Asking Made Easy: From First Time Gifts to Major Donors
DonorPerfect Community Conference 2022
Asking Made Easy: From First Time Gifts to Major Donors TranscriptPrint Transcript
Amanda: All right. Well, good afternoon, good evening, or good morning, wherever you guys are logging in from. Welcome to our first session of today; Asking Made Easy, From First Time Gifts to Major Donors presented by Lindsey Simmons. Before I hand the session over to Lindsey, Read More
Amanda: All right. Well, good afternoon, good evening, or good morning, wherever you guys are logging in from. Welcome to our first session of today; Asking Made Easy, From First Time Gifts to Major Donors presented by Lindsey Simmons. Before I hand the session over to Lindsey, I’d like to remind you all to be sure to add your questions to the Q&A tab so that we can see them and answer them at the end of the presentation. Questions that you put into the general chat area may not get answered due to the constant scrolling of the screen. With that said, Lindsey, I’m going to turn it over to you.
Lindsey Simmons: All right, awesome. Audio good? I’m going to assume it is because I don’t see you anymore. I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you all for joining us. I’m Lindsey Simmons of Lindsey Simmons Consulting. I’ve been in major gift fundraising and fundraising at large for my most of my career. Over a decade, I have raised over a billion dollars. I’m thrilled to be talking to you about how to make the ask at any size. Let me just get the next slide going, there we go.
Here I am. You can find out more about me at lindseysimonsconsulting.com. I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn, and sometimes on Instagram. I’m trying to manage my social media. I want to start with the story that is the theme of this conference. I just had a really timely experience where one of the campaigns that I’m managing, one of the donors or one of the volunteers was reaching out to a donor.
Now, this donor had heard about our capital campaign a couple of times already. He filled out a survey that had been sent, he had attended a reunion, he is an alumni of a school, and he’d also sat down and talked with our fundraisers about the project. Then when it came time for the ask, the client reached out and said, “This is what our project is, you’ve been involved in it. Let’s have a conversation about how you can be supportive of it.”
They had gone through all of those the cycle of the first capturing attention, that cultivation, that discovery of interest, moving into a briefing, really getting to know the project itself, the budget, the timeline, the purpose, the vision, the why. Then ultimately asking permission to make the ask. Then when our fundraiser made the ask, he said, “Hmm. Okay, let me think about this.” She said, “Great, I’m not looking for an answer right now, but let’s find another time, maybe in a week or two, and let’s talk about what you think you can do.”
He agreed. They set up a time then and there, and they followed up the next week. When they followed up, he said, “Because you made such a meaningful, specific, and personal solicitation of me, I’m thrilled to say yes. I’ll not only meet the ask that you gave, but I’m also going to do a little bit more on top of that for your general operations.” It was for the organization at large and for a specific project. That was the best-case scenario. That’s one that I really love to see highlighted because it’s a process that we’re talking about in fundraising.
Now again, whether this is capital campaign, major gifts, or an annual fund ask, even an event ask, an electronic solicitation, what you’re doing is you’re walking the donor through a process with you to understand the purpose, the why, the meaning, the heart of the project, then really making sure that it makes sense. Does it make good business sense that makes sense to the head, heart, and gut?
That’s really the essence of what we’ll be talking about today so that hopefully you can set yourself up for meaningful and specific solicitations that result in yeses. We’re going to talk about how solicitation really is your mission. Your mission as a fundraiser, or as a board member, or as a leader of the organization is to ensure that your organization is funded. That’s how nonprofits are structured.
We can get into the dialogue about nonprofits, a business operation at a different time, but the essence is your job is to advocate for this organization that you care so deeply about, and help others to see how they can have an impact too through their philanthropy, and how it can be meaningful then to them as well.
There are various types of donors out there and asks like I was talking about earlier. We’ve got different segments of our fundraising pipeline that we might want to be taking note of. Then how are you matching your donor with a specific solicitation, what’s the right solicitation, and how do you do it? Then we’re going to get into brass tacks samples of specific language.
If for nothing else, you can download this presentation, you can also download a handout that I’ve created that has specific five-point guidance as well as the ask language. Print it out, practice it, make it your own. The most important thing that I want you to hear of this entire presentation is that “Be yourself.” If you’re in your conviction and you’re in your confidence, then an invitation to support your organization can’t go wrong. Know what you’re going to say, know how you want to say it, go in there, and relate to a person.
We are not doing a survey today, but I just want to ask you– If you’re on your computer, type in your response. If you’re driving or you’re listening to this on a walk, which I love to do, then, obviously, don’t worry about it, but if you’re sitting in front of a computer right now, please answer into the chat box. Have you ever put off making an ask because you just didn’t feel confident about it? You weren’t sure what to say, how to say it, and you just put it off. You gave it three months, six months, you never actually even did it. What happened?
Yes, I’m seeing some responses here. Yes, so many. Eleanor is saying, “Handouts are on the way, so totally sure.” We’re getting tons of responses. That’s what the energy of this conversation is really about. It’s how do you create more confidence, how do you create a plan so that you don’t have that anxiety attack and paralysis of analysis, and you just put it off. It is something that you can master, anyone, can.
I promise you this is actually a lot easier and more fun than you think it is once you start feeling more confident, then you can start playing with it, you can start understanding your own way. Oops, I clicked the wrong button here. “Can I just send an email?” Yes, of course, you can send an email if your job is annual fundraising and you’ll primarily communicate via technology, but human-to-human solicitation is really what we’re going to focus on today. That’s where you’re going to get the most engagement.
