Some time ago someone sent me a short paper called “Hard Truths about Fundraising from the Donor Perspective: Uncensored Advice on What Does and Does Not Work.” Unfortunately I printed it out so I could pencil some notes on it during a flight to Chile and find that I can’t remember where it came from and it has absolutely no attribution so I will sadly be unable to give credit.
As I read it I was astonished to discover that the Do’s and Don’ts of reaching out to prospective donors aren’t too different than reaching out to anyone. Change the idea that you’re asking for a donation to the idea that you want to connect with someone for any reason, and it fits quite well. Today I offer some of the Do’s. Next week the Don’ts.
– If you can’t explain it to me like you would to a 12 year old, it means you’re either hiding something or you’re not clear.
– Be honest about your intent when asking for a meeting. People are always saying the want “to pick my brain” or “provide an update” when they really want something specific. Just say it. I’m not stupid and know what you’re doing.
– Start the conversation with the “why” not the “what” and “how”. Share the passion behind the idea. If you’re not excited, you won’t get me excited.
– Frame your conversation around the beneficiary and how they are being helped. It’s not about you, it’s about how you’re doing something that helps people or the organization.
– If you want to reach out to me directly, send a short note with the point of what you’re looking for. Be specific.
– Make me feel like a partner with regular updates. Once a year newsletters or completing forgetting to thank me and let me know what’s going on with what we discussed is likely to lead to my not being interested in speaking with you next time.
– If things go wrong, tell me right away. Do not blindside me.
– Before a meeting map out what you want to cover. Always start and end on time.
– Figure out how to engage me and follow my wishes.
– If you manage to convince me to join you for breakfast or lunch…pay. It’s your party.