Two ears, two eyes, one mouth; these are important ratios for fundraisers. In percentage terms that’s 40% , 40%, 20%. We would do well to remember these are figures. In short, spend about 80% of the time listening and observing. Fundraisers should develop the discipline as second nature, because it will make the talking time so much more productive.
It’s not easy, because there is a natural sense of excitement when the opportunity arises to meet a potential donor face-to-face. This is a precious chance to communicate all the important aspects of your charity’s activity. You’re bursting to explain how your project will change the world, or at least that bit of the world you work in. Curb that urge to do the talking, because the most important task is to find out just what interests and motivates the prospect. What exactly does the prospect want to know about the project? What will help them to believe your organisation deserves their support? More detail on the stages of donor development can be found in Fundraising: The essentials for success.
This is live research that will help you shape your approach. Are you standing in front of a real prospect? What can be done to make them one? How can you progress the relationship in a manner that respects their wishes? Even if the immediate answer is no, are there others ways they might prefer to offer support? Contrast this approach to the case-study in the previous blog, where the only objective was to extract the cash as quickly as possible. Dick Turpin still rides!
A lesson from Advertising
I spent a significant amount of time in my advertising career as New Business Director. It is not so different from being a fundraiser. You have to identify the potential client/donor, make contact, which requires patience and persistence and then convince them that you can deliver the best return/most satisfaction on their investment.
The culmination of the process was the “pitch”, or new business presentation. It was an exercise in making an impression. We screened showreels of work done for others and asked our experts in media buying, creativity, research and other support services to demonstrate just how professional we were. All that was needed was the magician pulling the rabbit from the hat to prove we were miracle workers.
I look back on these events with some embarrassment. The prospective client hardly managed more than an occasional interjection, under the sustained intensity of the verbal barrage. Were we really interested in learning about them or just interested in demonstrating how bloody brilliant we were? Two ears, two eyes, one mouth were being used in the wrong ratios.
A contrasting way of doing it is permanently etched in my brain. A potential client arrived in the office where tea, coffee and pleasantries were served up. My boss then walked in and sat down. His opening gambit was “ I assume from the fact that you’re here you think you have a problem and that we might be able to help. Perhaps you would like to tell us about it”. They speak; you watch and listen and the opportunity for a mutually satisfactory conclusion has been created.
Fundraising and advertising are very different of course. In commercial situations mutual self-interest drives the desire to conclude an agreement. In fundraising the dynamics are heavily skewed because the prospective donor has no absolute imperative to conclude an agreement by a specific date. But the principle holds true. You have to stand in the other person’s shoes to understand how you can best realise their wants. Fundraising: the Essentials for Success expands on the subject.
Two ears, two eyes, one mouth are important ratios which you need to remember. Or as Dale Carnegie so succinctly put it “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than you will in two years trying too interest them in you”.
So show interest in your potential donors. Understand them and their passions because from that you will learn if your interests are mutually compatible. If they are, you in a position to put forward a proposal that will satisfy and excite.