

‘How do we make our story appealing?’

Many people find it difficult to make their story stand out – or feel intimidated by causes that are more ‘popular’, such as cancer or animal charities. So how do you improve your non-profit storytelling and, more importantly, inspire donors and potential donors?


1. Don’t make your story about your charity

It may seem obvious but it’s your cause that potential donors are going to support – not your charity per se. So if you’re fundraising for a new building – what difference will that building make to those that you work with? Or, if you’re running a project for homeless people – the story isn’t about how the project will work, it’s about how it will affect the people that will be taking part. Remember, the key to good storytelling is not to focus on the nuts and bolts of what you will spend the money on but instead to focus on the difference that money will make to your user group(s).


2. Use emotion

I’m not suggesting you tell a heart-rending tale every time you put pen to paper for any donor communication – in fact, you may not work in that type of arena at all – but what I mean by using emotion is, when you write, ask yourself how reading this will make the donor feel.


At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou


How does your current storytelling make a donor feel about your organisation and it’s work? Does it inspire them to get involved or are you just a dull hum in the background of all the other information that they receive on a daily, in fact, hourly, basis?


3. Show, Don’t Tell

This is a rule for any type of storytelling – tell your story through action, thoughts and feelings rather than simply stating the facts. Of course, there will be a need to convey certain facts but, particularly when you are writing with the aim of trying to make your work come alive for the reader, it’s more important to show them what you do. So

‘We helped Maya, a 16 year old single mother to get back to school and get a job when she thought that she had no option but to drop out’. is telling whereas

It was really bad in the beginning. I spent most nights in my room with the baby sleeping in the crib next to me while I cried myself to sleep thinking my life was over. Then I met Sylvie and she told me about the creche programme they run. It meant I could go back to school and know the baby was being taken care off without it costing my Mum or meaning she had to make sacrifices. Last week, I got my results – 4 A’s and 2 B’s! Now I know I can give my daughter a future because I know that I have one!” is showing.

Showing does generally mean that you have to use more words but it helps to create a clearer picture in the reader’s head of the difference that your work makes.


4. Avoid jargon

We use it in everyday working life but avoid jargon when it comes to your storytelling. Donors don’t understand it and, more importantly, jargon filled text is difficult to read. It won’t leave a donor feeling engaged and is, in fact,more likely to make them feel confused or even frustrated that you don’t use plain language.


5. Keep it simple

Your charity may be complex and multi-layered but, when it comes to non-profit storytelling, your message should be simple. This ties into point one – what is the difference your work makes and how can you tell that as simply as possible?


6. Use pictures

As I’ve said in an earlier post ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ – it also gets 12 times as many shares on Facebook and other social media – so don’t forget that when you’re looking to spread the word about your charity and its work. A picture can sum up your story in one image – and that’s pure storytelling gold.


7. Don’t forget a call to action

It’s all very well telling your story – hopefully, you will now have a potential supporter who is feeling inspired, engaged and ready to get involved – but there’s no point in doing all the hard work just to fail at the last hurdle. So what action do you now want the reader to take? Perhaps you want them to sign a campaign petition or write you a cheque, or maybe you’re looking for volunteers for an event – whatever it is, don’t forget to leave your potential donor with a clear understanding of what it is that you would like them to do now.


So, next time you put pen to paper to tell your charity’s story think about keeping it simple, talking about your impact and the difference you make on an individual level, if possible, and think about the transformation that your donor’s gift will make to your charity.


This article from Hubspot is well worth a read. Featuring 5 great storytelling examples from non-profits, it should give you some food for thought. 

I also love this infographic from the Content Management Association – not about nonprofit storytelling specifically – it gives great examples of how to tell your story effectively.