You’re going to see that people give time over time, repeat giving, and you’re going to see upgrades. People will give at one level, then they’ll give more, more, and more over time up to their capacity which, of course, is not up to us, when you have that human-to-human connection. Emails are good, phone calls are good, video conference is good, coffee in person is good, whatever you can do to really personalize your connection. You’re in constant communication. You can use this to really upgrade your dialogues.
This deck is created so they can be a standalone, there’s a lot of language on here. I know that most of you have also given fantastic presentations. We know that sometimes it’s better to have a few words on a slide as you’re really listening to a presenter, and other times, you want to have a robust deck so that somebody can download it and take it home with them. I’m using the latter strategy here.
You can skim and read along with me and pay attention because I’ll share everything that’s important on the screen. It’s really proven that understanding the impact of the gift and having a personal connection is going to result in more donations and more repeat giving, as I said earlier. What I was talking about at the very beginning of my presentation when I was talking about the example is we were thinking about the donor life cycle.
It’s understanding how do you engage your prospective donors by really discovering, first of all, who are your donors. We’ll get into that in the next slide, but then how do you deepen the relationship. Do you engage them in various ways? Do you have an electronic survey or something that’s– Maybe it’s a monthly newsletter, maybe it’s your Instagram social post, love seeing those. Maybe it’s even a video.
One of the presidents that I work with, he will record a message that’s like a 10 to 30-second message and send it to all of his top donors. That’s, “Hey, I’m just checking in with you. Here’s what’s going on with the program. This, this, and this happened today. Have a great day,” send. I really like that approach. Now that everybody is more technologically savvy, whether we like it or not, that’s the direction that we’re going in. It’s really deepening the relationship.
Then the next step, think about this as a phase. The next step is really briefing your donors. Helping them to understand what’s to come, what’s happening, what are the details. I think of a briefing as not just the get to know you, have a good time, but it’s a little bit more of the nuts and bolts. What’s our budget? Where does the money go? How does it create change? Where are we hoping to go? What’s our vision for the future. Those elements will really help bring your perspective donor along to become feeling like more of a partner and invested intellectually. They start to understand, oh, this organization is really doing good things with a thoughtful approach, a business-minded approach, strategic approach.
When they start feeling that they build natural affinity towards your trust, they start thinking, this makes sense to me. I’m not just being sold a bag of goods, which I’m sure none of you are doing, but I know that sometimes fundraising can feel really awkward when you just don’t want to talk about money. That’s something that Americans are really encouraged to not talk about money.
We really value privacy, but in fundraising, you’ve got to bridge that barrier. Jump into that unknown world or that uncomfortable world of being in the conversation about how you’re creating your mission is worthy. Your mission is worthy more than your fear, more than your anxiety, around how to make the ask. That’s where the briefing is. Then when you’re asking for your support, you’re making your resuscitation. I love the middle step of asking to ask, asking permission.
You’re saying, “Hey, John, we’ve been talking about this project. I’m so glad you got to know some of the other donors. I’m glad that you understand now our big picture plan, where the money’s coming from, where it’s going and where we’re going as an organization and what the impact of your giving is.” Now I’d love to transition to talking about how you can support this project.
Is that an appropriate thing to do now? You see, I’m asking a question, then I’m being silent, and then hopefully that donor says, absolutely thank you so much. Let’s go. What are you looking for? How can I help? Then you go into the solicitation. John, I’d really love for you to give a $1,000 today to be paid over the next five years. Is that something they’re able to do or it’s maybe $1,000 at any amount the fundamentals remain? You can ask for a $1,000 the same way you ask for a hundred million.
I know because I’ve done the whole gamut and you do the same steps of bringing somebody along and engaging them in the process, inviting them to support your organization, inviting them to be a part of the solution. Another transitional question or fate phrase could be something like now that you understand where the money is going, where it’s going to be, what’s going to be funding. Would you be willing to have a conversation about how you could fund it yourself? How we’re going to fund it together, any of that language, transitional language really helpful, and then going into the solicitation.
Then of course is keeping up with stewardship, telling your perspective donor, how their money has made an impact, how the collective has changed the gain for your organization. Then you’re back at the cycle again. Then you’re ready to make another solicitation. In your comments, just like you did already, and thank you so much for so many of you who are actively engaged in this presentation.
What motivates you in one to five words? What motivates you? Is it the person who’s asked you? Is it the impact of your gift? Is it your faith or sense of obligation or duty? What motivates you? I’ll call a few of your answers out. While you’re answering and I’m seeing good answers coming in, I do see a question about handouts and about the deck.
All of this will be given to you. You’re going to be given this recording the deck and handouts, and you can sign up with me. I’ll be happy to send you anything or email me rather. I’ll be happy to send you anything that you don’t get, or if you’d like more support just go to Lindsay@lindsaysimonsconsulting.com. That’s my direct email and my website, LindsaySimonsconsulting.com.
Happy to support you in your journey. I also have a podcast, Creating Community For Good, that walks through a seven-minute training of exactly what we’re doing. If you want this in a more condensed way, seven minutes now I’m getting so many responses. This is great. Making a lasting impact, respectful change, impact on the mission.
Knowing that the money will be well used, being personal, making sure that my ethics and align with the morals that the others are holding have feeling the power to have a positive change and impact there’s sincerity and mission and enthusiasm, relationship activism through giving the cause, knowing exactly where my money’s going, belief that the gift will have an impact. Thank you all so much for your participation. I’m going to move back into the deck. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.
That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you so much for those of you who submitted because every single one of us is motivated by something slightly different. There are lots of trainings that you can understand. What motivates people look at archetypes, look at the seven phases of philanthropy. What’s important is that you get to know your donor, but know that at large, what I just read out is what we see statistically as well.
