As fundraisers, we talk to wide variety of people – team members, volunteers, clients, and yes, donors.
For many, meeting with and talking to donors is out of their comfort zone. And building a relationship just so you can ask for money – well, that just feels downright wrong to some.
But cultivating donors is KEY to raising bigger and more frequent gifts for your nonprofit.
Talking to donors can make you feel weird or self-conscious.
It’s common to feel nervous about reaching out to donors and getting to know them on a personal level.
The donor relationship should be built on trust, respect, honor, and mutual interest in your cause – and not because you want to get money out of them.
Still not sure you know what it takes to successfully cultivate donors?
First, you want to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin when you are talking with your donors. Practice speaking with co-workers and colleagues so that you can learn to carry on a conversation and develop your skills.
When you speak with your donors, be warm and sincere, and truly interested in them. They’ll feel more comfortable with you and the relationship will develop naturally. People can tell when you’re forcing a smile, so be genuine. After all, these are your donors you’re talking to – they are the people who make the work of your nonprofit organization possible!
Cultivating donors doesn’t have to feel weird or be a chore – it can actually be fun and rewarding.
Find out what the other person is interested in. Do some research in advance if you can. Otherwise, pay attention. If you’re in the donor’s home or office, notice the pictures, books, and other personal items displayed. These are usually great objects for conversation starters.
Ask questions. What do they like to do? What sort of things have they done in their lives? What is happening to them now? What did they do today or last weekend? Identify things about them that you can politely ask questions about. Don’t bombard the donor with questions, but ask one or two naturally as part of the conversation. You’ll learn a great deal about them when you do.
Listen. This is the most important part of any conversation. Pay attention to what is being said. A conversation will not go anywhere if you are too busy thinking of something else, including what you plan to say next. If you listen well, the donor’s statements will suggest questions for you to ask.
Allow them to do most of the talking. After all, you have two ears and one mount – use them accordingly! Your donor will probably not realize that they did most of the talking, and you’ll get the credit for being a good conversationalist – which of course, you are!
Focus on the donor and be present in the moment. If you are too busy thinking about yourself, what you look like, or what the other person might be thinking, you will miss a great deal. Developing the relationship requires you to focus on the donor.
Practice active listening. Part of listening is letting the other person know that you are listening. Make eye contact. Nod. Say “Yes,” “I see,” “That’s interesting,” or something similar to give them clues that you are paying attention and not thinking about something else – such as what you are going to say next. Just be careful not to overdo it.
Try not to cut the person off mid-sentence. It is disrespectful to the donor. Let them finish their thoughts before you speak up.
Practice having conversations with ease and before you know it, you’ll be building strong relationships with all your donors!