How to get your donors to respond to you WITHOUT asking them to respond to you

Does polite persistence really work any more?

When I first got into sales, my uncle told me that polite persistence was the key to achieving results. He said that I needed to be gentle but tenacious. Like water dripping on a rock again and again until it finally wears away the stone.

He was right…. in the 1990’s. Today, I’m not so sure.

Today at MarketSmart, we have found that politely yet persistently following up with our prospective customers by asking the following kinds of questions over and over again simply doesn’t work anymore. They go dark. Radio silence!

“Are you ready to have a call to learn more about our System?” someone her might ask. Then 3 weeks later she’ll try again, “How about now?” And later on, “Ok, how about now???”

Or, once we’ve sent them a proposal she might ask, “Did you get it? Will you be making a decision soon?” Then later, “How about now? Got any questions? Decision forthcoming?” And then later on, “Ok, how about now???”

Are you getting the picture?

You’ve probably had vendors call or email you over and over, prodding you to take some action, haven’t you?

Sure, it might work as a gentle reminder. But we have found that the polite persistence tactic doesn’t really generate movement forward in the consideration continuum as it once did. I’m not sure why. But, for some strange reason, it just results in a blackout. They ‘ghost’ us.

And I bet this happens to you, too!

Haven’t you ever felt ‘ghosted’ by your donors?

If so, try this magical maneuver; it seems to do the trick!

Instead of politely prodding people, send them value and we make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the offer that’s still on the table (ie – a proposal).

Miraculously, the recipient of a value-oriented message either does one of three things:

  1. They take advantage of the offer that provides value (remember to make no mention of the offer on the table such as to meet, chat or donate/accept the proposal);
  2. They will essentially ignore or overlook the offer that provides value and respond with the information you needed to know with regard to the offer that is on the table (to meet, chat or donate/accept the proposal) while making no mention of the more recent offer providing value;
  3. Or they will take advantage of the offer providing value AND respond with information about the offer that is on the table.

Either way, for whatever reason, we seem to at least get a response.

It’s odd right? We actually seem to get more people to respond to us about an offer on the table when we don’t ask them to respond to us about the offer on the table and, instead, simply provide them with value.


I suggest you try it and let me know if it works for you too.

Reach out to someone who has gone dark. But this time only provide them with value. Don’t prod them about anything.

For instance, share a link that tells a story or helps them understand the impact their gifts make. Or, send them a helpful resource they might appreciate. Or maybe share a picture or video. Just make sure you DO NOT mention the offer on the table.

Then, let me know what happens next. Did they respond in one of the 3 miraculous ways outlined above?

It works for us. I hope it will work for you, too.

Encourage engagement to raise more money



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4 years ago

Yes! I was so uncomfortable just reading the “politely persistent” messages……we all know the game and the intentions of the conversation. My personal response, sometimes internally and sometimes verbalized, is “I KNOW – I DIDN’T FORGET – I’LL CALL YOU WHEN I’M READY….AND THAT MAY BE NEVER…. STOP ASKING!”

How refreshing to stop the nagging and just let folks know you still care – whether they buy or commit or say yes or not. We’re not going anywhere – we’re not offended – we’re still willing to help. That’s the kind of job I want – and the kind of work I’m doing. Thanks for affirming that it makes sense.


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Scott Talbot
2 years ago

This is pure genius, Greg. Why am I not surprised that you, the donor-centric, customer-centric, guy-who-puts-himself-in-the-other-person’s-shoes … um, -centric, would get this? It isn’t about what the donor can do for me. It’s about what I can do for him. And when I show him that I truly care about his needs and interests, then maybe he will want to come to me for more help in meeting those needs and interests.

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