Monday, February 18, 2008

what to Say? Part 2

The restaurant is lovely. The food, delicious. Conversation has been lively and you now know all about her trials with the decorator. But whenever you begin talking about your organization, things seems to go south. She listens politely, appears interested, but asks no questions and offers no clues as to what about your organization could be a hot button. You are left not knowing what would make her open up her purse.

You go back to the office, feeling less than excited and your call report (you do write those, right?) is vague. You have no plan, no strategy for the next move, don’t really know what the next step should be.

If this at all sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.

A question I like to ask myself is “Why am I doing this?” It helps to focus me and makes me think about what outcomes I desire from a particular action or activity. What I want to get from something informs what I need to do at the front end.

With fundraising, there are a finite number of reasons—and an infinite number of variations on those reasons—as to why you made that appointment.

In many cases, you’re there because Joe suggested you meet with Judy, or because this person (or that corporation or foundation) is on your suspect list. Maybe you know they have money, or they’ve given to a like organization. You want to qualify them. That is, you want to find out if they have an interest and capacity to become a major donor for your organization.

Perhaps this meeting is because you want to move someone along the cultivation process to the next step on the journey to solicitation.

You might be ready for that solicitation and this is the meeting where you will be asking for the gift.

Perhaps the gift has just been made. You are being a good steward and this meeting is to thank them for their recent generosity. Of course, you are also starting the process for the next gift.

Maybe you happened to run into Stan and he agreed to see you. Or you made this appointment because you could and because your boss has been bugging you get out of the office and do a little of what they are paying you to do—raise some funds.

Let me suggest that if you do not have a clear reason, an outcome that you are expecting, perhaps you are just wasting your time. Fundraising needs to be purposeful. There must be a focus and a goal.

The best fundraiser I ever knew once told me that you should ask the prospect for something at every meeting. Your purpose for that meeting will dictate what you ask for, but it should always be something that connects the person to your organization. And your questions should always be adding information to your donor profile. The more you know about your prospect, the better you can match needs.

What kinds of things should you be asking for? We’ll discuss that next time.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grantwriting class is available at

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