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Successful Sponsorship Negotiation: Getting to Yes Fri, 30 May 2014 13:52:58 +0000 Continue reading Successful Sponsorship Negotiation: Getting to Yes]]> sponsorship negotationYou’ve written your initial sponsorship approach to your dream sponsor and have been invited in to pitch.  How do you get them from interested to yes? Here are a few sponsorship negotiation tips to put into practice in the meeting:


The first two points are about mindset – yours – and getting into the right frame of mind before you walk in the room to meet your potential sponsor.


1. What’s your best alternative? Before you even step through the door, decide what your best alternative is. This is not something you will share with your potential sponsor but is the absolute minimum you’re prepared to negotiate to. Don’t make it too low or too difficult to deliver and make sure that it will still serve you well – otherwise, you could find yourself with a sponsor who is giving you far less than you would like while still having to jump through hoops for them.


2. Be confident about your offer. You also need to be very clear with yourself that you are NOT the weaker partner in this. You may need sponsorship but you are not so desperate for it that you will give away too much for too little. Sponsorship – successful sponsorship – is a two-way street with both partners benefiting from the relationship.  If you’re not in a win-win situation for both partners, this is unlikely to be a sponsorship worth having. Remember that – and the fact that you will have other opportunities to negotiate with other potential sponsors – and be clear and confident about your offer.


3. Open at Your Max – there is no point in starting off a sponsorship negotiation at anything lower than your maximum so don’t beat around the bush. Be clear, consistent and spell out what you would like – and more importantly, the benefits that your sponsor will get as a result. For example, if it’s headline sponsorship, perhaps you’re offering a level of exclusivity. You will be able to determine early on in the meeting whether or not this sponsor is likely to meet you at your max – and if they’re not you can start to get a sense of where they will meet you and what you will offer them in return.


4. Use Silence – outline your max and the potential benefits that could be associated with that – and then stop talking. You’re not trying to intimidate the potential sponsor.  However, by using silence, you will demonstrate that you are confident about your offer – rather than blabbing on nervously and giving them the impression that they could negotiate their way into anything because you’re so desperate for a sponsor. Silence is also useful because, as with donor conversations, what’s most important about any negotiation is that you listen to what the other party is saying. If you barely draw breath for the entire meeting, you won’t hear what they’re saying and you won’t pick up cues about what they’re looking for.


5. Offer Better Terms – if they seem unsure but it’s not an out and out ‘No’ perhaps you could offer better terms. Maybe they’re coming into an expensive time of the year or have other outgoings around the time of your event, project or programme – in which case, do you need the money beforehand or could they pay in instalments? Remember, sometimes a sponsor’s unwillingness is not because they don’t want to sponsor you but because they have other concerns around the deal. One event sponsorship that I negotiated clashed with a potential sponsor’s training event but they loved the organisation I worked for – so I simply switched their sponsorship to another event at the same level with the same benefits and for the same amount but at a different time of year – sorted.


6. Give and Get Something Back – remember that, while you are asking your potential sponsor to give you something they are getting something valuable back in return – a unique association with your charity. Perhaps you’re putting them in front of an audience that they want to reach or maybe their support will show them in a different light. When you go into a sponsorship negotiation never lose sight of the fact that they are getting something in return even if it is your charity that is benefiting financially.


7. Ask for Something Valuable that Doesn’t Cost Them – if they’re adamant that they can’t afford to sponsor you at the level you are seeking but are only interested in that particular level of sponsorship in terms of benefits, consider whether there is something else they could give you besides the money they are prepared to offer that is valuable to you but won’t cost them a penny. Will they give you a full page ad in their staff magazine to promote a charity challenge? Will they promote your charity in their stores throughout the month of May? Will they give you part sponsorship in cash and part in kind (this works well if they offer products but equally, if they offer services. For example, could they offer customer training to your front of house staff or social media training to your comms team?)


