Fundraising is a very personal job. A huge part of your job is to get to know your donors and what makes them tick, and then you use that insight to encourage them to donate to your cause. It involves tons of personal interactions, many conversations, and a knack for being able to discover and appeal to a person’s emotions.
Being a fundraiser is hard work, especially when talking to people can be intimidating. Whether you’re new on the job, are an introvert, or are just shy, here are some strategies that can help make your fundraising job a little easier.
1. Schedule Calls Ahead of Time
For those of us who get nervous on the phone, picking up the phone and making a cold call can be totally nerve-wracking. Whether you’re calling a donor to set up a meeting, or to get their input, or to ask them for a testimonial or anything else, try to schedule the call ahead of time. Making a phone call when both you and the other person have planned for it takes away the anxiety of surprising or interrupting a donor, lets you prepare for the call so you’re not distracted, and can often mitigate the awkward small talk before you get to the point of the call.
2. Do Some Research
One aspect of donor interactions that can be stressful is not knowing the donor’s personality or their history. Doing a bit of research about your donor and their recent history with your organization is a great way to alleviate that stress — and it helps with talking points, too! What can you learn about your donor? Do they have a history of supporting certain programs? Do they have kids? How did their last interaction with your organization go? Knowing the answers to those questions (and similar ones) will help conversation flow naturally and will help you build a rapport with them.
Fun note: try finding a photo of your donor at an event, on social media, or elsewhere. If you’re on the phone, sometimes it helps alleviate shyness if you know what their face looks like on the other end of the line.
3. Meet In a Comfortable Place
Meeting a donor? Try to set your meeting somewhere that you’re comfortable with your surroundings. Whether it’s a local restaurant, a neat coffee shop, or your own office, finding a location that’s familiar and friendly will help you relax if you’re shy or nervous. If you do have to meet them somewhere that’s unfamiliar to you, arrive a few minutes early (if you can — don’t show up at their home early or something) to scope out the place and get settled.
4. Ask Lots of Questions
If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to let conversation lapse or get caught in a loop of small talk that’s hard to break through. Asking your donor questions will keep them talking, give you the opportunity to learn more about them and their passions, and make them feel like you really care about them as people.
Of course, asking lots of questions should obviously be accompanied by listening to their answers. Not just hearing — listening. You never know when information your donor shares with you, whether it’s about their family, their giving history, or anything else, will be important in the future.
5. Wait to Make The Big Ask
You probably shouldn’t be making your big ask right away in the first place. Donors — especially regular donors who give major gifts — should never feel like ATMs that are only valued for their money. Taking the time to build relationships with donors is a win/ win situation. Your donors feel more valued if you talk to them about more than your upcoming project. You feel more comfortable asking for their (eventual) support because you have a relationship with them. And you’ve already laid the foundation for a relationship that will, hopefully, last for years.
Are you a shy fundraiser? What works for you?