The worst way to start a conversation with a qualified donor on your caseload is to bring up any topic related to money.
- After a gift: “We received your gift of X yesterday. Wow, that was an amazing and generous gift! Thank you.”
- Before an ask or leading into an upgrade request: “We have been so thankful for your giving in the past. It is just amazing how generous you have been. Thank you.”
While all these ways of talking about money seem natural and appropriate, and some donors would not be affected negatively if you started a conversation that way, this approach places emphasis on the money and the gift versus what good the donor has made happen.
Now, you might think this entire monologue of mine is a waste of words and time, but we think it’s an important nuance, so please stay with me here.
Jeff and I have repeatedly said, over the years, that good fundraising is not about the money. It’s about matching the donor’s passions and interests to a societal need the organization is addressing.
If you follow and support this logic, which we hope you do, then the emphasis of any discussion has to be on the good that can be done or the good that was done because a donor gave.
This approach changes the narrative as follows:
- After a gift: “You have no idea the difference you have made in (fill in program need met) and how it has changed people’s lives.” Tell a story of what has happened. And then you can say, “We received your gift of X yesterday. Wow, that was an amazing and generous gift! Thank you.” Etc. Notice how the start of the conversation is about the good that has happened because of the donor’s gift.
- Before an ask or leading into an upgrade request: “I know you have been interested in X and Y. And your partnership with us has made such a difference – (explain how it has). But our program people have let me know that there is a rather serious situation that we need to address (describe it – focusing on need and problem). And I knew you would want to hear about this. We have been so thankful for your giving in the past to this area. It is just amazing how generous you have been. Thank you.” Then lead into the ask.
It’s important to let the donor know how they’ve made a difference through their past giving and how they can continue to make a difference. Remember, the main reason a donor gives less or simply goes away is because they did not know they made a difference.
Be sure you tell them by starting every interaction this way. Do not start with the money. The money only comes as a result of the donor knowing they did or that they can make a difference. So, your objective is to talk about difference-making, not money.