Fundraising simultaneously occupies two worlds: the world of human relationships and the world of return on investment. It is very important to calculate ROI every way you can slice it, but when you carry your ROI-head into the world of human relationships, you act in a manner that Miss Manners would say is “downright rude.”
Miss Manners got a letter from a man who gave a couple thousand dollars annually to each of a hundred charities. When he lost his job, he was unable to continue give. He wrote to Miss Manners about being hounded by solicitors, and she replied: “It has always puzzled Miss Manners to find how often those who work on behalf of other people in general feel free to annoy the particular people with whom they come into contact.”
In these volatile times, your contribution income is likely to make some whiplash-inducing ups and downs. Use your ROI-head to make your budget, but not to talk to your donors.
And here are a couple other lessons from Miss Manners: Say please. Say thank you. And say thank you more often than you say please!
There is a wall that divides good fund raisers from bad. It is the wall of our own voices. More times than I care to remember, I have sat in the living room or office of a donor, hauling newsletters and annual reports out of my briefcase, talking about programs, accomplishments, plans. Blah, blah, blah. I am waiting for a signal from the person across the desk to show some interest, and he or she is waiting for me to stop talking.
On the other side of the wall is an actual conversation. Give and take. Back and forth. Of course, most donors want to learn more about programs and accomplishments and plans. But there is a very personal and specific reason that the donor selected your organization to support, a very personal and specific reason that the donor invited you into his or her space. If you can stop talking about programs long enough to find out what that motivation is, you will have crossed the sound barrier. Asking the right questions is the key.
How do you get across that wall and invite the donor to speak?