How to Never Hear No Again

by Karen Osborne

Asking is only a sentence. “Please join me with an increased investment of $x.” What inspires a generous and joyful response is all that went before the solicitation conversations.  Here are some sure-fire tips.

  1. Make sure you know the Right people from the beginning.  Who makes the philanthropic decisions? For many of us, we work with the person we know, our alumna, grateful patient, board member, check signer.  In today’s marketplace, more families (not just spouses) are making decisions together.  Research tells us women seek out many inputs before making a decision. Corporations and foundations often have multiple decision makers.  Ask, “In my family, we make our decisions together.  How does that work in yours?”
  2. Engage them all before you ask.  We know engagement leads to more giving.  Engagement is not the same as showing up, or helping out.  It is meaningful and contains a thinking component, feeling aspects, and most important doing.  Engage my mind, not just my time.  Seek my advice and professional expertise, not just my money and contacts.  Ask, “What engagements with other not-for-profits have you found the most satisfying?”
  3. Identify the Right purpose or impact.  Purpose drives amount and BIG IDEAS inspire big gifts.  Our task is to reach the point in the relationship (even if its short term for a leadership annual gift) where the donor says, “I want to make that happen.” Or, “How do we make that happen?” It’s about impact and outcomes, not a shopping list of giving opportunities.
  4. Bring the Right solicitation team.  Who inspires these donors?  Who can ask, “Please join me?”  If the solicitation is made by staff alone, invoke an admired colleague who has stepped up.  You are not pitching an amount or a project, you are engaging your donors in a discussion about outcomes that the project or amount will achieve.  Bring along virtually or physically a believer.
  5. Start with THANK YOU AGAIN. Steward past gifts.  Don’t just thank immediately after a gift (but do thank within 24 to 72 hours).  Take it to the next step and connect the donor, three months, six months, nine months, after the gift with the IMPACT she had or the collective had (everyone who gave to the event, or to the annual fund).  People repeat joyful experiences.  Make your donors say “Wow.”  The next time you ask, you’ll receive an inspired, generous, joyful, “Yes.”

You can follow me on twitter: @kareneosborne

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