The worst way to start a conversation with a donor

“Did you get the [information, brochure, or letter] I sent?”

Has anyone really had great success starting an outreach call with this question?

In my experience, that question fails to engage a supporter unless they are already deeply involved in a relationship and/or a transaction with you. Absent a serious relationship and/or a deal on the table, the question usually results in the following response from the donor:

“No, I don’t think so. What did you send?”

I know, I know… you probably sent the information because they asked you to do so. And now you’re wondering, “How on earth could they miss it? They asked me to send it!”

But it’s important to realize that, absent a real relationship and/or ongoing involvement in a transaction with you, they likely told you to send information just to get you off the phone in the first place. They didn’t really want anything from you.

How NOT to start a conversation with a donor.

They fooled you, changed the subject and put you to work so they could get on with their day. Then, their spouse or partner might have tossed it in the trash thinking it was junk. Or, they might have noticed it but ignored it or forgot they noticed it.

And, if you sent the information without their permission, then the situation only gets worse. In that case, your question will make less sense to them. After all, they’re busy. They get tons of information thrown at them all the time. So, the likelihood that they’d pay attention to your mailing is very improbable. So, when they get your call asking if they received it, they’ll just say, “No.”

Then what do you do? Gosh I hope you don’t say you’ll resend it.

How to Start a Conversation with a Donor

Here are 6 things you can do instead of playing this game.

  1. Don’t send information to people unless they request it.
  2. Once they’ve requested it, follow-up with an email letting them know it’s on the way.
  3. Point out that you’ll be following up with a phone call on [XX DATE] at XX:XX TIME.
  4. Explain why you’ll be following up and, especially, point out the value THEY will gain from taking your call. Remember, it’s about them, not you!
  5. Ask them to provide an alternate date and time if what you suggested doesn’t work for them.
  6. Honor your commitment. Follow-up as promised and deliver the value you pledged to provide.

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Jeffery m Cohen
Jeffery m Cohen
3 years ago

very good follow up

3 years ago

Good advice – thank you.

Heidi Webb
2 years ago

I hate when people do that to me. I grew up learning the old adage “Do unto others…”

How I interpret the question “Did you get the [information, brochure, or letter] I sent?” = “You are clearly bad at follow-up, and had you just gotten back to me I would have not called to bother you.”

Olav Athayde
Olav Athayde
2 years ago

Wouldn’t a PDF of the mailed brochure as an attachment to the follow-up email you mentioned in point 2 be advisable? Seems like a no-brainer to me.


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