Be Real.You’ve done all the research. You’ve figured out your donor’s passions and interests and you’ve created an offer you feel your donor wants to invest in.
Leading up to your solicitation meeting, you’re rehearsing your ask. Even as you prep for a permission-based ask, you’re thinking of all the potential questions and making sure you have all the answers.
The night before the solicitation meeting, you’re going through it over and over in your head to make sure you know exactly what you’re going to say, how the presentation is going to go and how you’ll bob and weave if necessary… whew, a lot of pressure!
Take a breath.
The question that Richard and I would have for you is, “Who are you presenting to the donor?” Meaning, are you so prepared for a donor presentation that you’ve lost who you are – the authentic you, the vulnerable you – for fear you’re not going to get everything right for the perfect donor presentation?
I’ve known some major gift officers who are so focused on making the donor solicitation so perfect and precise, they lose their authentic self and almost become a character that is playing a major gift officer.
My colleague Diana Frazier sent me a really good article from SmartBrief, written by Stephanie Scotti, called, “Engaging your audience is about connection, not performance.”
I encourage you to read it, but it can be summed up this way, “Remember: If you appear phony in any way, you’ll lose credibility in the eyes of your audience.” That audience can be 1,000 people or just one.
Your work as a front-line fundraiser is not just to create a relationship with a donor, but to create an authentic relationship. One where you’ve shown the donor your own vulnerability and over time have gained their trust. It is precisely in that type of relationship where you can be your real self.
And when you talk with your donor, for whatever reason, it’s not about precision but about intention. As Scotti says, “When you present, your goal should be to make your intention clear and relatable… to engage your audience, focus on the intention behind the message, rather than using the precise words or phrases you agonized over.”
Richard and I think way too much energy and resources are spent in coming up with the perfect case statement or having all the perfect words for a solicitation. Frankly, if you’ve built an authentic relationship, your donor isn’t going to care much about that.
Yes, you need to know your stuff and present all that the donor needs to hear; but you can do it from a place that is real vs. some kind of choreographed scene in a movie. Instead, always come back to what your intention is with the donor, be your true self – your real self – show your vulnerability and your donor will respond in kind.