I received this text message from a client recently:
“Ok. Working on an email to someone with whom I’ve already had a discovery visit. Now I want to make an ask. Sample messaging: “I’m writing because I’m planning another visit to your area on March 23. Do you have time for a visit that week? I’d like to continue the conversation about your involvement with the Really Great Foundation. I have a couple of opportunities for support that I believe you’ll find interesting.” Help me wordsmith? Or tell me I’m overthinking it.”
Not bad, I responded, but here are a couple of pieces of advice:
Assume a Yes.
Business-minded board members are always confusing fundraising with marketing and sales. The differences are vast, but this is one tip that fundraisers should really take from salespeople: always walk into an ask assuming you’re going to get a yes. Assume your prospect is going to be as excited about this mission as you are. Always approach a prospect with confidence. If you’re not confident in your approach, they won’t be confident in you.
And even if you don’t get that yes, even when a donor says “maybe” or “no,” don’t assume it’s because they don’t want to make a gift. Maybe now’s not the right time. Maybe you weren’t the right asker. Maybe you hadn’t answered all of their questions yet. Maybe they need some time to move some money around. Maybe their investment portfolio plummeted with the coronavirus scare and they’ll be back on top again in a couple months and ready to make a major gift.
Assume “maybe” and “no” mean not right now, at least until a donor tells you they’re not interested in supporting your cause.
Don’t make it easy for a donor to say no.
This is part of that confidence. Don’t be apologetic about your request for a meeting, and don’t give them an easy out. Don’t ask yes or no questions if you don’t want a no.
In this example, don’t ask if they have time for a visit. It’s 2020 and nobody has time for anything.
Instead of “Do you have time for a visit that week?” say “I’d like to schedule a visit. What does your schedule look like that week?”
See what I did there? I assumed a yes. I assume they want to make time for a visit, because our cause is worth it. I didn’t give an easy out.
Instead of “I have a couple of opportunities for support that I believe you’ll find interesting,” punch it up! Try “I have a couple of opportunities where you could make a big impact!” or “I have a couple of opportunities that I think you’re going to love!” Just because fundraising is your job doesn’t mean you have to use business speak. Try to sound like a human being who is pumped about your mission, talking to a friend who is also pumped about your mission.
Try it this week when communicating with donors. Drop in an exclamation point or two. Remove all yes or no questions from your emails. Be brave! Your cause is worth putting yourself out there in an optimistic, confident way!