Above all, sponsorship negotiation should be flexible and creative. Don’t view it with fear but as an opportunity for two parties to work together to create something unique and you will be well on your way to success. When I worked at the National Museums of Scotland, one of the first sponsorships that I negotiated for them was for an exclusive exhibition from the Forbidden City in Beijing.  I went into the meeting with my ‘benefits list’ and a determination to get the best for both of us. Not only did I negotiate the largest sponsorship the Museum had had up until then but I also worked with the sponsor to deliver a complementary exhibition created by household name fashion designers that they worked with, which was inspired by the exhibition and featured an opening with model Jodie Kidd, dripping in diamonds and a Scott Henshall one-off creation. This was picked up by national press – many of which had never written about the Museums before. I could never have gone into that meeting with those benefits as I didn’t know they could even potentially exist but through the sponsorship negotiation process, the sponsor and I laid our cards on the table, put our heads together and created something truly unique, which gave both of us benefits far beyond what we had imagined.


Go in to your sponsorship negotiation meetings knowing that you are equal parties, that your charity has something valuable that the sponsor wants and that you are determined to negotiate a win-win situation – and you are well on your way to negotiating a successful sponsorship deal. Good luck!


This post was inspired by a seminar by Julia Langkraehr at the Thrive: Women Unlimited Conference in London in March 2014. Although it was about business negotiations, I recognised that there were techniques that I’d also used in successful sponsorship negotiations.



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Building donor loyalty: lessons from Murdo Thu, 22 May 2014 12:42:12 +0000 Continue reading Building donor loyalty: lessons from Murdo]]> Donor loyalty is central to any successful fundraising programme – and so it should be when you consider that it costs 6 to 7 times as much to recruit a new donor as it does to keep and encourage future giving from an existing donor – but how do you keep donors loyal to your cause?


Well, when it comes to lessons in donor loyalty, I look to no other than man’s (or woman’s) best friend (stick with me on this one, all will become clear…)

Murdo teaching donor loyalty

First up, introductions:

Meet Murdo, my 1 year old Cockapoo who is a bundle of fun and energy that the entire family has fallen head over heels in love with since about 24 hours after he trotted through the door last July.

OK, so he’s cute (very) but what can he teach us about fundraising?



1. How clear are your messages?

Last summer, as a brand new dog owner, I took myself and my little pup off to dog training classes and it was only when I met the trainer that I realised how important it is to send out clear and consistent messages.

Here I was, trying to figure out why he wouldn’t come when called and thinking that perhaps it was because he didn’t know me that well yet or didn’t consider me to be his owner when the dog trainer pointed out that ‘Come On’ and ‘Come’ are two totally different commands.  I might know that they mean the same thing but Murdo doesn’t speak English (to be clear, he doesn’t actually speak) so he had no clue. They both sounded different to him. 

How clear and consistent are your messages? Do you say the same things around your fundraising – or do you confuse lots of different messages? Do you know which messages your donor’s respond to – and which they ignore? It’s worth spending time to cast a critical eye over the various messages that you send out to donor’s and to ask yourself:

  • are they clear?
  • are we consistent in what we say?
  • do they work – and how do we know (ie do donors respond to them)?

Of course, you may have many complex messages that you want to convey and if that’s the case, you should consider which messages donor’s respond to before bombarding them with lots of different ones.  If you need to get focus around this, Marc Pitman recently wrote a great post about the rule of 3s, which essentially, suggests that you choose 3 messages about your charity.  Worth a read!



Murdo & donor loyalty
A blur of wagging tail

2. Get to know your donor

This follows on from knowing which messages work for your donors – but how well do you actually know them?

Murdo knows how to get each of us to pay special attention to him – mainly because he took the time to figure us out.  He knows that if he grabs a toy, barks and jumps around, my son will run out the back and play fetch with him or get down and wrestle – similarly, he knows that won’t work with my daughter but that she prefers to cuddle in on the sofa.  Murdo also knows that if he jumps up on me, I’ll ignore him so he gently paws my leg when he wants attention. He also knows that under no circumstances do I let him on the sofa but when Mr Activate is around, he jumps straight up next to him!  And he knew all of that within a few weeks of us getting him because he pays attention to what works for each of us and puts it into practice. Pretty impressive, right?

