Common Fundraising Mistake: Talking Too Much
It’s true, when we are nervous, we tend to ramble.
Asking for a contribution makes most people nervous, which causes rambling. And together, we have the perfect storm to make the most common fundraising mistake: talking too much.
Have you ever walked away from a conversation or meeting thinking, “Why didn’t I just close my mouth and stop talking?” I have.
We start off with a terrific point. Then we find ourselves out on what I call the tree branch. It’s then we realize we don’t know how to get back to the original topic.
Don’t do this:
A few months ago, I received a phone call inviting me to make a contribution to an organization I regularly support. The gift amount was fine and the story shared was interesting. But I waited for an opportunity to answer and then I waited some more.
After nearly five minutes (yes, I watched the timer on my phone) of the other person talking, I lost interest. My mind wandered and, frankly, I began to wonder when they were going to stop talking. I was no longer listening. I didn’t make a contribution that day.
If you want to get a YES — use less words.
If powerful contributions are made when people are inspired and in touch with their own purpose, vision and difference they make, we have to know what their purpose and vision is.
The way we learn THEIR VISION is by listening.
A while back, Seth Godin wrote a post that reminded me it’s important to know how to listen:
Live interaction still matters. [Lori would add, especially in fundraising.]
Google reports four times as many matches for “how to speak” as “how to listen.”Pay the person who’s speaking back with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm shown by the expression on your face, in your posture, in your questions.
When asking for a contribution, how long should you talk?
Fundraising guru, Jerry Panas, says at least 50 to 55% of the conversation should be spent LISTENING.
Meaning, if you have a five-minute phone call to ask for a contribution, you have two to two-and-a-half minutes to talk – including the greeting and wrap up.
Tactics to Help Eliminate Talking Too Much
1. Pause Often
When you say “Hello, how are you?” — wait to hear the answer and really listen to what’s being said.
2. Ask Questions to Learn More About the Donor
Every meeting with a donor is an opportunity to learn more about why they support your work. It’s your opportunity to forge a deeper relationship.
3. Listen to Learn
Too often, we listen for the pause from the other person, so we can say what we feel needs saying to convince them.
The reality is, the more the other person talks, the more likely they are to give… and give more. Over and over again, I’ve heard about ask conversations where the donor literally talked themselves into giving more than was expected.
4. Come to the Meeting Prepared
Be prepared to share stories, startling facts and to make your ask. But plan to use some, not all, of the information you’ve prepared.
With good planning, you are much more likely to actively listen when the conversation moves in different directions.
5. Leave Your Nerves at the Office
If you are more worried about “doing it right” than having a meaningful conversation, you’ll ramble.
Best practices: Breathe. Listen. Nod. Pause. Repeat.
If your nonprofit is looking to find new funder opportunities, build strong grant programs, write powerful proposals and win awards to fund your mission, from now until Aug. 15, you can sign up for a one-year GrantStation Membership subscription for $169.
For more information, watch this virtual tour of GrantStation.
Lori L. Jacobwith, founder of Ignited Fundraising™, is a master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert. With a passion for the positive, she has provided coaching and training for more than 4,500 organizations and 500,000 people. Her work has helped nonprofits raise $300 million from individual donors… and counting.