Achieving Excellence in Face-to-Face Fundraising
As I open my copy of Henry Rosso's 1991 book, "Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising," I cannot help but read Hank's personal comment to me on the cover. He signed my book in April 1992 and said, among other things, "Let the book serve you well." I had taken classes from Hank and listened to him many times. With each passing year of experience, I still learned from the master.
After he passed away, I was blessed to visit his wife, Dottie, in their California home. His office was still in order. What I did not know was that Hank had personally interviewed Albert Einstein for his college newspaper and also covered the Hindenburg disaster as a reporter on May 6, 1937. Hank was a master of fundraising, and his words are still heard loud and clear 21 years later.
The book is excellent on so many levels. Of particular interest to me was Hank's "Ladder of Effectiveness" for solicitation of gifts. He noted that the most effective solicitation procedure is face-to-face, especially through a personal visit by a team. I am always a fan of personal, face-to-face solicitation utilizing a peer of the prospect if at all possible. Your goal is to build a relationship and obtain direct feedback to your approach and request.
According to Hank, solicitation through media or by direct mail is the least effective, as attested to by the ladder. That said, it can be effective for acquiring new donors or generating lower-level gifts. Social media has changed quite a bit in the last 15 years, and its effectiveness in this solicitation realm is increasing. The secondary benefit of marketing and institutional branding cannot be understated. In the world of major or planned gifts, face-to-face solicitation and building trust are musts. The art of communication and repeated interaction is key to ultimate success. It may take several visits to tell your story in a way that is comfortable and understood by the prospects.
Hank noted that a personal visit by a team should consist of at least two people. He indicated this team consists of the peer of the prospect accompanied by the organization's chief executive, fundraising officer or a program person. The peer is a volunteer and the advocate for the organization; the staff person is the expert witness. The team needs to be prepared to visit at least one and possibly two or more people. Team members need to know who will be present for the visit. It also helps to learn, if possible, who is the decision maker being solicited by the team.
For a face-to-face solicitation to work, the team must practice in advance. Team members need to know how much time they have on the visit, the purpose of the visit, the priorities to sell, anticipation of rejection questions plus other facts. Prior research is a must to learn the prospect's giving history, capacity to give and how she gives. Knowledge of prior giving history to the institution is a must, as well. The place of solicitation is key, so seek a personal, relaxed setting. The stakes are high, and all elements must be anticipated in advance.
A key concept to remember is LAI — linkage, ability, inclination. All three must be in play in a solicitation effort. Personal solicitation must be practiced, and each person must understand his or her role and function in the actual solicitation.
The fundraising staff person is responsible for this one-act (or more) play and needs to understand how each participant will act on the solicitation side. The unknown and exciting adventure begins as you typically do not know exactly how those being solicited will react. Your goal is to achieve excellence in face-to-face fundraising.
Read Hank's book, as the principles have not changed. There is no greater thrill than to achieve success in a personal solicitation!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.