Do you know what works for your donors? Do you know what switches them on, encourages them to give to you by return mail or, conversely, what they really don’t want to know about?

This is where keeping an eye on response rates to mailings or online appeals is important. And similarly, with major donors, you should know who likes to get the annual review, who prefers not to get any mail but likes a call and who will always come to your events.

If you haven’t been measuring response rates or click throughs or taking note of people’s preferred communications, don’t panic – but start recording the information now.


3. Pay attention

First thing in the morning, Murdo makes sure that he has said his special hello to each of us when we get up: tail wagging so furiously it could power a generator, big licks, little high pitch ‘hello’ bark. We each get this in turn when we come downstairs – and it’s not just to encourage us to feed him – even the members of the household who get up after he’s eaten breakfast will get the same attention.

How much attention do you pay to your donors? I’m not just talking stewardship here, I’m talking ‘paying attention’. Do you ever, for example, ask for their opinions? As fundraisers, we’re often so focused on the bottom line that donor communications can circulate around: asking for money, strengthening the message about our work, saying thank you, asking for money…

Now, of course, you want and need to do all of these things but have you ever stopped to ask your donors what they think about your work – or about the information you send them? You could make personal phone calls to donors or even send out an annual donor survey. What matters is that you ask them for their opinion AND (here’s the important part) demonstrate that you’ve taken on board what they have said.  You can encourage greater donor loyalty by paying attention, particularly when you use the feedback you receive to help you to improve your communications too.

Murdo & donor loyalty again

Those are my top three lessons in donor loyalty that have been learned from Murdo. Who knew that a ginger Cockapoo could be so wise when it comes to fundraising?

I’m reading about donor loyalty – thanks @HeatherActivate!
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Getting the Gift: 5 Steps to Making the Ask Wed, 14 May 2014 13:15:32 +0000 Continue reading Getting the Gift: 5 Steps to Making the Ask]]> Getting the GiftIn my last post, I talked about how to get in front of your potential donor in the first place. This is by far the hardest part as, once you’ve secured the meeting, you’re 85% on your way to getting the gift. So how do you close that final 15% and make the ask?

I know this is the one aspect of fundraising that terrifies people (and it can be scary) but it’s also exciting, energising and exhilarating.


1. Remember – you are building a relationship

Take some of the pressure off yourself by remembering that what is most important about every fundraising solicitation meeting is that you build a relationship with the donor. And you can do that, right? You are not a hermit who has no friends or relationships – with colleagues, friends and family – so use your natural ability to start to get to know your potential donor (or more likely if this is an ask meeting) to get to know them better. You are having a conversation. Yes of course, the point of the meeting is getting the gift but it’s also about building a long term relationship with your potential donor.


2. Listen more than you talk

You are aiming to talk for 25% of the time. And that’s it. If you talk more than the donor, they don’t feel like they are being heard (and let’s face it, they’re not if you’re talking, are they?) and they don’t feel engaged in your conversation. We all have friends who talk AT us and not with us. And I’m guessing they’re not the friends that you rush to spend time with. So don’t be the person who talks about themselves all the time. Like I said in point 1, it’s a conversation and one in which you should be doing most of the listening. It’s the only way you will find out what your potential donor is thinking about your non-profit and, by listening, you will be able to pick up key information or signals that they are giving you in the lead up to making the perfect ask and getting the gift.


3. Ask for advice

Don’t just present your case and then go in with a ‘so I’d like you to consider giving…’ Ask the donor what they think of what you’ve told them. Do they have any advice about your plans? What is their opinion of what you’re proposing to do? Again, this will all help to get them thinking more deeply about your programme or organisation and will engage them more in what you are asking them to contribute to.


