If you are always looking for the right moment to ask for the money, you will never find it. You have to be ready, willing and able to close what you started. You have to take the risk of hearing “no”. If that happens, don’t take the rejection to heart. The person is saying no to the organization, not to you. Once you have presented your case, ask for the money and either move toward a close, find out what the objection to giving is and overcome it, or get your turndown and move on.
Sooner or later a MGO will get a final answer from a donor. It will take one of four forms. The donor will say:

  1. Yes, to the suggested amount
  2. Yes, to a lesser amount
  3. No, not at this time
  4. No, don’t ever contact me again

When it comes to soliciting charitable gifts, hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s wisdom holds true: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Starting today and for the next several posts, I am going to deal with three areas:

  1. Helpful resource on how best to get an appointment with the donor in two parts.
  2. Some suggestions on how to create a successful ask.
  3. And dealing with objections.

First, getting appointments…
Getting a meeting with a donor is, no doubt, one of the most difficult, yet critical things a major gift officer has to do.  Below you will find a list of the common objections we have heard donors give as to why they do not want to meet.

  1. I don’t need to meet because I already know what you do and have confidence in your organization.
  1. We are quite content with our level of association with your organization, know that they put our $$ to excellent use, and will continue to keep them in our consideration, unless we hear something to the contrary.
  1. I appreciate your interest in me, but I’m a private person and don’t want to establish any personal relationship.
  1. I haven’t read your letter, it’s probably somewhere on my desk.  Not really interested in seeing anyone, would rather give the $$ to those in need.
  1. I just don’t have the time to meet.
  1. I love you guys.  There’s no need to take the time to meet with me.  I’m on board with what you do.
  1. Don’t waste your time coming out to see me.  I am really fine talking on the phone.
  1. I am already committed to your organization.  I don’t need a visit.  Just send me the information.
  1. Frankly, I don’t want to be pressured for money.

I am going to prescribe specific solutions to these situations in the next post.  But first, I want to digress a bit and set a context.  When you first make contact with a major donor on your caseload, have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve in that call:

  • Are you trying to secure a donation?  NO.
  • Are you trying to get a meeting? NO.
  • Are you trying to build trust and relationship?  YES

If building trust and relationship is your first and primary objective, which it should be, then the focus of your first contact and maybe even the second is to:

  • Assure that the content of your conversation is donor centered and NOT organization centered.
  • Assure that you are managing a two-way dialogue vs. a one-way monologue.

Here are some keys to building trust and relationship: 

  1. Uncover donor passion. “What would you like to accomplish with your money that would be meaningful to you?” After you have asked this question, stop and listen, listen, listen.
    1. Repeat what the donor has said about their passion and say, “Tell me more about that.”
    2. Repeat answer again and dig deeper, “Help me understand what you mean by that. Can you give me further insight?”
    3. Help the donor dream. “What would you like to see happen to make this possible?”
    4. Affirm and describe how this passion relates to your organization.
  1. Work at establishing rapport early on by engaging the donor on the very thing they are objecting to.  For instance:
  • If the donor says:  “I know what you do and have confidence in your organization so we do not need to relate.”  You might respond:  “Have you ever had a situation, NAME, where you didn’t have confidence in the charity you were supporting?” And then find a point in the donor’s response to make the point that their input is important to you/us in order to make sure we are doing things right.  You can also make the point that you want to further build their confidence in your organization’s work by communicating more specifically what their gifts are doing.
  • If the donor says:  “I am really a private person and don’t want to have a relationship with you.”  You might respond: “I understand and accept that, NAME, but how could I provide input on what your giving is doing and ensure that we are doing things right while protecting your privacy?”
  • If the donor says:  “Frankly, I don’t want to be pressured for money.”  You might respond:  “Whew, NAME, I am really glad you said that because that is the last thing I want to do.  My interest in talking to you is to understand why you are involved with us and how we can make your experience with us better.  In fact, I learned long ago that going for the money with a good friend and donor like you is the worst thing you can do.   I mean, you don’t give because we ask you to, do you?”  And then move to what is really trying to happen in the relationship and make the point that what is going on between you is true partnership, etc.
  1. Create interest and value by asking questions and engaging the donor.  Just start probing, trying to find that one topic that really engages the donor.  It could be something that interests her, angers or frustrates her – or something she wants to do, an idea she has, etc.  Look for it.  Also, watch for follow-up questions in the donor conversation.  If the donor says, “I can’t meet next week; I have too many work and family commitments.”  Follow up by asking about their work and/or children, ages, etc., just as you would when conversing with a friend.  This is how you’ll build rapport and begin a true relationship with a donor.
  1. Remember, you are creating a two-way dialogue, not lecturing.  You are searching for the problems or situations the donor is facing so you can engage on those vs. trying to sell something or get a meeting.  This is a bit counter-intuitive because you do want to get a meeting, but the path to getting one is building trust and relationship.  A good way to create dialogue is to ask, “Can you help me out for a second?”,  and then motivate the donor to talk to you about topics they are interested in that lead to building trust and relationship.

So, the first focus in getting appointments is building relationship. Now, that sounds logical, doesn’t it?  You would think so.  But I have seen so many situations where MGOs believe they can jump right into an appointment without relationship.  It’s not gonna happen. And if it does, it likely won’t go very far.
This is fundamental.  Trust must be built.  Work on that first with every donor on your caseload.
I’ll go through how to handle appointment objections in my next post.