People fundamentally give to people. They want to know that there is a connection to who they’re giving to. They want to know that this is going to have an impact. They want to know that there’s transparency. This is above board. They want to have alignment with their values. That’s how you really want to consider what motivates your donor before you go in and have a conversation with them. If you don’t know easy to ask the question, “Donor, what motivates you?
Why do you give to organizations? What do you love about our organization?” Easy to ask that thing. I think it’s really important that fundraisers, whether again, it’s a profession for you or you’re a volunteer, or you’re just listening in on this presentation, know that whatever you ask for, whether it’s for a nonprofit or something you need help with when you ask somebody to help you out or to help an organization or impact change, most people want to do that. Get to know them, ask them what motivates you?
What drives change for you? Would you be willing to support us? Would you be willing to help? Would you be willing to invest? What does the future look like to you with the impact of a collective organization here? Don’t be afraid to ask really high-value questions. As you’re considering, who do I ask? Let’s say you are brand new to an organization.
I’m working with another nonprofit where they are hiring fundraisers. In fact, if anybody’s looking for an awesome job, we’ve got a couple of openings and we are recruiting actively. Feel free to ping me. It’s an organization that is very strongly mission-driven, and we’re going to give the new hires a list of about 150 names. That’s going to be their portfolio. That’s a pretty common average between 100 and 200 for any professional fundraiser in a year to be engaging with that many people. Now what’s important to figure out is how do I segment this? How do I make sense of this? I really like to do a little rating on affinity, access, and ability. If you don’t know any of the donors, again, that’s okay. Go out and have a conversation with them. Get to know them, consider that your briefing stage.
Before you get to the ask, don’t jump right in and get to know what is their natural affinity for? Is it you? Is it for this specific organization? Is it for the mission at large? Is it for the region? Thinking about where is there a natural connection? You don’t have to sell them anything. They already believe in what you’re doing. You just have to tell them that you’ve got the vehicle to get it done. Then you’re thinking about who’s got what ability.
Thinking about capacity to give financial capacity, then you start segmenting. This person is historically giving this, I’m seeing on a wealth rating that they’re able to do that. Let’s ask them for something around here. Now, the next grouping they might be in the next a bigger category, perhaps. It’s just starting to think a little bit about what could this person do financially.
Again, you never know, you never know until you ask. It’s up to you to make an educated guess. That’s where the science and the art of fundraising come in. Then you ask them, I don’t know your capacity, but I do know of the impact that you could make with a $5,000 investment in this project. Is that something you’re willing to do and then finally access?
Making sure that you’re really thinking about, do we have a connection to this prospective donor or is it just that we’re all trying to get in front of Mackenzie Scott. The Oprah or Gates, is that everybody wants Mackenzie Scott’s attention and that’s good and it’s worthy, but think about what’s actually in your reach. Who do you actually have a relationship with either you as the fundraiser or the board member or volunteer who’s in your one or two degrees of separation? Now you can use donor perfect to filter reports and see who is in which constituency so that you can start categorizing.
That’s a good resource for you to just remember that donor gets this. Now and also segmenting. Donor perfect is awesome at that. This is where I was alluding to this earlier. Can you start categorizing? Plan your work, work your plan. Do you have major gifts? Those are your heavy hitters. Those are the ones that you really want to sit down and have a conversation with that you’re going to want to talk to them, perhaps even about a multi-year gift, whether it’s a capital campaign or not.
I love multi-year gifts. I do it for board members and all top prospect donors, major donors, historic donors. I talk to those folks about the impact of multi-year giving in that it can help us to have more specific projections, more clear projections so that we can plan ahead. We can create programs, they’ll match our funding. We know that others will come to the table and others will give to us, but we don’t know how much they’ll give yet.
If we can see our major donors and our board members as our rocks, as our major, big rocks of our foundation, then we can filter in the rest with our annual gift fundraisers, with our cause-based fundraisers or funders, I should be saying. Our event funders, people who are doing one-time, transactional giving. Start knowing, okay, who is going to give what, and how do I want to prioritize them. That’s what this is about here.
How are we thinking about managing our time? Again, donor perfect can help you with this data identification, prioritization, segmentation and just keep in mind that you’re going to feel like your work is easier when you’re biting off one chunk at a time, and that’s why I’ve spent so much time talking about prioritization and segmentation.
You can say, okay, in this quarter, I’m going to focus on this group. In the next quarter. I’m going to work on this group. Or maybe it’s on Mondays, I do this segment, on Tuesdays, this segment. However, your brain works in looking at your fundraising goals for the year, think through how can I make my work more bites sizeable rather than the 200 prospects. I don’t even know where to start. Segmenting them out, creating plans for each of those groups, and then start walking through those plans.
All right. Of course, regular engagement is key. Whether you have an automated mailing that goes out once a quarter, or maybe once a month, or if it’s a regular sit down, I’m about to attend on Thursday, we’ve got a president circle. It’s for anybody who has given at a certain amount, they do an annual dinner and it’s complimentary to our donors, and we sit down and we talk about the impact of their giving. They get a chance to meet each other. They get a chance to bond, feel connected.
As we know that many people are motivated by the social aspect of philanthropy and nonprofit involvement. This is a concept to consider how might I segment or take the segments of my donor pipeline and create a system for regular engagement. It’s going to help. Now, the fun stuff, determining the ask. Okay. How do you know how much to ask? The reality is that you’re going to have to take a leap of faith.
