Every campaign rises and falls on the abilities of the volunteers who agree to reach out and ask their prospects to dig deep and make a significant investment in the future of the nonprofit they esteem. Since creating The Evans Consulting Group more than 25 years ago, we have worked with more than 400 nonprofits and scores of remarkable volunteers who have learned how to present compelling reasons to make philanthropic gifts.  They enjoyed great success, in part, thanks to  taking our simple advice on four critical components of every campaign request.          

What separates success from mediocre results?

  1. Don’t meet in a public place to ask for campaign support!

The worst place to meet a campaign prospect is Starbucks, but other eateries like the local diner or a popular restaurant also spell danger with regard to solicitations of any size. Invariably the waitperson arrives at the worst time and you can almost always be assured that someone next to you is eavesdropping.  More important, our experiences indicate that a profitable solicitation will involve many emotions and sometimes even make people cry (with happiness) when they reminisce about how the organization touched their family or their hearts.

The best place to hold this type of discussion:  the prospect’s home! And be sure to allow for about 60 minutes for each meeting.

  1. Don’t go alone!

One of our steadfast rules is that no one should ever meet a prospect alone. We suggest this because we all hear and interpret conversations differently. Having two pairs of ears provides for better opportunities to connect with a prospect on their concerns for the project and/or passions for the organization. Having a partner at the meeting also allows you to assign roles prior to the meeting; inevitably one person will be more comfortable speaking about their passion for the nonprofit vs. one who will be more comfortable actually making “the ask.”

  1. Don’t babble!

The best discussions with prospects regarding potential charitable gifts are when the solicitors make the case, make “the ask,” and then listen.

Our experiences reflect that many people are nervous in these situations and the asker tends to talk too much, especially once dollar amounts are put on the table. Therefore, once the solicitor makes the specific request, he or she must resist all temptation and stay quiet. This conversation is about the prospects. Let them talk about their experiences and why the nonprofit is important to their family. Let the prospects think, dream, and evaluate the idea of a transformational commitment.

  1. Don’t go unprepared!

Assuming two people coordinate the meeting with a prospect, advance planning is absolutely necessary: Where and when will the meeting take place? How much shall we request of the prospect? How does the prospect feel about naming opportunities and donor recognition?  Are there sensitive issues likely to come up during the discussion that could stall the request? What other gifts has the prospect made to this organization and to other nonprofits?

Anticipating these and other questions will make a big difference in the quality of the discussion, and ultimately, the outcome.  Of special importance is establishing an appropriate dollar amount or dedication opportunity prior to holding the meeting.

Given the impact and value that wealth screening efforts have on today’s nonprofit solicitations, we suggest that your research include evaluating not just previous giving to your organization but also to others in addition to financial capability and any research that can be done on the prospect’s current situation.

I’d like to hear your “war stories” about asking friends, business associates, neighbors, family members, and others for charitable support.  Please email your details to me at revans@theevansconsultinggroup.com.  We’ll guarantee anonymity, of course, but a future Evans Consulting blog post will contain successes as well as disappointments and how your experiences compare (or contrast!) with our four important guidelines.