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?