Kevin Gentry is regarded by many in the “biz” as THE best high-dollar/major donor copywriter in the country today. Indeed, from 1991 to 1997, Kevin served as Executive Vice President of the Leadership Institute, where he supervised a fundraising program that took annual revenue from $1 million to over $6 million.
In fact, Kevin is so good… (“How good is he?!!”) … He’s so good that the Koch Foundation (reviled by the left!) hired him exclusively as their Vice President for Strategic Development. He’s THAT good.
A phrase you’ll often hear from instructors in campaign communications is: “God gave you two ears and one mouth; use them in the same proportion.” In the column below, Kevin expounds on this principle as it relates specifically to fundraising.
You’d do well to listen to him.
Are You An Effective Listener?
By Kevin Gentry
Maybe this week’s Fundraising Tip arrives in your Inbox as you are scrambling to close out your year-end gift solicitations. Or, maybe your activities are focused on processing all of those contributions that are pouring in right now. Either way, hopefully you’re also in contact with your best supporters to convey your heartfelt gratitude for what they’ve helped you to achieve.
As you’re speaking with these most generous contributors, are you able to resist the temptation to talk, continuing to sell your program, and perhaps give these thoughtful folks the chance to speak, instead?
You might consider this specific advice offered by Stephen Clouse. As you may know, Stephen uses video in donor persuasion, and he has helped raise millions of dollars for groups such as the Reagan Ranch and Mount Vernon. Here’s “Great Questions to Guide Effective Listening” that he sent me to share with you.
Have you ever seen a master interviewer get a guest to open up on camera? Active listening is the way you motivate another person in conversation. It’s when we open up and reveal our deepest thoughts and hidden desires. The need for thought-provoking questions is the key to great conversation. These are the types of open-ended questions that require longer answers. They almost always start with who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are some examples of great questions that promote active listening.
1. Why are you interested in (organization or issue)?
2. What brought you to get involved?
3. Why is this important to you?
4. In addition to that, is there anything else?
5. If there was one thing and only one thing you wanted people to know about, why this issue was important to you, what would it be?
Another form of donor involvement that involves listening is asking some of your supporters for advice and counsel. This has multiple benefits.
You might find value in this story shared by Gretchen Hamel of Public Notice –
Earlier this year, we contacted a supporter who is a nationally recognized entrepreneur to see how we could work together on messaging and advertising. After starting in the advertising business in the 1950s, this gentleman went on to purchase a New York billboard advertising company in the early 1960s, building it into a major regional business in the Southwest. He then went on to head a major American film production and distribution company before leaving to build the second largest convenience store chain in the United States.
We scheduled a call with the donor with two goals in mind; first, we could explain the goals of our operation and second (and more importantly) to actively listen to him so we could use his wisdom and business knowledge to improve our organization. Since our initial conversation our group, Public Notice, has had regular communication with this donor, giving him updates on our progress, soliciting his insight on outdoor advertising, and working together to ensure that our messaging is on the right track.
This relationship has shown amazing returns for our organization, with the donor advising on which outdoor vendors to work with, his assistance in placing our outdoor advertising in high traffic locations, and garnering our group substantial discounts on pricing that has saved our group tens of thousands of dollars.
And you thought development was all about simply asking your prospects for money!