I know this goes back to so many of you who responded, yes, I have put off solicitation because I’ve been scared or nervous, or I just didn’t know where to start. I lacked confidence. Thinking through your segments, thinking through how have I been in touch with them in the past, how have they been engaged so that hopefully the first time that you talk to them is not a solicitation, but maybe it’s the third, fourth, fifth perhaps even more, depending.
Now, at some point you got to get to the ask, right? At some point and you just transition and telling them, “I don’t know what you can do, but I know what our organization is doing and what it can do with X number of dollars.” Is that something you can consider and giving it to them? You can use wealth ratings, you can use historic giving, you can use frequency, you can also use your volunteers or other donors asking them, what have you seen from this family?
Have you seen them support our organization or other organizations in the past? This is, of course, a confidential conversation. Don’t do it with just anyone. If you’ve got a couple of very close advisors on your board or volunteers, you might ask them, “So how can we consider what’s the right approach or what’s the right dollar amount to ask our prospective donor for?”
It’s asking around, looking at wealth ratings and looking at historic giving, and then going ahead and asking them. You can even ask in one of your briefing meetings before the solicitation. “Sally, tell me about your philanthropy. What size gifts feel good to you? What makes you feel like you’ve had a big impact?” This is not an ask right now. I just want to know that we can approach you in a way that’s meaningful to you. Help me understand what feels good for you.
Asking questions this might seem a little bit obvious, but I don’t see them asked very often. I tell you what, when you do ask these discovery-type questions, high-value questions, you’re going to essentially have your perspective, donor lay out a plan for you. Here’s what I like. Here’s what I don’t like. Here’s what I’ve done. Here’s what I won’t do. Then you can follow those steps and say, “I heard you say this.
I acknowledge this is important to you. This is what we’re going to do. Will that work for you? Again, it’s all about the dialogue. All right. Making the ask itself, be yourself. I like to talk about power poses, opening your arms, opening your heart, getting your hands up. There’s a lot of research out there about how important it is to elevate your hormones, your actual endorphins. Your testosterone gets activated. Your serotonin kicks in. You’re calm when you open your body up.
I’m into the meditation-breathing world. I recommend that others do that too. Even if that’s not something part of your normal practice. Before you go into an ask, take a minute to yourself, close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Think about what your goals are, how you want to communicate to this person, and go in there. if you slow down for a minute and you’re catching your breath, that’s okay.
Believe me, people don’t notice when you’re taking a moment to breathe. In fact, they’re probably needing a moment to breathe as well. Be yourself and being yourself, being your best self means that you’re in your own body. You’re in your own skin. You’re not having all the anxiety that one can start feeling could be triggered when talking about money or making a big bold ask.
Come prepared. I always like to ring material with me. Now, what I’ve learned is that the material’s really more of a crutch for the fundraiser than for the benefit of the prospective donor, but that said, it can be ripped, crutch. Come with your case for support, come with a brochure, come with a news article that’s supporting the impact of your organization.
Manage the clock. Think about oh, sorry– One more thing to include with coming prepared. If you’re going in for a solicitation, then you want to have something with you that you can document their response. If they go with, “Yes, I want to give you what you just asked me for right now,” you say, “Awesome. I brought with me a pledge form or a letter of intent to be prepared. Would you mind signing it?” Perfect.
Then you’ve got your accounting lined up. You’ve got your documentation, your golden at that point. I really recommend that. If somebody says, “I’m not ready to give yet.” “No problem. We are not looking for an answer today.” Let’s talk about it again next week. You never pull out that pledge form. You just keep it by your side or let’s say you’re on a video solicitation, as I know it’s happening still.
You don’t click on that tab. Totally okay. Just being prepared with what you might need, just in case. You might also bring a table of gifts. You might bring a list of donors who’ve already supported this organization or this project so long as they’re consensual, of course. Then managing the clock. I like to think about the first quarter of sitting down, just level setting, getting that human-to-human connection, locking eyes, that sort of thing.
Then your second quarter, this is what we’re and also in the first quarter, letting them know this is the game plan for the next hour. I want to share with you a little bit about– I would love to catch up with you, hear how you’re doing, and I would love to then share with you again. Reiterate the primary purpose of this conversation or of this mission, whatever it is that you’re talking about, so what’s your impact, whether it’s a project or the organization at large.
Then moving into, and then I’d love to hear from you, what is meaningful to you and what are your thoughts on our plans? Then I’d love to talk to you about how you might be able to support it. Those are your quarters. You’ve said that to your perspective, donor at the very beginning of the meeting, and then you acted out. Okay. In every quarter you’re taking a look at the time, hopefully, it’s nearby and not awkward.
Don’t worry about it if you have to pull up your phone every 15 minutes. Skip that. That’s going to be weird. Just have a time a clock in your head and start thinking about, have I shared what I need to be sharing? Have I given them a chance to reflect and to give me feedback and to share what’s meaningful to them? Then at the last quarter, so the last 15 minutes of an hour, or if it’s a 45-minute meeting, the last 10 minutes, that’s when you want to make the ask.
If you make the ask at the beginning of the meeting, they’re not going to be able to listen to a single word you say. All they’re going to be thinking about is, whoa, I didn’t expect that. How am I going to do that? Should I say yes, should I say no? Where did this come from? They’re going to be running through their questions as any human might, assuming that you’re making a big, bold solicitation. That’s why I like to wait until the end so you have a chance to connect, build rapport, talk about the impact, talk about the mission and talk about any questions that might still be remaining. Then once most of those are resolved, that’s when you say, “Is it okay if we talk about how you might support this project?” You go in and you say it clearly. You use specific language, you use their name, you make the ask, you tell them why, and then you’re silent. Stop talking, let them have a chance to respond and then you close.
