I hear the following all the time when I ask fundraisers about their efforts to land meetings with major and legacy donors:
“I tried calling, but they didn’t answer the phone,” they say.
So what’s really happening here.
They are busy
They don’t know you
They don’t trust you
They aren’t expecting your outreach anyway
Plus, these days, they hardly use their telephone for communicating
Additionally, they already get tons of calls from solicitors/telemarketers all the time
And, they have likely been burned when they answered the calls from solicitors/telemarketers and have therefore grown accustom to ignoring their outreach
So, what should you do to get better results?
First, gain empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it’s like to be them. Odds are, you’ve been in their position before, have you ever received unexpected calls to your cell phone? Set aside what you, your boss and your board want and, instead, consider what they (your donors) might want. I know, I know, this isn’t easy (it isn’t supposed to be), but I promise, it’s worth it.
Next, now that you are thinking about them (NOT YOU!), recognize that if you are only calling once via one communication channel you are actually doing a disservice to your donor. Calling once via one channel is not a serious (or comprehensive) outreach effort— it’s more closely aligned with “flailing,” and “going through the motions.”
Think of it this way.
Imagine a new family moves into your neighborhood. If you seriously wanted to get that neighbor you didn’t know on the phone because you were told that she was throwing a party for your community and you wanted to offer help cooking the meal, what would you do?
Would you call once and give up? No! Of course not. Same goes here.
Now, with that mindset, consider this instead when you try to secure meetings with major donors.
Call several times throughout the day because, for instance, she might be in the shower in the morning. At lunchtime she could be dining with friends. In the afternoon she might be walking the dog. And, finally, at 4:30 she might be available. [Note: After three attempts with no connection leave a voicemail that is personalized and relevant to your donor while focusing on providing them with value so they gain trust in you. DO NOT SOUND LIKE A FUNDRAISER! Do not talk about giving or anything transactional. Instead, GIVE TO THEM and OFFER THEM SOMETHING THEY MIGHT VALUE.]
Reach out via multiple other channels. Remember, your donors are just like you. Picking up the phone may not be their primary communication vehicle. Perhaps connect with them and send a message on LinkedIn, or Twitter. Here’s a cheatsheet to get the most out of LinkedIn.
Do all of the above again. You might have to reach out via telephone and through other channels three, five or even ten times before you finally connect with them. Consider adding a line in your communications that says, “If you’d rather I stop reaching out to you, please let me know.” That’s fair. They should be given the power to opt-out.
Leave voicemails (and test different ones to figure out which ones work). Remember this: A single radio or television ad will never work if it’s only been disseminated once. But when radio or television ads get heard or seen over and over again, they have a way of finally piercing through the noise. So you must be persistent, yet polite. Always offer value. Be novel and be real. Aim for engagement, not money. In other words, don’t leave messages that make it apparent that you’re only after their money. They’ll sense it, just like you would too.
Send a letter. If all else fails, do it the old fashioned way. Send a letter and state that you’ll be calling on a certain date or time. Let them know that they can email you to schedule an appointment at some other time. Note that you might even consider making this your first step. There is a certain novelty to a handwritten (not mail-house printed) letter.
Feeling like your job is getting harder because donor expectations have changed and competition for the charitable dollar is growing?
Finding that the old orthodoxies and conventions espoused by so-called experts in online echo-chambers and at conferences don’t work anymore?
Want to help more people make impact by facilitating their acts of philanthropy but feel like too many obstacles keep getting in your way?
Then this book is for you.
Engagement Fundraising was developed from the perspective of a donor who discovered firsthand that the impersonal, spray-and-pray approaches of his beloved charity were not only offensive but also wasteful and ineffective. So he took action. And now, you can too.
Thank you notes also make a huge impact for us. A prompt thank you will make donors so much more willing to talk to you the next time.