Softening Statements: 22 effective ways to ease into difficult conversations with supporters

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

Softening statements help you “get your toe in the water” with difficult conversations. 
They smooth out the discussion.
They help supporters feel at ease.
Of course, we’re all compassionate people. But sometimes we may accidentally come off as harsh or uncaring. That’s because we’re not using softening statements before we say things that might tap a sensitive nerve during our conversations with supporters.
Here are a bunch of softening statement examples you can use to make your supporters feel comfortable about sensitive topics:

  1. Please don’t take this the wrong way but…
  2. I really don’t want to offend anyone but…
  3. When you say you are ___________, [Name Of Supporter}, what does that mean?
  4. I’m really curious… why did you ask me that just now?
  5. You must be telling me that for a reason… would you mind sharing with me why you brought that up at this time?
  6. I feel like I should tell you something, but you might not want to hear it.
  7. You might think I am crazy…
  8. This may seem strange…
  9. Even though that is coming along well, you might want to…
  10. You probably already know this but…
  11. I know you are busy but…
  12. I realize this might not be easy for you to do/consider…
  13. I really didn’t want to trouble you with this but…
  14. Could I ask you something that might be sensitive?
  15. I may be wrong about this but…
  16. You may have already thought of this…
  17. I know how you feel…
  18. I don’t want you to be annoyed or upset with me, however….
  19. I understand what you mean…
  20. You might not want this but just in case…
  21. This may not be something you’d consider but I really think I should show it to you…
  22. There must be a reason you asked me this, can you help me understand. Could you please share it with me?


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7 years ago

Item #3 doesn’t make sense to me? Can you explain?

Greg Warner
7 years ago
Reply to  Drew

Thanks for the question. I can see how that might have confused you.
The idea is this: Fill in the blank.
Suppose a supporter says they are “unhappy,” you say… “When you say you are ‘unhappy’, Julie what does that mean?”
I hope that makes sense to you now.

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