Giving Your Donors What They Want

“You’ll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping other people get what they want.”

Dale Carnegie


The most successful fundraiser I know told me that it’s never about money.  It’s about helping the donor to achieveStone wishing well what he or she hopes to achieve.  It’s why memorizing a pitch will never result in great fundraising.

Great fundraising happens when you first ask your prospects and donors what they want and then match what you need to their desire.

The way you do that is not magic.  It’s about having conversations that allow your donors and prospects to share with you what matters to them.

Often that means asking open-ended questions.  Questions like:

  • What is it about our mission that is meaningful to you?
  • What, more than anything, would you like to accomplish with your philanthropy?
  • Tell me about the very best charitable gift you ever made.
  • Tell me about the best thanks you ever received
  • What things do you think our organization could do better?
  • What brings you joy?

Not all of these, of course.  That would feel more like an interrogation than a conversation.  And as they share with you, you must respond authentically.  Frequently that requires more questions, like, “Can you tell me more about that?”  You may even want to share a story of your own—or a story about a client or another donor—that reinforces what they are saying. And when it feels right, you need to tie together their values, concerns, hopes, dreams with those of your organization and the purpose for which you are soliciting their support.

Since it is their support you are asking for, you must find out if you are on the right path.

  • Is this a project that you would want to be a part of?
  • What part of what we’ve been talking about excites you?
  • Is this a priority for you?
  • Does the amount we’re talking about fit your interest in the project or our cause?

And if the answer is less than enthusiastic, your job is not to try to talk them into supporting what you want them to support but in finding out what would make THIS the best gift they ever made and what would bring them joy now.



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