What’s the kiss of death for every fundraiser?
What can you do to absolutely ensure that you’ve turned your donor off? To be sure the donor never wants to hear from you again?
It’s being boring.
And you are boring when you talk too much.
Talking too much is guaranteed to make your donor’s eyes glaze over.
The last thing you want him to do is to wish you’d leave.
You may think you’re being interesting but he may think you are droning on and on.
Too many nonprofit leaders – CEO’s, development directors and board volunteers alike – all think they need a presentation.
Everybody thinks they need a “pitch.”
You don’t need a pitch: you need to listen.
The point of all this is the conversation. It’s knowing out to bring a donor out.
If you are doing more than 50% of the talking, then you’re dead.
We have a motto in fundraising: Listen Your Way to the Gift.
Here’s a real story:
And I was close to one of our most successful alumni on Wall Street. This gentleman was a multi-million dollar prospect for Carolina. (He eventually signed the billionaire’s Giving Pledge with Buffett and Gates.)
At the time, I was the only fundraiser from Carolina that he was willing to see. That was because I visited quickly and then got out the door.
This guy had a very short attention span. And I knew it.
He could count on me being BRIEF and CHARMING.
He knew I’d never be BORING.
The definition of “charming?” – Letting him do most of the talking.
Then I brought one of the very top university leaders up to New York City to meet Mr. Wall Street.
After we sat down to visit, the university leader started off long-winded. And he kept talking.
I could see Mr. Wall Street getting a little impatient. I started getting nervous.
Then the university leader started trying to drop names in front of Mr. Wall Street.
And the names he was mentioning were clearly lower on the totem pole than Wall Street. The people he was talking about were NOT interesting at all to Mr. Street.
See, my Wall Street buddy was hanging out with the wealthiest people in the world. He had a bloody Picasso in his office.
He was a Big Cheese.
And the University official droned on and on. I got more and more nervous.
Things were not going well at all.
What Mr. University should have done was ask Mr. Street his opinion of things at Carolina. He should have sought out some advice and counsel from one of the University’s most prominent alumns.
Instead, he talked. And talked.
If I’d been sitting close to him I would have tried to nudge him under the table. (which I’ve had to do with another college president before!)
Note to self: Never take a nonprofit bigwig out to meet a donor bigwig without establishing ground rules for the meeting first.
Finally, Mr. Street got up and indicated the meeting was over.
When we were at the elevator, he leaned over and whispered in my ear:
“Don’t ever bring that man to see me again.”
Aurrrrgh. Not good.
We had effectively killed any chance for Mr. University to establish a relationship with Mr. Street. So I had to find someone else to get involved here, and leave Mr. University out.
Moral of the story? Listen your way to the gift.
It’s far more important to listen than it is to talk.
Use your elevator speech just to open the door and get the conversation ball rolling.
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