You’re either thanking them or you’re saying, “I’m not looking for a decision today, please carefully consider it.” If somebody full-on refuses, we’ll talk about that in a few minutes, you’re most likely not going to get that if you’ve actually had a couple of meetings with them in advance. Because otherwise, they wouldn’t be taking your meetings if they’re not willing to go down a path with you. Perhaps they’ll give you much smaller gift than what you had hoped for. Most times, 99.9% of the time they’re not going to say, “You know what? No, I’m not going to support this organization,” if you’ve met with them a couple of times.
All right, so getting into a little bit more detail about what I was covering earlier, being your best self. What’s it going to take for you to be confident? How are you going to show up in your best self? Coming prepared. Not going empty-handed, it’s bringing the material that you need to support you and to support them. Managing the clock, so this is when you’re looking at, how am I using my time wisely? What are we really doing? Making sure that this is a dialogue, not a pitch, not a presentation. You’re actually having communication here and then you’re saying it well, you’re saying it clearly, you’re saying their name. You’re saying a specific solicitation and you’re telling them why in one or two sentences.
All right, let’s do a little bit more engagement with the audience. Jump back onto your text, into the live chat, and tell me what’s your go-to solicitation language? We’re going to get into that too, so I’d love to see what you usually say. It’s going to take a minute and that’s okay. Oh, Kristen Ward, it’s great to see you here. I just saw your comment here, “Being silent and waiting for a reply after making the ask is very important.” Yes, absolutely, thank you for that comment. Jim, “Sincerity wins the day.” Absolutely. “Should soft asks be prepared?” Oh. Should soft asks be prepared in throughout? Yes, so soft asks absolutely. Think through what are your soft asks. Are your soft asks, “Would you be a volunteer?”
Maybe your soft ask is, would you be willing to support this project? That’s a yes, no. Then they say, yes, sure what are you looking for? Then they’re going to tee you right up. Yes, thinking through how you might get them into that yes mode or even no, just responding. Is this something that’s meaningful to you? No. Okay, great, what is meaningful to you? Have you determined by having great conversations that this project or this organization that you’re representing is not a priority that they want to fund? No harm, no foul, move on, thank them for their time. All right, so I was buying a little bit of time there so that people had a chance to respond, and thank you.
I’m seeing really good engagement again. What’s your go-to solicitation language? I’m seeing great responses, I’m going to read some of them out as I’ve done in the past. It’s asking for advice. I’ve seen a couple of thumbs up to that one. What project makes your heart sing? Love that language, absolutely, nice job, Valerie. I’m seeing three hearts and two thumbs up, so obviously people really resonate with that. Oh, I’ve already said that one, the being silent afterwards.
Investing in the future of the org’s mission. Thanks, Joseph. If you’re saying, would you be interested in investing in the future of our mission? You can specifically say the mission as well, asking for advice. It’s in person-friendly ask. Feedback, asking for feedback. I love this, Hailey. What keeps you up at night? What keeps you up at night? What’s meaningful to you? They equals you, you are the gift. That’s one of my favorite subject lines, says Miriam. Nice, Miriam, thank you. Sally, great.
What does impact look like and feel like to you? Laura, listen to your donor ask questions. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from those, I’m going to stop reading those out. Feel free to keep chatting and keeping the dialogue alive. I know we’re in a virtual conference, but it’s important for us all to feel a little connected, so that’s why I try to pause for these conversation points and so you can all see each other and hear what each other is thinking. Yes, we’re here to learn together and I think that the examples that have been shared in the chat were terrific so thank you for sharing those. Everyone has a different style and that’s all good.
Now, this slide, like I said earlier, this is a text-heavy slide, so listen to what I’m saying. Don’t get too stressed about what’s written there, you can print this out. Really it’s thinking about sharing your story yes, and sharing the mission, sharing what’s your why? What keeps you up at night? What makes your heart saying, and then learning theirs. Really taking the time to ask those high-value questions, to hear what keeps them up, what’s a priority for them?
Then here is some sample language for you. This is really specific. Sally, we invite you to invest $100,000 today as an example. All right, I’m doing too much presentation mode. Let me just read this out. Sally, we invite you to make a $100,000 investment today so that we may do X, Y, Z tomorrow. Can we count on you for this? Are you willing to do this? It’s a specific and meaningful solicitation. You can also use a phrase like, I don’t know your capacity, but I do know how this gift would make a change on the organization.
This will help us to build the next building. Would you be willing to give $5,000 today and every year for the next four years, a total of $25,000 for five years? There’s some samples there, tons of samples that I’ve bolded out here just trying to give you a smattering or plethora of different phrases, different ways that you might feel comfortable doing the ask. All right, then closing strong, what does that mean? What that means is being prepared, being ready, being ready to handle your responses. It means that you’re keeping the ball moving, so you don’t just say thanks and I’ll follow up with you later and hang up.
No, you really want to set down a time where you can close the gap. Let’s say you opened the gift, but you opened the solicitation. Making the solicitation, and then they either said yes, and you signed it and you said, I’ll be in touch with you over the next couple of weeks to give you a copy of your signed letter of intent. Let you know who else has been involved or where the impact of your gift is going, whatever that might be, or if it’s that maybe I’m not sure yet. Not that amount, not this time, it’s figuring out when’s the right follow-up and what’s the right amount.
What will work for you? Let’s talk about this again in a week or two, and then you set a date and then following up. Thanking them again, reiterating the key points. I’d go with three key points and your next steps. People aren’t reading long emails anymore. They’re not wanting a ton of literature anymore, so keeping it focused on what’s the most important and essential information.
