One Important Way to Draw Your Donors Closer
People don’t give because they have money — they give because they’re committed to your mission, and they believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.
So, it stands to reason that you should never ask anyone for a big gift until they know your mission, understand what you are up to and feel engaged in your plans. One great way to make that happen is with advice visits.
Engage Donors With One-on-One Advice Meetings
The often repeated advice, “Want money? Ask for advice. Want advice? Ask for money,” turns out to be true! When you ask people for advice, you engage them in thinking about your project. And once they are engaged, they will be much more likely to give you money. Most advice visits have three goals.
Goal No. 1: Look for the hot buttons — what’s important to the donor?
The more you know about your donors and the better you understand what’s important to them, the more likely you’ll be to build a real relationship with them. Most people are quite happy to tell you about themselves if you are genuinely curious. And the more you know, the better.
Goal No. 2: Uncover where they really stand on your issues.
If you have the courage to ask your donors what they think about your mission, your organization and your project, they’ll be likely to tell you. But you’ve got to ask what they really think.
Goal No. 3: Don’t leave without with a reason to get back in touch
Building a relationship isn’t a one-time event. You build real relationships over time. So you should leave every advice visit with a reason to get back in touch.
You might offer to send additional information, schedule a meeting with someone else from your organization or send them something you’d like them to review. Never worry if a donor asks you a question you don’t know the answer to — it’s a great opportunity to get back in touch with them with the answer.
Advice Meetings: Questions to Ask
Here are some of my favorite advice visit questions:
- What do you think we should do about…?
- How do you think we can make this happen?
- Who do you think should be involved in this project?
Notice that all of these questions are open-ended. Start a question with the words:
When you start a question with one of these three words, you will get a more fully-developed response than just yes or no.
How to Prepare for an Advice Visit Meeting
Before you go in for an advice visit, learn as much as you can about the person you are going to see. In particular, be sure you know what kind of advice they are qualified to give you.
Suss out their experience and expertise and ask them for advice that will call on that. Asking people for advice they have no ability to give will sour your meeting quickly.
You might ask donors about their perspective. Everyone is qualified to offer their own perspective. You might ask them how to solve a problem that is related to their field of interest or profession. And you can always ask for feedback on various aspects of your campaign, like a draft of your case for support, potential steering committee members or fundraising strategies.
Advice Visits: The 4 Cardinal Rules
Finally, here are four cardinal rules to keep in mind during your advice visits.
Don’t bore your donors.
Keep the meetings short. Thirty-minute meetings are often good.
Listen more than you talk. If you really do that, you won’t bore them (see No. 1).
Follow up promptly.
Let’s share notes. What sort of advice might you ask your donor for on your next advice visit? Let us know in the comment section, or we can talk about it on Twitter.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.