PUBLISHED IN F&P MAGAZINE - AUGUST 30, 2019
Three ways fundraisers can get ready to ask a donor for a major gift.
So much of what we do comes down to nerve.
Sure, preparation is paramount. Days, weeks, months and even years of research ensure that we head into that ask meeting with a bag full of tools to ensure the best outcome possible.
But having the nerve is something else. I am not sure if we develop it, or are born with it, but all of the best fundraisers (or askers for that matter) have it.
So what can you do to steel your nerve for that big ask? Here are my top three tips.
1. BE ORGANISEDHave everything you need on hand.
Nothing says desperation like someone digging through a pile of documents trying to find that piece of paper that they need to show a prospect.
It is important to only take to the meeting what you will need – in most cases a Case for Support document, an annual report and perhaps another person to add weight and gravitas to the ask (or to do the asking). Have these in a neat folder, in an order which makes sense to you.
By being organised you will feel more confident that you have all of the basis covered for whatever might come your way.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU WANTIf you are going to practice anything, make it your ask.
Stand in front of a mirror, or even better test it with a colleague. Out loud. When we practice out loud we are able to hear the sincerity in our voice and ensure clarity of message and speech. Doing this with someone else can also highlight where more information is needed.
Having a succinct and clear ask (or even a couple of asks in case the conversation highlights a change in ask is required!) prepared is so important to your confidence levels when making an ask.
3. LOOK & ACT THE PARTI don’t just mean wear appropriate attire… although this is very important. Some meetings will require you to dress up, while others might require you to wear the team uniform or a particular cultural outfit – ensure that whatever it is, it is what represents you and your organisation in the best light in front of the prospect.
Perhaps more importantly, stand tall, smile and act professionally. It is amazing what good posture and good body language can do for your confidence and others confidence in you.
Walk into that meeting as the equal of the prospect, they will respect you for it.
And even if you don’t feel it… act brave. You know what they say – fake it ‘til you make it!
Teisha Archer is a fundraising coach and consultant specialising in major gifts and campaigns and Director of Teisha Archer Consulting. Teisha is also a Specialist Consultant Member of The Xfactor Collective – Australia’s first network of social impact consultants and coaches across 300 areas of specialisation that exists to support social changemakers to achieve their social mission. The Xfactor Collective has the sector’s first CONCIERGEservice to help you get your projects off to a flying start, and a sector-first video library THE X-CHANGE., comprising 140 helpful videos for changemakers such as the links above in this article.
PUBLISHED IN F&P MAGAZINE - AUGUST 07 2019
We have all been there. Months of research and planning. Strategising down to the finest detail. Where the meeting will take place. Who will be there to ask. How much we will ask for and how it will be used.
We have used every resource available to us. Databases, networks, consultants and so much more. We have played it through in our heads and role-played. It is going to work. It is going to be big.
Then the day arrives. Everyone and everything is where it needs to be. The conversation is flowing and the passion is palpable. The moment arrives. The ask. It is made with perfection. You sit, and wait, as you have done many times before. The answer arrives. A clear and resounding ‘no’.
Wait, WHAT?!? But… but… but…
Reasons are given. Thanks are offered and the meeting is over. You all walk away. So where do you go from here?
No matter the planning and preparation, we can never know the full reason why someone decides to give or not to give. It is human nature that we change our minds very quickly, just as quickly as our circumstances change. Therefore
“Understanding ‘no’ is important. By understanding ‘no’ we can make a plan to get a ‘yes’.
There are many types of no, and more often than not you will not hear the worst kind – the ‘No, I will never give to you’ no. Basically, there are (at least) five versions of no to be aware of.
1. NO! THE ‘NO, NOT TO YOU’ NO.It is so important for a donor to trust that you are the right people to achieve the outcome you say you will achieve. To combat this no from ever happening, you need to demonstrate that you have the brightest people working on the need you will be addressing.
Are your CEO and board trustworthy, passionate and informed? Are they influencers in the field? How can you best position them in the future to be the people philanthropists want to support?