If somebody does say no, again, not very likely that they’re going to get to this point and say no, you can still handle it with grace. Thank you so much for your time and willingness to hear our case. Is there anything that we could have done or can be doing differently to gain your financial support and trust in our organization in the future? When you get a no, ask for the feedback and do it with humility and with grace, assuming that it’s appropriate.
If somebody’s really angry even you might say that, “It sounds like you’re angry. I’m sorry to hear that.” We’ve disappointed you in some way or that you feel disappointed in some way. What could we do differently? That does not happen very often. Again, if you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably not getting there. Okay, if somebody does say, “Okay, I’m going to give much less, but I’ve already thought about it. That gift or that request is way out of my league. You asked for a $100,000, I’m thinking I can give you $10,000 and I’ve thought about this, I figured this was coming.”
At that point what you’re looking for, your spiny sense is saying, is this a thoughtful response? In that case, the phrasing that I just used is yes. Yes. That person has considered this, they’re able to do $10,000, I would just go with, “Thank you so much. That’s wonderful let’s write it down.” If somebody says, “Wow, $100,000. I wasn’t expecting that, I was thinking more of like a couple thousand.” Then say, “No problem, I’m not looking for an answer today. Would you be willing to consider it? Would you be willing to consider the impact that $100,000 could have? If it’s not $100,000, what could you do to try to meet that?”
Most likely they’ll say, “Okay, yes, I’ll give it some time.” Then again, then and there, you say, “Great, can we follow up in a week or two? What’s the right timing for you?” That way, what you’re doing is you’re assessing out, is somebody giving a meaningful gift that they’ve given thought to? Or is it just that they’d been ballparking something totally different. If it’s that ballparking and gut reaction, ask them for a little bit more time. If it’s meaningful and thoughtful, accept it with grace. If they need a little bit more time, which is very common, then you do exactly what we’ve talked about already. When is the best time for us to follow up? Usually, I like to follow up in a week or two, does that work for you?
They might say. “No, I’d really like to wait until my child graduates in the spring. Let’s talk next year.” No problem. In the meantime, I’ll plan on reaching out to you two or three times with some updates on what’s happening at the school, and in the spring, we can talk about your investment. So you’re telling somebody at all times what they can expect from you. So you’re telling them. “I’ll still reach out to you, but I won’t make an ask until you told me that it’s the right time.”
I think that when you are feeling like you’re managing expectations and you’re being clear, you’re getting buy-in on a plan, you feel more emboldened and empowered to actually act out that plan and you’re not doing the guesswork. That’s where a lot of fundraisers feel that anxiety and lack of confidence is when they start second-guessing themselves. Well, we just talked in the spring of 2022 and they said they wouldn’t be ready until spring of ’23 so I guess I’ll put them on my chart for next year and I won’t reach out again.
No, you want to just tell them, “Great, I’ll reach out a few times and let you know what’s going on and then the spring we can talk about money.” Then you’ve got a plan for yourself and then you know that when you reach out, you ask them for a coffee or you tell them about what’s going on. You know and they know that there’s not going to be any surprises and that you’re just doing a touch point. Telling people what to expect from you and planning your work, working your plan as I said earlier, that’s going to make you feel more comfortable and your prospective donor more comfortable.
Again, if it’s a yes, sign it, sign something. That’s so important nowadays. Auditing is really critical to nonprofits and knowing what you have to work with. Having something in writing is helpful and in most cases is not going to be legally binding. That’s why I use terms of letter of intent, pledge form, commitment, intentions, but it’s not legally binding. You can tell your donor that as well but you’re saying this is a best, or a faith base or invest faith, I’m losing my words at the end here, your intentions, and we’re going to count on this. A lot of stuff, anything that’s going to change, this is really helpful for us to know how we can invest that money into the program to make the difference that we’ve all talked about is important to us.
Those are some ways to handle the responses. Now, last slide before questions come up, just to give you a teaser. We’ve got 15 minutes and these are the takeaways. I’d love for you to start thinking about your questions and filtering them in and during the break, the team is going to help me to navigate those questions. Fill them in, we’ve got some time to talk.
Think again about how fundraising is your mission, and that it’s a way bigger mission than you. Your fear, your ego, your sense of, can I get these words out of my mouth? Remember that’s just personal to you. That’s not what’s personal to that person, to the donor and it’s not what’s important or meaningful to your mission. Your mission is bigger than you, it’s bigger than your fear and I’d like to shout out to Julie Ordonez. She really talks about taking hold of that ego and of that fear and understanding that your mission really is to your peoples.
She was on my podcast, Creating Community For Good podcast. She’s in one of the most recent episodes, I think it would be 48 or something like that. That’s a good refresher for you to hear some passion about how important it is to take yourself out and just see yourself as a conduit. Consider that and then tailoring your ask so you’re segmenting your pipeline, you’re prioritizing them and you’re creating engagement pathways, knowing that each of those groups might have a different pathway. If you create pathways that are consistent, then your workload will be much easier.
It’s to say certain donors are going to get X number of emails, certain donors are going to get X number of personal visits, certain donors are going to get X number of stewardship events. Others are going to be invited to other events, fundraising events, and then others we sit down in person for solicitations and others we do email, customized email solicitations. Just segmenting and prioritizing and planning.
That’ll make your job easier. Then study the five fundamentals of the ask. again, I’ve got seven-minute training on my podcast and on my website, go through this deck again, print this out. This deck was really created to be a printout so that it can be a resource to you and not just a one time experience. I really hope that this was helpful.
