How to Talk to Your Donors: Engage, Don’t Sell
It was my great privilege to hear Rory Green speak at this morning’s Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) breakfast. Rory has an impressive fundraising background dating back to childhood and has worked in the industry for groups like the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and, most recently, the BCIT Foundation. Here are my top five favourite points that Rory made about effective ways to talk to donors.
1. Get to know your donor both before your first meeting and during each interaction
Advance research can be an invaluable way to establish a connection during your first meeting. Build on what you learn while paying attention to subtle things like the art in their office or home and find out what their interests are.
2. Listen more than you talk
Be present and listen intently to everything that a prospective donor is willing to share. If you focus on jumping to solutions and opportunities you will miss valuable insights about your donor’s motivations and goals.
3. Assemble a list of “magic” questions
Questions are a great way to start the ball rolling and get your prospective donor talking so you can listen. Keep a list of ready to use questions such as “What are you proudest about?” “What was the best gift you ever received?” “Who is your hero and why?” These are great to draw on when you hit a slump in the conversation.
4. Watch for a spark
If during your conversation you hit on something that your donor is clearly passionate about – a hobby, a person, a subject – try to build on that and learn more about their passion. People usually love to talk about things they care deeply about. Try to learn more about the root of their passion and how it relates to their hopes and dreams for the future.
5. Say thank you
Seems pretty simple, right? But many people forget this basic practice. Treat the information they have shared with you as a gift itself. Be sure to express sincere gratitude for their time and for what they have shared.
So on the subject of gratitude, I owe a big thank you to Rory for all these great tips!
I love attending AFP events and meeting people connected with such great organizations. Today my table included representatives from OCAD University, St. Stephen’s Community House and Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. It’s a small world because, for the second breakfast in a row, I was sitting beside somebody who knew one of my clients! I’m very much looking forward to AFP’s next event and sharing my favourite points on our blog again soon.