Consider if you had the right person asking. Too often fundraisers are tasked with making an ask, mostly to make someone else feel more comfortable. But this is often not the best option. In saying this, sometimes the CEO or chair of the board is also not the right person.
Rather than using the job role or title to decide who should ask, consider who has the most influence with the prospect. It may be someone who does not work for your organisation, but who loves what you do – an advocate who will ask on your behalf. Whatever the case, the person tasked with the ask must be someone who the prospect would not want to say no to.
If this is your no, take some time to find the right person to ask, double check everything else is in line, and make preparations to ask again when the time is right.
2 NO! THE ‘NO, THE TIME IS NOT RIGHT’ NO.
But what if the time is not right? “I have just given a major gift to…”; “The market is not in a good position right now…”; “Ask me again later in the year…”
These are all common reasons for saying no to an ask. All are legitimate, but must be recognised as a timing issue rather than a direct no. If this is the response, follow up immediately regarding a better time to come back to them. At the end of the meeting, it should be reiterated that you will be in contact again at that time. Make sure you understand why it was bad timing and ensure that the situation has improved, so that at the next meeting the answer is yes!
3 NO! THE ‘NO, NOT THAT MUCH’ NO.
Sometimes our vision for that big gift is more ambitious than realistic. Sometimes, even with all of our research, we will ask for too much. This can be flattering or it can be seen as a sign that you do not know or understand your prospective donor.
Either way, this no should be dealt with immediately if possible. Ask the donor what is appropriate, ensuring that you have made it clear that you want this to be a significant gift for them – one that they can be proud of. If it’s not possible or does not seem appropriate to ask during the meeting, go back and do more research. Take a look again at their giving to other organisations and try to better understand their financial position, including their liquid wealth. Once you have a better understanding of their giving capacity, make contact and arrange to discuss an alternative where the level of support they are capable of giving can have the greatest impact.
4 NO! THE ‘NO, NOT FOR THAT THING’ NO.
Our need is not always what a prospective donor wants to support. Positioning your need through the donor’s eye is so important to the success of an ask.
Telling your story in a way that has impact on the life of the donor makes for a successful ask strategy. How will the world be better for them (and all) if you do what you say you will do? Sometimes, your storytelling will hit the mark but other factors (such as ‘no’ number 1 and ‘no’ number 2) will result in a ‘No, not for that thing’. It may be a very simple timing issue – perhaps the donor has recently supported another organisation in the same space as yours.
So, if you get the ‘thing’ wrong, what do you do? Ideally, be flexible in the meeting. Listen to what the donor is saying and change your direction (strategically!). If you are asking for a salary for a key position and you hear them mention how much they love a particular program you run, perhaps it is worthwhile speaking about opportunities within that program. But be careful not to jump around as this could give the impression that you are guessing what your donor wants to support, which will diminish your need. Instead, be sure to have two or three options in mind which you have positioned as the key priorities of your organisation prior to and at the beginning of the meeting.
If you still get a no, go away, do more research into their past giving and engagement with your organisation, and then develop your next ask, noting what they demonstrated interest in.
5 NO! THE ‘NO, NOT TO YOU, NOT FOR THAT, NOT THAT MUCH, NOT EVER’ NO.
This is no. Walk away. If a person becomes upset, walk away. If a person says no in all of the above ways in one meeting, walk away.
You don’t have to walk away forever (unless they explicitly tell you to!). But you need to take some significant time to consider your position, respect their wishes and rebuild the relationship.
So, they said no. It is not the end of the world. No does not always mean no to everything forever. Recoup, refresh, rebuild. So much of fundraising is relationship-based, and with a good close prospective donor, great communication, mutual respect and time, you will see many a no become a yes.
