Advice
October 08, 2013

50 Shades of Fundraising

I was coaching two executives at a nonprofit a few weeks ago, and in the course of the conversation, it came up that the development director had accused the executive director of talking too much when they went together to solicit donors.

I asked the executive director if this was true, and he proceeded to blather on about how much he cared about the cause without so much as taking a breath or answering my question, proving the development director’s point.

I suggested that it might be better at times to focus on the donor’s passion and interest rather than his.

That was the moment when the highly educational tome 50 Shades of Grey popped into my mind. I told them that they need a “safe word”—or phrase—that would signal him to stop talking and let her ask the donor a question.

They chose the phrase “back at the ranch.”

When two people decide to solicit a donor together, they need to plan ahead and coordinate their efforts to make the best impression and increase the likelihood of success.

Here are seven more tips for working with a fundraising partner that can make a big difference when the two of you are getting to know a donor or preparing to pop an important question.

Spoiler alert: None of these techniques are covered in 50 Shades of Grey.

1. Sit down before the meeting and create a strategy. Share what you know about the potential donor, whether it is a foundation, corporation, individual, or couple. Share everything you know about the donor’s giving history and interests.

2. Set your goal for the meeting. Is this a “first date,” or are you going to make a specific financial ask?

3. Decide how much and what materials you are going to bring and who is responsible for them.

4. Know who is going to start the conversation and what the donor’s interest or history might be with the organization.

5. Create a set of questions to ask. These might include:

  • a. You have given to a similar cause XYZ in the past. Might our organization also be a good fit?
  • b. What do you know about our cause? (You might find someone who has a personal connection or is an expert in the field, and this will radically change the conversation.)
  • c.  Ask about the donor’s decision-making progress.

6. Meet again with your fundraising partner at least 15 minutes before you walk in together. Get the chit-chat out of the way such as where you parked and updates on other issues. You want to have a united front open to listen when you come in.

7. Talk to your partner about who will do what with follow-up.

These tips may not be a sexy as 50 Shades of Grey, but you won’t regret them in the morning.