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

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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.

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 she might say, “Did you get the information I sent you? Any questions?” Then, several weeks later, “How about now? Did you get it? Any questions?” And later on, “Ok, how about now??? I’m here if you need me!!!”

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.

Instead, try this magical maneuver.

It seems to do the trick.

Instead of politely prodding people, we send them value and we make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the offer that’s still on the table. Then, miraculously, the recipient of our messages either does one of three things:

  1. She will take advantage of the offer providing value with no mention about the offer on the table (to meet, chat or buy);
  2. She will respond with information regarding the offer that is on the table (to meet, chat or buy) while making no mention of the more recent offer providing value;
  3. Or she 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. 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. 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




2 responses to “How to get your donors to respond to you WITHOUT asking them to respond to you”

  1. Kathy says:

    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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