If we are fostering trust through appropriate levels of transparency and vulnerability–that are scaled to the donor’s disposition and profile–then they will likely open-up to us on the same level. Within the past week of calling throughout my network of alliances, former clients, and prospective clients, I’ve already had two of them open up to share about the passing of someone very close to them. In one of the instances, the death was completely and tragically unexpected. These types of discussions do not occur accidentally and especially from playing my cards right etc. This is what I like to call fundraising or closing deals in the larger story.
Here are six practical techniques to use in philanthropic interactions with donors during this time:
#1. Use common sense.
If someone picks up the phone and they seem preoccupied or even irritated, do not start pitching them. Ask them if now is a good time or bad time. Or ask if you could have a minute of their time meanwhile offering to call them back if that would be better.
#2. Employ an inquisitive posture.
In Stephen Covey’s famous words, “seek first to understand then be understood.” An example could be, “if you don’t mind, I’m curious, how are you handling this whole thing?” I can almost bet that the person will share their opinion on ‘shelter in place’ orders, what’s going to happen, what should happen etc. And guess what? Their position provides me incredible insight into their worldview and their values.
#3. Don’t come into the meeting with only your agenda or pitch in mind.
This means meeting the donor (s) where they are. Meet them where they are and then pivot accordingly. They may express that they are concerned about the uncertainty of the economy. You can respond by saying that you too are concerned. “In fact, Ms. Donor, that’s one of the reasons I’m calling because so many of our key partners find themselves in uncharted waters, and some even want to know how we are faring during this time and the best ways they can help….” This type of pivot statement can only happen by practicing #’s 1-2.
#4. Be prepared to reschedule if necessary.
If I sense a mega donor (typically a CEO of a large company, biz owner, or C-level executive) is too preoccupied with something else and can’t connect, it’s not out of the question for me to suggest rescheduling the meeting. This does two things: (i) It shows him or her that I’m tuned in and aware of what’s going on in their lives. (ii) At a minimum, it will trigger them to switch gears and either focus on our time or reschedule. Keep in mind that rescheduling often leads to an even better meeting with higher levels of engagement. I.e. I’ve seen donors in this type of scenario invest more than they would have if we hadn’t rescheduled. Especially when I prompt it.
#5. As always, ensure that some sort of next step is clearly charted.
This step should correspond with deepening the person’s engagement and stake in the cause. Practically speaking, if I’m working towards a large financial investment, the next step after the meeting should lucidly point to that outcome. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. So many deals could close so much quicker if we just send a summary email to the donor that demonstrates that we heard them and that has forward-looking elements.
#6. Follow through on the follow-up and fully close!
Don’t get to the 2-yard line and fumble. One way this happens is adding some type of step to the close cycle that is not needed to close the gift. This leaves things loose or open-ended. This can be good on the front end (at #1’s-2) but not at the close. Unlike Dumbledore’s gift of the snitch to Harry Potter, we do not want to open at the close. We want to close at the close.
Hopefully these thoughts and insights have further equipped you to deepen philanthropic partnerships even in the midst of the uniquely promising–yet volatile– philanthropic climate in which we find ourselves.
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