This is something I’m passionate about. I love fundraising. As a professional consultant, I just love the opportunity to work with people to get over their fears and to impact their organization by making bold asks. If you start feeling more comfortable and feeling that the passion of the opportunity to make the ask and to bring somebody along so they can fulfill their mission and their needs, then it’s a win-win. A lot of people, so they may work in a totally different field than your nonprofit does and being able to give money to people who do the work day in day out is a great gift to them.
Think of it as really a win-win and that people have missions that they want to fulfill through their funding as well. Al right, I’ve bought a little bit of time. We can go through some of the questions and answers. I’m going to just take a moment to read them and invite DonorPerfect team if you want to come back in, feel free. Hey, Amanda?
Lindsay: Good morning. How are you doing?
Amanda: I’m doing good especially after hearing all that great content. Before we go ahead and read the questions, I did want to share one of the comments that was placed in the chat that I thought was super interesting, which was Rager Snyder. She said she had a donor who was thinking about giving $25,000 and she presented him with opportunities to give 25 and 75 and he gave 75,000.
Amanda: I thought that was a very interesting comment. It got a lot of traction so I just wanted to highlight that for everyone in the chat.
Lindsay: Yes, that’s good, Amanda, and I would love to reiterate that that’s a great strategy. Coming with a pipeline, or excuse me, not a pipeline, I just got struck by that pop up, but table a menu of giving. It’s 25 would do this, 75 would do that, 100 would do this. It’s thinking about even if it’s not a tangible physical thing that they can invest in, it’s ways that you can conceptualize your work, so that they can say, “Oh, wow, with a little bit more, you can do X, Y, and Z, I want to do that. That’s what I’m in for.” So great example, Amanda, thanks for drawing attention to it. Also, you can use that strategy with recognition.
Sometimes people, not everyone, but some people are motivated as a sub-motivation, sometimes primary, but usually a sub-motivation by recognition. Maybe it’s thinking about their legacy, their family legacy, maybe it’s honoring one of their– I was just talking to a donor about how they have an endowment in their aunt’s name, and the aunt’s passed on but the niece is still around and this organization just listed her again, to continue to honor her aunt. She loved that. She said, “Yes, I will because I want to see my aunt’s name in lights. I loved her so much.”
Recognition is another great way to increase people’s giving. Showing a menu of this is what we’re doing for donors at each level and we’d love for you to consider what makes sense to you.
Amanda: I love that. I’m so excited to take that idea of a menu to my clients now and help them implement that. All righty, so let’s pull up some of the questions then. Let’s see here, we got a lot of traction in here. Miriam was asking, how do you know that a donor is the right person and most likely that they will support your project?
Lindsay: How do you know that that’s the right person and that they’ll support your project? Is that the question?
Amanda: That is correct, yes.
Lindsay: Right. It’s that pre-work that we talked about already and then you’ve got to go in, and you’ve got to make the leap and figure out if you’re right or wrong. You think you know that this donor is going to be the right person, and that they’re going to support the project because you’ve had some dialogues with them. You talk to them about what’s meaningful to you, how do you see our mission being fulfilled through philanthropy? Do you see that our vision is in line with something that you believe in? That you believe is important?
Those are those high-value questions early on, to get to them to opening up and saying, “I love what you do. Yes, absolutely.” Or, “No, I just don’t really agree with your approach.” If they’re not agreeing, well, asking them follow-up questions. “What would be helpful? Maybe I’m not communicating in the way that you’d like to hear. Would it be helpful if I bring a program officer? Would it be helpful if I bring the president? Would it be helpful if I bring another donor to another meeting?”
It’s thinking about objections, not being shutdowns, but being opportunities to reroute. Again, always asking for that feedback, how might we help to find alignment? If there’s just not alignment, thank them, and move on. Not everybody wants to support your organization. That’s okay. Totally okay. You don’t need everyone to love you. You just need a handful. Think about your project, your priorities, and what needs to get done, and don’t sweat it. If somebody says, “You guys are great, it’s not my priority.” “Great. Thank you for telling me.” Move on.
Amanda: It’s so important to be able to just let them go when needed.
Lindsay: Yes. Great, what else is coming up, Amanda?
Amanda: Let’s see, would you recommend different unique landing pages for each donor, and audience segment with trackable URL links to include an email and social media campaigns?
Lindsay: Ooh. Very interesting. I think that’s a great idea. It’s going to be costly of energy and resources to actually do that. If you have the technology and the person who can actually set that up, and manage it, then it sounds like it’s a good idea. I would just make sure that it can actually be managed, and not just set up so that it’s meaningful, and it doesn’t end up causing confusion, or glitches for your audience, but if you can, I don’t see why not. I think what you always want to maintain is considering that humans are humans, and they’ll give based on their capacity, their affinity, their connection, or how they’re approached.
It’s not necessarily because they get a different mission. Thinking about what are the core elements of your mission, and that a donor might give a dollar every month for the core mission, or a donor might give a million dollars for the core mission. Staying true to what is your mission, and what is your vision in all of those segments. Then maybe, it’s communicating differently. I’m thinking that this person is considering donors at a certain amount, or let’s say this is the amount, this is the group that are sustainers at the $10 a month level. Then you might say, with this collective community, we’re able to buy this new tech lab for the school.
I’m using a school, but this presentation, but it’s really for any organization, any sector. The idea is that if you can show impact at various levels, that they might see themselves in that level. If you’re then showing with $10 million, we’re able to do X, Y, and Z. Then you’re asking people for a half a million or two million, then they’re seeing themselves in that like-community. I can see how that segmentation would really make sense if you can do it. Cool idea. Thanks for sharing that.
