The month of December can make or break your entire fundraising year.
And, as I am sure you know, the most effective way to raise money is ask for it in person.
Combining these two facts yields a pretty basic, straightforward question:
How many donor meetings have you scheduled this month?
Not enough, right?
Sorry, no excuses!
Believe me, I’ve heard all the excuses about avoiding December donor meetings.
- Everyone is so busy over the holidays.
- We need to focus on our year-end appeal, email blasts, online giving, holiday cards, etc.
- Most donors have already made up their minds.
- Where will we find the time?
Here’s the simple truth: Many fundraisers prefer to hide in the office rather than talk with donors. Indeed, they are afraid to talk with donors – because they don’t know how to have the conversation. So let’s learn how.
Step 1: Master the conversation
Here’s a simple exercise that will help you work through an “ask meeting” step by step.
As you’ll see, this conversation is less about perfecting your pitch, and more about listening to the donor. Find where the donor’s values align with your mission and programs.
Invite your board members and staff colleagues to join you for this exercise. It takes just 30 minutes. When it’s over, you’ll all have a pretty good handle on how to conduct a donor meeting.
Step 2: Practice the conversation
The next exercise is a role play. Many of the world’s best fundraising trainers use some version of this exercise because it comes pretty close to simulating a real donor meeting.
Yes, some people hate role plays. But remember, you don’t master anything without practice.
If you want to learn to how to hit a golf ball, you go to the driving range and hit a lot of balls. If you’ve got a big presentation at work, you’ll rehearse what you’re going to say.
Practice makes you stronger, sharper, and calmer. It helps you develop a kind of muscle memory so you can think less, moment by moment, and move into the flow of the work.
This Trio Ask exercise takes about an hour. If you combine it with the previous exercise – a combination Andrea and I both strongly recommend – that’s 90 minutes total.
Are you willing to invest 90 minutes now to improve your skills and reach your year-end fundraising goal? Of course you are.
Schedule a few “practice asks”
Given that December is a crazy month, set a modest target for donor visits. Can you do five? If not, how about three? Three is much better than zero, which is probably how many you have scheduled now.
Try this approach. Choose three people (current donors or good prospects) who are close to the organization and call them on the phone.
“Sally, we learning how to meet with donors and ask in person. It’s a bit challenging, but I’d really like to get better at it. May I come and practice with you? Just so we’re clear, it’s a real ask – I hope you’ll contribute – but frankly, more than the money, I need your feedback. I trust that you’ll give me good advice. When can we sit down together and have this conversation?”
This requires some humility, but the rewards are great.
- Everyone knows it’s practice, so it’s less stressful.
- The donor may give out of sympathy, which is a lovely gift.
- Guess who’s now a member of the fundraising team? The supporter who teaches you how to ask more effectively.
As we say in the old fundraising cliché, “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.”
Start now – December is here!
Schedule your 90-minute training – put it on the calendar today. Pick up the phone, reach out to a few donors, and schedule meetings for after the training. Do these things now.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Energy and persistence conquer all things” – including all the excuses we use to avoid donors. Use this month to conquer our fears and reach our fundraising goals.