Simone Joyaux is recognized internationally as one of the nonprofit sector’s most thoughtful, inspirational and provocative leaders.
She’s an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She has clients located throughout the U.S. and in other countries, include all types and sizes of nonprofits/NGOs, including foundations and government.
Simone has been a good friend to Asking Matters since the inception of the site. We so appreciate her clear and thoughtful voice.
Suggestions for Effective Solicitation
The best way to solicit most gifts – no matter the size – is to meet in person. And if you’re looking for big gifts, remember the prospect defines what is big.
Always remember: This is a conversation, not a presentation! Describe your project and how it helps to solve a community problem; match the prospect’s needs to those of your cause; and ask for the prospect’s support.
Focus on the prospect. The donor gives through your organization to achieve his/her desires. Learn about what she wants to accomplish. Describe the impact he can have.
1. Help Your Solicitors Pick the Right Prospects.
Keep this mantra in mind: Soliciting works when the right prospect is asked by the right solicitor for the right project at the right amount in the right way at the right time.
2. Solicit in Person.
Face-to-face conversation is the best way. Eye contact. Body language. Effective communications is much more than just words.
Be careful: When making the appointment to meet, don’t accidentally solicit over the telephone.
3. Convince Yourself First.
You have to give before you can ask someone else to give. Your own giving lends credibility to the solicitation process.
4. Know Your cause and Tell Good Stories.
Be knowledgeable about the problems and opportunities and the role that your organization plays in responding to this situation. Be familiar with the programs, services, and financing of your organization. Review support materials before you meet with the prospect.
Most especially, tell a story about real people who are helped by your organization. Explain the impact that the prospect will have.
And don’t worry if you can’t answer questions that the prospect asks. Tell the prospect you’ll get the answer. Another contact is good.
5. Know Your Prospect – Her Motivations and Aspirations, Interests and Disinterests.
Staff provides you with lots of this information. Your conversation with the prospect helps you gain insights. Listen well. Invite the prospect to share his experiences and stories.
6. Ask for A Specific Amount, and Secure A Promise.
Use the phrase: “Would you please consider a gift of $____.” And staff provides you with that request amount.
Asking for a specific amount actually makes the prospect more comfortable. The prospect sees how s/he might fit and help. Then the prospect decides.
As a solicitor, your job is to get an answer. If the prospect isn’t ready to decide at that moment, arrange when you can call back.
7. Carry Out Your Job.
You are wonderful to help with this important personal contact. Please stick to the timetable. Don’t delay making your calls.
As soon as your prospect makes a pledge, report to the staff. Then the staff can send a timely thank-you letter. It’s critical that the donor receive that thank-you immediately.
8. At the Solicitation Meeting.
Remember! Engage the prospect in conversation. This is not a presentation. Conversation is back and forth, commenting on each other’s thoughts, learning each other’s interests. Listen well. Validate. Watch the body language.
Explain your role as a volunteer. Mention your own gift to demonstrate your commitment to the cause.
Talk about impact – your organization’s impact and the prospect’s impact through giving. Talk about how the prospect’s gift can influence others to give.
Ask for the specific amount – the amount staff told you to request. That request will aim as high as possible, challenging and stretching the prospect.
Get a commitment to you. Call back if necessary. The staff can then handle the official thank-you letter and the gift envelope.
9. What If…Contingency Plans!
The prospect may well agree to consider a gift but wants more time to decide, to talk with someone else in the family, etc. That’s fine. Ask if you can provide more information. Ask when you can call back to finalize the gift.
Very sophisticated solicitors may negotiate with the prospect for a larger gift. But don’t try that unless you know how.
10. After the Meeting…
Your job isn’t done until you report to the office. Please report immediately – don’t wait until you’ve finished all your solicitations. Don’t delay. Because your delay will delay the thank-you letter to the donor. And that’s not good, not good at all. Donors deserve immediate thanks.
And you deserve thanks, too. Thank you for taking on these important conversations for an organization you care for.
Did you enjoy reading this piece by Simone Joyaux? Take a look at her 4-part series on Your Board and Fundraising.