It Is All About a Donor Saying 'Yes!'
When we were young, all of us sought some level of achievement and satisfaction from activities. I happened to play baseball, football and basketball. I loved to play well and win, and the feeling of accomplishment gained by hard work was something I have enjoyed throughout my entire life. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” by the Roman philosopher Seneca? You make your own luck in life. Through time, I transferred feelings of success from the playing field to my work efforts.
I have spent a lifetime generating thousands of dollars from many donors. Like sports, I understand that in order to obtain a “yes” response from a prospect, it takes a great deal of research, knowledge, strategy, luck and solicitation practice. Recently, I had two prospect visits a day apart. On the first visit, I secured a six-figure gift from a donor. The second visit, which I thought was a solicitation ask, turned into a cultivation scenario. After that visit, I had to go back to the drawing board.
Like a baseball player wanting to improve his craft, I spent several hours critiquing the ask that was not made. After all these years, I know I need to continue to improve my performance when in a face-to-face solicitation situation. I always want a prospect to say "yes." For all of us — including me — what can we do to enhance the probability that the answer we want will come out of a prospect's mouth? Remember, according to Henry Rosso, there is a fundraising cycle that involves identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship, renewal and upgrade.
A DonorBox article noted the nine magic words that increase donations for nonprofits relate to the understanding of why people give. People want to give to people who provide storytelling asks with sincerity, conviction, empathy and relationship-building in mind, so here are the nine words that can increase the possibility of the word "yes" coming out of a donor’s mouth regardless of type of ask used:
Seek to utilize emotion in your ask, which will vary in every case. It is noted in research that women like the words "kind" and "compassionate" while men enjoy the terms "strong," "responsible" and "loyal," according to the same DonorBox article. Seek to use words that will stimulate the prospect toward action. The greater you believe in the cause, the passion and emotion for the ask will easily come out.
A Soap Box Engage blog reinforced some of these ways to boost your wording when asking for donations. You need strategy and the right words to inspire others to donate. One way to boost donations is, again, by using the word “you" to make a request by saying that you are the solution to the problem of hunger in the classroom. Another word to use when speaking to prospects is the word "because." An example is "I am telling you a story of little Bobby and his hunger because he needs your help." Similar to "small" previously, this article recommended the word "little." "Our campaign will be successful because of many donors and every little contribution will make the overall goal a reality." A final word to use is "thanks." The phrase, "thank you," is powerful and makes a positive statement that you care about your donors.
Crooker Consulting states that if you want to move a donor to a "yes" response, understand that a prospect might be saying maybe but needs more information. A prospect might say ,"not now," to an ask, and you need to wave off for another time. If a prospect says, "The project is not right for me," understand the word "no" for now. Make sure you are prepared for a "maybe" response with questions on how to follow up. Be ready to adjust your thinking and reply when a prospect says not now or no. If a prospect understands the reason for the visit and they are open to an ask, do not assume if you do not get an immediate "yes" that it is a "no." It might mean they need more information or additional time to make a philanthropic decision.
If you want prospects to say "yes," according to QuickBooks Intuit, try asking them the following questions:
- "What do you think of our organization?" to start the conversation flowing.
- "What areas interest you the most?" to help you hone in on the prospect's interests.
- "Why did you decide to give to charity?" to help focus your appeal.
- "Who else could help support this effort?" if you are assuming they are giving and want to fully engage.
The key is asking questions to get to know the prospect, place the ball in his or her court, make communications donor-centered, and have the donor feel valued and engaged.
Claire Axelrad uses secrets of psychologists, such as Robert Cialdini, to determine five principles of influence that affect human behaviors. Using these principles will increase the likelihood that your prospect's call to action will be a "yes."
- Social proof means when a prospect's peers approve of you, that prospect is likely to approve of you, too.
- Loss aversion occurs when prospects feel they may miss out on something and will do anything to avoid a loss.
- Anchoring happens when the use of a challenge gift approach increases your gift to a greater degree.
- Foot in the door is the idea of reminding prospects that they are already donors and you want them to continue that trend.
- Use authorities that support your use, so prospects can join the bandwagon approach.
It is all about a donor saying "yes" to a contribution request. A Nonprofit Hub article shares the real concept that asking for donations is intimidating. But asking helps donors realize they care about philanthropy and your organization.
When thinking about your next contribution request, consider the following seven tips:
- Research your donors in order to read their minds. Understand their giving history, what they care about and what they are passionate about.
- Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. Practice every aspect of your ask, including framing responses out loud and with others.
- Never, ever surprise your prospect. Make it clear your first call is just to talk to them about the cause and how they might consider getting involved.
- Stop being boring. Have the prospects catch your passion and have fun in conversation with them.
- Ask for advice. What are their biggest fears and impressions?
- Use pointed silence when needed. Listen and shut up.
- Ask for a specific amount to contribute to the cause. This way, the donor does not do the work.
At the end of the day, the ask is selling significance. Do you want to feel really good and believe you are making a difference? When you ask for a gift and you obtain a "yes," the feeling is amazing and addicting!
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.