Getting a donor’s attention is a daunting task. These fundraising call tips will help your organization stand out—and cultivate meaningful, lasting connections.
In a world full of endless marketing emails and advertisements, getting donors’ attention is a daunting task—but the solution just might be an arm’s length away. Reach out for your phone and give them a fundraising call!
Fundraising calls can be intimidating, but chatting with your donors in real-time is one of the most effective ways to build connections and deepen your understanding of what draws donors to your work. Ready to dive in? Here are our tips on what not to do—and how to navigate a fundraising call with confidence and (hopefully) success!
It’s a great practice to have the general direction of the conversation sketched out, including your main points and key questions. However, you should refrain from reading line for line. Remember, you are speaking with a human! Humans crave connection and authenticity—they don’t want to be steamrolled by jargon or impersonal requests.
To avoid sounding like a robot, my best advice is to practice, practice, practice. Role-play the fundraising call with a colleague. As you get more comfortable with the messaging, your partner can interject with questions, interruptions, and anecdotes that a real donor might share. Practice responding to these conversation curve balls and carefully navigate back to the intent of the call. Request feedback from your colleague on what felt natural and what improvements could be made.
To open up a richer dialogue, always start by asking the donor how they are doing and check if now is a good time to talk. I can’t tell you how many times people were relieved to have the option to request a later call when they were better able to give their full attention.
Those of us working for nonprofits can easily fall into the trap of focusing solely on our own organizational goals. Donors’ lives, much like our own, are messy and beautiful—and buried somewhere in there is the reason why they’re connected to your work. Find out why during your fundraising call! And, while you’re at it, learn about what makes their heart full. Are they a grandparent? Do they volunteer at the local community center? What inspires them to give?
Store this information in a database and be sure to note the aspects of the work that really resonated with them so you can pick up where you left off during your next conversation.
As they share about their connection to the work and the world around them, return their openness by sharing what brought you to this work. Sharing your personal journey will build trust and is more compelling than the information that can be found on a website.
Ask for a specific amount! Maybe it’s to triple their previous contribution, maybe it’s to meet a limited-time matching offer or to increase to a new level of giving. When you give a donor a targeted amount of money to consider gifting, it’s easier for them to process how much (not whether) to give. Donors can also get comfortable in their giving habits and often won’t give additional funds until they are asked.
Give the donor time to really consider your ask—especially if you’ve asked for a substantial amount! They could be thinking about the logistics of moving around funding to make a large gift work, or they could be thinking about their competing philanthropic commitments. The important thing is: you don’t know and shouldn’t interrupt their contemplation. Sit through the silence. Count your breaths if it helps you stay calm. They will tell you what’s on their mind when they’re ready, and you can move forward from there!
Most fundraising phone calls will result in a no. Get cozy with that! It’s okay that not every donor can give today. In the immediate aftermath of a no, take a breath, reassure them (and yourself!) that it’s completely okay if now is not a good time. Before you run away, take an extra minute or two to glean more information about their giving habits and considerations. Perhaps they said no because they only give in December or they need to discuss finances with their spouse. This information helps you navigate the next steps and close the fundraising call with grace. If it helps, think of every “no” as a “not yet” and an opportunity to learn more.
Want to learn more about effective fundraising? Explore the rest of our nonprofit resources for campaign tools, COVID-19 resources, and more!
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