A Four-Part Series on Donor Qualification Stages of Implementation
Stage 2: Discouragement
Dealing with Discouragement.I was having a private meeting with the MGO. His manager had asked me to have a “chat.” Things were not going well. Hopefully, I could find out what was going wrong.
I started out with a benign “So how are things going, Bill (not his real name)?”
And he said “Not good. I’m not sure this is going to work out for me.”
“You mean, this job?” I asked.
“Yep. Just can’t seem to make it work,” he replied.
So then we got into it. Bill explained he’d always been a successful salesperson. And he just couldn’t figure out why he was having trouble here.
I dug deeper and got to the core problem. Bill was discouraged with the donor qualification process.
“I understand and actually agree with the logic of it, Richard,” he said. “I just can’t seem to make it work. I’m getting so many “no’s” from perfectly good donors. It’s very frustrating to me. I must not be doing the right things, because what is going on now feels like failure to me. I’m really discouraged.”
I wagged my head to signal understanding and then said “Bill, what you’re experiencing – the “no’s” you’re getting – is normal. The donors who are saying “no,” aren’t saying no to you or even to the organization. All they’re doing is telling you that they don’t want to relate personally. That’s all. Nothing more than that.”
Then I reminded him about the reality of the donor qualification process:

  • It’s an absolute fact that only 1 in 3 active donors who meet an organization’s criteria for major gifts will want to relate more personally. Sometimes it’s 1 in 4. This is a fact. I told him I’m one of those donors who doesn’t want to relate personally. I’d rather “talk” on email vs. have the MGO visit me in my home or office, or call me on the phone. My preference has nothing to do with whether I like the MGO or the organization. It’s just my communication preference, nothing more.
  • It’s not an easy task combing through a bunch of donors to find those who want to relate. In fact, the ratio of “no’s” to “yesses” can be discouraging if you don’t put it into the proper context. It can feel like failure, if you let it.
  • The MGO’s attitude about qualifying donors is something that the MGO controls – no one else. So I told Bill that what would be good for him to do is to think about this whole qualification thing like going into a room with 450 friends. And through a process of elimination, finding those 150 who want to relate more personally. The ones that don’t want to engage are still friends; they’re simply stating a preference. They’re not making a judgment about him, or about the organization.
  • When the MGO eventually gets a fully-qualified caseload, it’s a moment of joy – and the beginning of an entirely different dynamic. I reminded Bill that the majority of the MGOs working for non-profits around the world are managing caseloads where two-thirds of the donors don’t talk to them. How depressing is that? I told Bill to keep plugging away – that bright sunlight, calm waters, and good times were just ahead.

I could tell the conversation helped, but I wasn’t sure Bill was out of his discouragement. He thanked me for the talk, and we parted. I’ll tell you what happened next in my next post.
Here’s the big point of this stage – getting “no’s” is a very real and necessary part of the qualification process. You have to sort through many donors before you get to a “yes.” Also, a “no” in qualification is not a judgment about you or the organization. It’s simply a statement of the donor’s communication preference. (Tweet it!) Accept it as that.
If you file away these core points in your brain and in your heart, you’ll be able to navigate those days that feel a little darker as you qualify donors. Just keep going. Everything will be OK.
Read the full series:

  1. Donor Qualification Sucks! Excitement and Fear
  2. Donor Qualification Sucks! Discouragement (This post)
  3. Donor Qualification Sucks! Avoidance
  4. Donor Qualification Sucks! Breakthrough and Success