That’s right…I said stop talking TO your donors.
Start talking WITH your donors.
Even better, LISTEN to them.
But Kevin Gentry explains this better than me, so…
Until next time. Onward and rightward…
Dr. Chuck Muth, PsD
Professor of Psephology (homeschooled)
“How to Get More Votes, More Donors & More Volunteers”
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Using Donor Involvement to Boost Donations
by Kevin Gentry
An important form of donor recognition is involvement. Please consider this brief story:
Last week, a colleague and I were very fortunate to enjoy a telephone conversation with one of the most successful American business leaders of our time. After service in World War II, this gentleman started a business that is today absolutely massive, with a tremendous international presence. My colleague used the occasion of our scheduled phone call to ask this generous philanthropist what he believed were examples of effective donor involvement.
His answer was that we should always consider how we can provide opportunities for the donor to speak – to share his views or his reactions to an idea. The point was that most generous donors hear from us constantly, but we rarely provide the chance to hear from them. There is that nice maxim, of course, that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
The personal illustration that this businessman offered was his service as the top volunteer political fundraiser to two U.S. Presidents – in a role as the campaign finance chairman, party finance chairman, or something comparable.
He noted that with the first President he served, the President would frequently reach out to him once a month simply to ask, “What are you hearing?” This gave him the opportunity to really share his collected thoughts, and he said it made him feel pretty special. He looked forward to those regular conversations. It made him feel like he was making a difference. And he still treasures the memories of those interactions to this day, many decades later.
However, with the second President he served – whom he admired deeply – he was cordoned off from direct contact. He says they rarely had a direct, personal conversation. There were two instances of a mostly social, smaller group interaction, but it wasn’t the same as having the chance to share his views directly with the most powerful man in the world.
Heady stuff, in this case. But doesn’t it speak volumes?
Do you offer the occasion for your best supporters to speak their mind or to give you counsel?
Sometimes we get so caught up in the urge to sell our donors on all that we’re doing – perhaps in the view that we must really reassure them that their support is key and making a difference – that we don’t offer them any opportunity to speak. However, simply listening is frequently a highly effective step toward successful fundraising.
Yes, it may sound counter-intuitive – how can I thank them, report on the impact of their contributions, and recognize them for their key role if I’m doing the listening rather than the talking?
Well, try it sometime.
In The Artful Journey, Sturtevant actually devotes an entire chapter to “Active Listening.” He writes –
[After impeccable integrity,] the second important characteristic for an outstanding fundraiser, fortunately one which can be learned, is effective listening. There just isn’t a substitute. The goal of the effective listener is to encourage the prospect to talk, then listen in order to understand his or her views, unique needs and fears relating to the gift decision.
Do you have some stories of how effective listening was of specific value to you or your cause?