Speak From the Heart (Not the Script) During Donor Visits
“When you develop visit scripts, do we have to learn them verbatim?” the client asked. I was shocked.
She then shared that she visited with the CEO of another organization using counsel—a very prominent firm. The consultant made the CEO of that organization learn the wording of asks, word for word. I was shocked.
I will never forget the CEO of a large local organization who spent hours memorizing each speech. The result: cold, forced and not real. I vividly remember one talk where he said, “thank you, thank you and thank you,” as he pivoted on his feet. He looked and sounded like a robot. It had been rehearsed. It looked fake—and it was. His tenure ended with his “retirement” and the organization in chaos and financial trouble.
We develop scripts for every pre-solicitation and solicitation visit in a campaign—never asking for a gift on the first visit! We review these with the volunteers and staff who will participate in the visit, and ensure that they have needed background information.
However, these outlines are not something to regurgitate word for word. They are outlines to use to become familiar with the flow of a visit, who will say what and the general sense of what really needs to be said. Then we coach them on things to do and to avoid, and how to handle a few frequent objections. We insist on the discipline of an outline—and a call to review it before each visit throughout the major gifts portion of a campaign. Through this preparation and coaching, we encourage those making visits to personalize the outline, use their own words and share from the heart.
You can’t share from the heart when you are concerned about remembering a script word for word. I have nearly the same level of concern about colleagues who want to hide behind a nice video, a PowerPoint that will put the donor to sleep or a fancy case statement. Yes, have the materials to support your case. But be genuine and be passionate.
Use emotion and facts. Be specific and gracious about what you hope a prospective donor might do. Make the invitation. Realize that a big decision might be multi-stepped. Listen. Listen to how he or she responds throughout the conversation. Get confirmation that it is the right time to ask. Then, if it is, ask—and listen very carefully to his or her response and what he or she is saying.
Prepare. Don’t memorize. Relate personally to your prospective donors. It is a relationship, not a performance!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.