4. Ask for the gift, then shut up…

“I would like you to consider making a gift of…” then close your mouth, open your ears and listen to their reaction to your proposal. The reality is that, with major donor fundraising, you are (as I said at the start) 85% of the way there by the time you get through the door. Does this mean you will have a 100% strike rate? No, of course not. But it does mean that you will be going into the meeting with a clear idea of how much you want to ask for and what you think this potential donor is likely to contribute to. So make the ask and then ‘hud your wheesht’ (as they say where I come from). Or in other words, stop talking.


5. Leave with a follow up plan

Make sure that when you leave the donor knows what the follow up from the meeting will be. Have they asked for more information? Do they want to come in and see what they will be supporting? Have a clear follow up plan – and make sure that you’ve communicated it to the donor so they know what to expect too.


So those are my 5 steps to making the ask – successfully. How will you go about implementing them so your non-profit will be successful in getting the gift?

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The Secret to Getting Prospect Meetings Fri, 09 May 2014 07:09:01 +0000 Continue reading The Secret to Getting Prospect Meetings]]> prospect meetingsA question I’m often asked is:

“How can I get more prospect meetings in the diary?”

You’ve spent weeks, sometimes months, researching the perfect donors. You’ve established who is in your networks and have a really clear project or campaign that is visionary and ambitious – but now you’ve got to convince those people on your prospect list to meet with you. So how do you go about it?

1. Make a commitment to get out of the office

Strange as it may sound, if you haven’t actually set yourself a target in terms of number of meetings with potential donors each week or each month, you are likely to fall at the first hurdle.  As with everything else, setting goals is the first step in actually achieving them. So how many prospect meetings do you want (or need) to have each month? Can you break that down into a weekly target? That will give you an idea of

a) how many prospects you need to be approaching and

b) how much time you need to spend out of the office.

It’s easy to get stuck in the office writing newsletters or donor appeals but unless you actually get out there and ask for money, you’re unlikely to have much success.

Gail Perry has written a great post that gives practical advice on how to actually go about achieving your prospect meeting targets.


2. Use your events to introduce potential donors to your charity

If you already run events, you may want to consider using these to invite potential donors along to hear about your work, as a way to secure prospect meetings. Or better still, your board members may want to invite them along.  Make sure that you make a point of meeting your key prospects at the event, introduce yourself to them, talk about your charity’s aims and objectives and LISTEN to what they have to say.  I’ve written a post about networking if this is out of your comfort zone with some tips on how to manage such a meeting but the priority here is not to ask for money – no way! It’s to have a conversation and listen to what your prospect has to say. Are they interested in hearing more about your charity? Great. Make sure you leave them by asking if you can call their office to make an appointment to meet with them to discuss your goals in more detail – or to ask their opinion. That way, they’re more likely to remember you and, more importantly, to actually put that date in the diary.


3. Ask for referrals

I have written about the importance of using your networks to build your prospect lists before – here, here and here – and this is most effective if you don’t just find out who is within your reach but that you also ask your board, donors and volunteers to make introductions for you to potential donors who may be interested in your work.

Make sure that those prospects are qualified (by doing the CAR test – Capacity, Affinity and Reachability) and ask your contacts if they would make a referral. They don’t have to make the ask if they’re not comfortable with it but would they introduce you and your charity? We are all far more likely to listen to the recommendations of a friend or trusted colleague than to simply take something at face value based on a nice letter or a good website – and this rule applies just as much to fundraising (if not more) as it does for everything else.


4. Make your research count

Before you write to ask for a meeting or send an event invitation, you should know what makes your prospect tick. Not just in terms of the CAR test but building from that you should have a clear idea of:

  • what their interests are – particularly in terms of charitable support
  • what they are passionate about
  • what their affinity is with your cause

Whether they are a high net worth individual or the CEO of a company you’d like to have as a sponsor, you need to know what makes them tick and what motivates their charitable giving and support. That way, you can get your initial ‘pitch’ letter right by stating why you’re inviting them in and what you’d like to talk to them about tailored precisely to their interests.


So my question to you is this:

What are you going to do today to start getting more prospect meetings in the diary for your charity? I’d love to hear so please leave your comments below…


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