In the for-profit business world it’s called looking for investors, seeking someone who’ll open a checkbook in exchange for a return on their investment.
For a nonprofit, it’s called fundraising, investors are called donors and they aren’t going to be swayed by the promise of a profit. Their rewards are intangible. That may be why asking for money can be such a daunting task for nonprofit leaders. Daunting or not, asking for money is a vital, constant part of the job for any nonprofit leader.
Seeking donations starts with building relationships and trust, understanding how potential donors view the organization’s mission, their history of donating to the organization and why they care. Only after establishing a solid relationship with a potential donor should a fundraiser ask for money. Ninety percent of fundraising is developing this important connection.
Once you have gotten to the point to where the donor has indicated an interest in your organization, asking for money can be done in a sequence of steps that taken individually can ease some of the apprehension that comes from seeking donations and guide you through the process.
6 Steps to Effectively Ask for a Donation
Whether done in person or during a call, breaking a nonprofit solicitation into these six phases can put the donor at ease as well as increase the chances of success:
- Introduction: The beginning of the conversation sets the tone for the entire request. Put the potential donor at ease by exchanging pleasantries, including as many personal anecdotes as possible. Transition to the topic or a request by explaining your personal connection to the organization. Share why the cause is important to you so the donor understands the impact the gift could make. This is a time to let your passion for the organization’s mission show. Be clear about the need for what you’ll eventually request later in the conversation and what the donation will accomplish.
- Inquiry: Rather than talking at the donor, carry on a conversation to keep them actively engaged in the discussion. Inquire about what they know of the organization and ask open-ended questions to maintain interest. When possible, find a personal experience relevant to the organization to highlight, further building the connection. If the donor already supports similar organizations, discuss why and try to discover what the donor views as the main differences between your nonprofit and the one they support. Regardless of what response you receive, never raise your voice or become argumentative.
- Listening: Attentively listen to everything the donor has to say instead of trying to jump in and make your pitch. Attempt to gain an understanding of their perception of your organization so you can use this to reach them more effectively. Ask questions and offer feedback to show that you’re really focused and to gain a sense of the issues they’re most passionate about. This information can be used later in the conversation to position your message in the most effective manner.
- Subtly Making the Case: While it’s only natural to explain the needs of your nonprofit, it’s better to focus on how the community or those you intend to help will benefit. Bring people into your story. If you have a specific project the gift will go toward, you can emphasize its benefits. Selling the benefits of a donation is always more effective than focusing on specific organizational needs.
- Responding to Concerns: Some donors may be an easy “yes,” but be prepared to help overcome objections with most people. For example, if someone says they’re not sure about giving, ask what their concerns are. If the person says they’re unable to give right now, ask when would be a good time to check back. It’s important not to take these concerns personally. Show empathy when listening to objections, letting the person know you understand and that others have shared the same concerns. Always respond to objections with facts, but never let the discussion escalate into a confrontation.
- Requesting the Donation: While it can be nerve-wracking to finally ask for the donation, most donors probably expect it. If you’ve properly set the stage, the person is likely ready to take the next step. Always present a number of different donation options, providing the opportunity for the donor to choose a desired gift and avoid asking for the donation in terms that can result in a yes or no answer. Sometimes a donor will decline several times before making the gift.
It’s important to focus on the meaning of the donation rather than considering each call a “sale.” Donors can tell when you’re sincerely passionate about the cause and they won’t want to give to an organization where they’re not truly appreciated.
When asking for a donation you can’t promise the donor a monetary ROI, but remember, the donor is making an investment in your cause, which could have an ROI that is worth far more than the donation amount.
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