Pulse: When Fundraising Gets Personal
Every fundraiser has his or her tried-and-true bag of tricks. But in this day of donors seeking to be more actively involved with the charities they support, it might be time to bury those bags and try a fresh approach.
International fundraising consultant Bernard Ross says donors no longer respond as well to things such as boring speeches delivered during stuffy fundraising galas, overworked and overused direct-mail packages, and bland e-mail appeals. Instead, he says, they’re looking for fundraisers to aggressively motivate and inspire them — and that happens best in person.
Ross, director of U.K.-based consultancy and training organization The Management Centre (=mc), co-authored the book “The Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results,” with The Management Centre’s co-director, Clare Segal. In it, “fundraisers will find quick ways to study other people -— subtle clues, how they do things, how they are influenced — and then ways they can adjust their behavior,” Ross says.
The book offers an alternative model for asking and influencing potential donors and peers, using the latest techniques developed in the neural and psychological sciences.
Some of the things addressed in the book include how to make a compelling ask to mid- and high-value donors, how to win board members over to a new campaign strategy, how to persuade reluctant colleagues to commit to ideas, and ways to handle the objections of a skeptical venture philanthropist.
The book aims to arm fundraisers with invaluable skills such as meeting donor challenges; shaping ideas into effective, memorable messages; building rapport with “difficult” or “different” people; handling “no” responses; and learning from failure.
To be successful, Ross says, fundraisers must pay attention to what people say and to their body language, and then adjust accordingly how they themselves respond.
For example, if a fundraiser is dealing with someone who seems to be influenced by sounds, he or she should arrange that conversation in a quiet area so the potential donor can focus on what’s being said.
“The idea is to understand how a person is being influenced and then adjust your behavior to match,” Ross says. “A successful fundraiser can pick up on the clues and then use them to get what they’re after.”
Ross, whose areas of expertise are strategic thinking, leadership changes
and organizational transformation, has spent the last 20 years helping nonprofit organizations re-evaluate and perfect their performance. His clients include major international nonprofits such as Oxfam, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Amnesty International. Also a tireless advocate of fundraising innovation, he shares some practical strategies in “How Does Your (Fundraising) Garden Grow?,” a special report in the March issue of FundRaising Success. (You can read the report at tinyurl.com/daxpz8)
Looking for advice on fundraising in this difficult economy? Ross says there’s only one thing to do: “Get over it.”
“Fundraisers use [the economy] as an excuse for not trying,” he says. “[There are] still a lot of rich people out there who want to put their money to good use. And there are still a lot of causes out there that need them. [You must] change your mind-set.”
He adds that some of the best advice he ever received was, “Always think about the end, the purpose. Think about the ultimate beneficiary, and you will be successful.”
Melissa Busch is associate senior editor for the Promotional Marketing Publishing Group at NAPCO.