“I walked in and right away they signed me up for the Veritus Certification Course for Major Gift Fundraisers
,” she says. “And that was a really wonderful base to get under me as I was starting that work because it really outlined the whole process for me.
“We learned things like how to do an introductory call with someone, or how to think about the kind of outreach that you’re doing. Like is this a ‘you-made-a-difference’ outreach where you’re explaining the impact they’re having. Or it this more of a ‘demonstrating-the-need’ touchpoint that you’re doing? So, the course really laid that out and gave me a good foundation.
“And so, I was able to step into the role feeling a lot more confident after that rather than feeling like I was just figuring it out.”
Susan also learned about Permission-Based Asking™, which helped overcome her biggest obstacle.
“One thing I took away is that when you’re making an ask of someone, they shouldn’t be surprised that you’re making that ask of them. If they feel it’s like coming out of nowhere, you haven’t really done your job in preparing the ground for that conversation.”
“I really like the Permission-Based Asking model because it takes away some of the nervousness around making an ask. It just makes sure everyone’s on the same page,” she says. “It means that that person is ready for that conversation, and ready for that ask. It’s based on mutual consent, and it’s a much more positive feeling and interaction, even if they say no.”
Susan says that one of the reasons her organization chose to work with Veritus was an alignment on the importance of relationship building.
“That was something that was very important in our program, and I know it is very important to Veritus as well,” she says. “So that was a really good fit.”
This emphasis on relationships and working hard to understand the donor’s passions and interests has helped Susan get to know her donors better and take her fundraising to a different level.
“Sometimes, a wonderful problem that we have with people is that we ask supporters, ‘You know, which areas of our work are you interested in,’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh everything!’ Which is so wonderful and it’s a real blessing, but sometimes digging a little bit deeper can be a little bit harder. If you say you’re interested in everything, how do I update you on everything all of the time?”
So, Susan says she now spends more time thinking strategically about how to line up an offer with the donor’s interests and how to introduce that offer over time.
And this approach has paid off.
She tells the story of one longtime donor who had given to a capital campaign, but had not embraced any particular programs, and was not closely engaged with the organization.
“I saw an opportunity there,” says Susan. “I thought I’d love to talk to this person a little bit more about different programs we have going on, see what might catch this person’s interest.
Susan had a hunch that this donor might be interested in a project to repair a building called Friends Place on Capitol Hill, long used to house advocacy groups coming to Washington, D.C.
“I knew this person really appreciates educating young adults on advocacy issues, I knew this person really enjoys seeing something tangible to come of their support, and that they’ve supported other building funds in the past, including our capital campaign. So, I started introducing that project in earlier conversations, and had our then general secretary also reach out to this person and chat with them a little bit about the project as well.
At the end of last year when in-person visits finally again became possible, Susan met with the donor in person.