“Donor Pointer”

Someone called me a “donor-whisperer” last week.

While I was complimented, that term has always felt a little… off… and I finally figured out why. 

A “whisperer” sounds like it’s an innate skill.  It sounds like a talent that a person was born with, that they probably can’t teach, for something that very few people can do. 

Being a “whisperer” also seems a little manipulative, like you’re using a talent to make people do something they didn’t want to do.

None of those things are true.

What I do in fundraising is teachable, and almost anyone can do it.

Instead of “whisperer,” the term I’d use is “pointer.” 

Because what I do is point out things and let donors react.

I help organizations point out things that are happening in the world. I help organizations point out the concrete ways a donor can change the world by giving to them. I help organizations point out the concrete ways the donor has changed the world by giving to them. 

There’s no manipulation.  Everything is true.  There’s no secret skill.  It’s just a series of choices for what to point at.

Your fundraising can point at what donors are most interested in… or not. How donors react is up to them. (Because remember: fundraising doesn’t create tension in donors, it reveals tension they already hold.)

Ultimately, every post on this blog is an attempt to share what we’ve learned about what to point your donors’ attention towards if you’d like to raise more money and do more good. It’s a learnable skill and you can do it.  

Getting Boundary-Stretching Fundraising Approved

Exceed expectation.

I’m fresh off the plane from last week’s Storytelling Conference, and there’s something I forgot to share.

It’s a simple, story-based tool for anyone who wants to try a fundraising approach that’s new to their organization… and needs to get their boss to approve it.

This tool doesn’t make it easy – a fundraising approach that’s new can challenge beliefs people have about how fundraising works. And beliefs don’t easily change. But it’s a start, so here goes…

Step 1 – Share What You Learned

Share the new strategy, tactic or approach that you learned at the conference.

Step 2 – Tell Your Story

Share how the knowledge of new strategy or tactic changed how you think. Give examples if you can, saying things like, “I used to think that it worked like X, but now I see that it can work like Y.”

Share how you think that the approach could help your organization raise more money and achieve more of your mission.

Step 3 – Share Why You Can’t Believe

Confess that you now wonder if the previous approach you took is really the best approach. You’re not “proclaiming” here – that can put people on the defensive because the meta is that “you’re right and they’re wrong” – and we don’t want that.

Confess that you’re wondering if the current way of doing things is raising less money than you could be and holding your organization back from doing more.

Step 4 – Share Your Conflict

Acknowledge that by sharing this you’re aware that it upsets the status quo, and that you don’t enjoy doing that.

Step 5 – “What Should I Do About This?”

Ask a simple, direct question: “What should I do about this?”

Be a good listener.

You may get shut down. You may find that there’s a possibility of trying the new approach.

Regardless, be solutions-oriented. Offer to look for a low stakes place to try the idea. Perhaps you can try it in an e-appeal during a dead time of the year? If people are worried about the Board’s reaction, take the Board off the send list.

Step 6 – Remember That You Are On The Same Team

If your organization is completely against the new approach, now you know.

But you will have honored the organization by introducing a new idea in a sensitive, thoughtful way. Their reaction is up to them.

What comes next is up to you. Some people in this situation will bring the idea up again a few months later. Some people will leave the organization. Whatever your approach is, remember that you’re on the same team right now.

Step 7 – You Can Always Ask For A Do-Over

If there’s no tolerance for failure, there’s no innovation.

That goes for your organization; if your organization isn’t willing to fail, they won’t be willing to try your idea.

But in this moment it also goes for you – you tried a new approach to get a new idea approved. And kudos to you; you took the vulnerable approach, tried to innovate, and were willing to fail. Good on you.

If it didn’t work, you can thank the person for listening, and in most cases you can ask if you can try again later.

In My Experience…

If you present a challenging idea in a sensitive, thoughtful way, you have a better chance of getting in a conversation about it.

If you get in a conversation about it, you have a better chance of it getting approved.

So whether you’re back from the conference and have a head full of new ideas that conflict with “the stories your organization tells itself about fundraising,” or just read about an idea that you want to try, give this approach a go.

Repeat What Works

Repeat

After a difficult year, and a not-so-simple start to 2021, we’d be excused for wanting to wipe the slate clean.

But does starting over with a clean sheet of paper work for fundraising?

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But it’s usually the wrong thing to do.

The best way to move into 2021 is by looking at what worked best in 2020 and copying it.  Even during the pandemic, many organizations saw better than average results.  Some set records.  So, it would be a shame to not repeat what worked, right?

You can save yourself a LOT of time by doing this, AND you’ll raise more money doing it.  Why?  Because your donors voted with their wallets and told you that some of your fundraising last year was really effective.  It caught and kept their attention.  They wanted to get involved.  And it moved them to action.

If you think of your fundraising as a series of experiments, some of your experiments worked better than others.

So, your fundraising this year should include more of the things that worked well.  Take some time to identify those successes, and repeat them:

  • Copy the offers and creative approaches that worked.
  • Use those offers and creative approaches in other scenarios.
  • Find relevant, real-time opportunities for your donor to give today.

As you move into the new year, spend a couple of minutes brainstorming the reasons your donor gave last year.  And if you give her those same opportunities, she’s likely to help your cause again.