Amanda: All righty, Alison asked, can you share a list of questions you suggest to ask donors during the engagement?
Lindsay: Yes. I can share a list of questions, and it is also if you Google Lindsay Simon’s consulting high-value questions, it’s on my website. I’ve got a blog post that has high-value questions, and Amanda and the team can help me to update a handout, and we can send that off too. That will be something you can look forward to in the follow-up material. Honestly, the best thing to do just because this is a big, big conference, and you’re going to get a lot of material, is perhaps to email me, and my contact information’s on there. Just say, “Hey, can you send me the link to the high-value questions?” I’ll just shoot them over to you, and you can print them out.
Amanda: All right. I just popped into the general chat for everyone, the link to Lindsay’s website, or at least to the blog. You can start perusing that as well.
Lindsay: Perfect. Yes.
Lindsay: I’m seeing another question while you’re reading, Amanda. Okay. George is asking, meeting with a couple can be beneficial. The husband said $100,000, but the wife reminded me that they were just remodeling their kitchen for $500,000. Wasn’t the school worth more? They ended up giving $500,000. That’s so funny. What a great example, George. You were talking about, was the school worth more than the kitchen? It sounds like it triggered them to feel like, yes, we can dig a little deeper. That’s good. Cool.
Amanda: Oh, that is really good. Alrighty. Ranita Hill asks, what if a potential donor never gave before, but now is in a space to do so due to a life event, and change of perspective? Is there a way to modify the ask steps for that type of person?
Lindsay: Ooh, interesting. I think that the ask steps remain the same, but maybe your questions are different. You’re still thinking about that pipeline, right? You’re still having a light-level touch going more, and more, and more focused and specific. If that person’s already in your universe, and you’ve already cultivated them in some way, then you’re going into the briefing and the briefing is where you ask a lot of those high-value questions. That’s where I would sit down, and just say, “Tell me about your experience. It sounds like you’ve had a life-changing event. What changed? What’s the difference between who you were yesterday, and who you are today?” Just open it up.
Just get them to open up, be a good listener, and be an active listener. Then I would transition to, “How do you see these changes impacting the way you want to live your life, and how you want to be involved in organizations like ours?” Again, you’re not talking about money yet, so that’s another soft ask. Somebody had mentioned it earlier. I forget which person, I’m sorry, but it was a good point. It’s how do you see yourself engaging in a different way again? Then as they continue to talk, maybe they’re talking about, well, I’m going to talk about the meaning of life differently, I’m going to talk about the meaning of organizations like yours differently, I’m going to talk about how to get involved.
I’m going to advocate for you, I’m going to volunteer for you, I want to support you. Maybe, it’s any one of those things, and you go down the path that they’re most interested in. Then once it’s time, once you feel like you’ve explored their interests, you’ve given them a chance to really communicate, and they haven’t necessarily talked about money yet, you can transition, and say, thank you so much for talking about how you want to give your testimony, how you want to be an advocate, how you want to volunteer for us. Would you be willing to talk about how you could support us financially? Funding is critical to our mission delivery, and that’s how we operate.
We operate from the generosity of others. Is that something we can talk about? Then at that point, yes, let’s talk about it, or I really don’t have a high capacity, but I want to help you. Great. No problem. What is something that you can do? What’s meaningful to you? Then pull out that menu. 5,000 would do this, 100,000 would do that, a million would do that. Remember that money’s relative to everyone. Some people feel like gosh, my $5,000 gift really isn’t a lot, and other people feel like, $5,000 is the biggest gift that I’ve ever given, and it’s more than any of my friends give. Remember, it’s all relative, and that you are not concerned about how they process money. You’re just concerned about what your mission needs, and giving them the opportunity to respond.
Amanda: All right. I like that point about the giving levels can be different to each people. All right. An anonymous user asked, in a get-to-know-you conversation, would you recommend not bringing a case for support, but rather just focusing on a good conversation, getting to know where their goals and interests lie, and then following up with a proposal?
Lindsay: Sure. That’s great. It could be a leave behind as well. Easy to do that. Your case for support could help you in guiding a conversation. If you’re feeling anxious, or you’re not really connecting with this person. You might say, “Oh, I brought something here I wanted to share with you. Do you mind if I just point out how it’s organized?” In that way, you’re not reading the brochure, but you’re saying, you can see here, this is one of our beneficiaries. You can see here, this is how we have strategically outlined our next 12 months.
You can see here where our money comes from, and where it goes. Let that open up the conversation, but if what I’m hearing from you, Amanda, is the person who asked this question, that person doesn’t need this help. Fine. Great. Bring it with you, let them know at the end. “Hey, this is just a leave behind, this is something I’d love for you to take a look at later on.” Or you don’t even bring it.
You do what this question asker said, which is you have a great conversation, and you say, “I’m going to email you tonight, or tomorrow, and I’ll include a link to more material about what we just discussed today, but thanks so much.” Then in your follow-up email, you’re saying, “Thanks so much for telling me about boom, boom, boom.” You’re reflecting on what you heard, and you’re saying, “If you would like to hear more about this program, or if you’d like to take a review of our annual report, it’s attached here.” I think that it’s knowing what you need, and seeing it as a tool, not a mandate.
Amanda: That is amazing, and that is putting us at the end of the time that we had today. [laughs] Thank you all for attending our session, and thank you, Lindsay, for all of this great information. We hope all of you will be joining us in a few minutes for our upcoming sessions at a glance using digital platforms to get your story out using videos. No matter what session you choose, you’re not going to miss out on any content, because everything is being recorded for you. See you all in a bit.
Lindsay: Awesome. Thanks, everybody. Have a great session.Read Less
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