Teisha Archer is a fundraising coach and consultant specialising in major gifts and campaigns and Director of Teisha Archer Consulting. Teisha is also a Specialist Consultant Member of The Xfactor Collective – Australia’s first network of consultants and agencies across 300-plus areas of specialisation that exists to support organisations in times of change and challenge. xfactorcollective.com
PUBLISHED IN F&P MAGAZINE - AUGUST 01 2019
THREE SIGNS NOT TO PROCEED WITH A MAJOR CAMPAIGN.
If any of these three alarm bells start ringing when contemplating a major campaign, it could be time to rethink your fundraising plans.
If you don’t immediately have four prospects in mind for that one gift level – given a 1:4 success rate projected for major gift asks – then you are already in a bit of trouble.
Everyone is doing it. Major campaigns are where it is at. Millions, actually almost billions, are being raised through major campaigns across Australia right now.
So you think it is time that your organisation gets a slice of the pie. But are you ready?…
I have worked with many organisations as they plan a major campaign, working through the feasibility in assessing the organisational readiness and the likelihood of donations and support from those closest to the organisation. Sometimes the timing is just right, and other times alarm bells start ringing loud and clear.
ALARM BELL 1
The first alarm bell often rings when speaking with the CEO, chairperson or other person of high influence in the organisation. Why? Because they don’t understand the reason for the campaign, except to raise more money.
I recently spoke with a chairperson who, when asked directly why the campaign was important and urgent, said, “Well it isn’t really… it is important to us because we want more money to do more things, but it is not really urgent to others”
Argh! That comment was not only concerning, but it was not true. The campaign was urgent. In fact it would affect tens of thousands of people across the country if successful, potentially improving health outcomes and social inclusion in communities everywhere. But the chairperson didn’t understand that, and instead focused on the economic benefit to the organisation and not the cause itself. They did not hold the vision.
If one of the main influencers of your organisation is not on board, then it is time to reassess your readiness for a major campaign.
ALARM BELL 2
So Alarm Bell 1 didn’t sound for you? Great! But are they willing to put their money where their mouth is? There are two things I want to highlight here:
1. Not only should the highest level influencers in your organisation (I mean your board/CEO/trustees/patrons) be on board with your vision, understanding the urgency and importance of your campaign, they should also be willing to donate. I have always advocated that in order to ask someone to make their most significant gift to a cause, you should do the same. The CEO and the board are not exempt from this, they should lead by example. In fact, I once worked with an organisation where 100% of staff from the Foundation gave to their cause personally. This was a powerful statement when discussing a gift with prospective donors.
2. The campaign needs to be backed with the financial resources it will need to succeed. Additional budget will be required for staffing, marketing, events and meetings and so much more. It costs money to make money and a campaign cannot be successful if no additional resources are supplied.
ALARM BELL 3
Alarm Bell 3 sounds when we pull out the gift chart. Let’s say we want to raise $1 million though our major campaign. To do that ideally we need to secure at least one gift of $100,000 and a number of gifts above $25,000.
So who are your supporters? Do you have current networks, donors or influencers who are going to introduce you to the people you need to be speaking to to raise that level of donation. If you don’t immediately have four prospects in mind for that one gift level – given a 1:4 success rate projected for major gift asks – then you are already in a bit of trouble.
If this is the case, it may be time to dig deeper into your database, build up your appeals and community engagement program, or consider some marketing activities to build profile before launching a major campaign.
Campaigns are exciting, challenging and can be world changing. But they can also be a disaster if due process is not followed. So my advice? Take your time. Plan, plan and plan. Talk to your stakeholders, internally and externally, until you get your messaging right and grow your networks.
Teisha Archer is a fundraising coach and consultant specialising in major gifts and campaigns and Director of Teisha Archer Consulting. Teisha is also a Specialist Consultant Member of The Xfactor Collective – Australia’s first network of social impact consultants and coaches across 300 areas of specialisation that exists to support social changemakers to achieve their social mission. The Xfactor Collective has the sector’s first CONCIERGE service to help you get your projects off to a flying start, and a sector-first video library THE X-CHANGE, comprising 140 helpful videos for changemakers such as the links above in this article.