Talk less. Ask more. Alfie Kohn, the awesome education and parenting expert says this over and over as a sort of golden rule of parenting.
I would argue that it’s great advice for any person in any relationship, but especially for fundraisers looking to connect with donors.
When you’re talking, you’re focused on yourself, your talking points, your accomplishments, what you’ll say next…etc.
When you’re talking, you’re making assumptions about your listener based on yourself, your values and what you think they want to hear—or what you want them to know.
But when you’re asking, you’re opening yourself up to your donor, you’re still talking, but you’re acknowledging that they have something to give you. Asking requires humility and empathy.
Yes, you want donors to give money, but the money isn’t the most important thing. The connection is. And when we ask for money, we need to truly ask, not beg, or badger our donors.
When we ask for money, it needs to be about them and the change they can make with their investment, not about us.
Yes, asking is hard. Asking for anything, money, advice, help. We’re opening ourselves up, we’re in a vulnerable place--if we ask our donors:
“What do you think of this program?”
“What do you think we should do to address this new challenge?”
“What did you think of the last event?”
“Can you help?”
There’s a chance that they might say something that you don’t want to hear, that they might have an idea that you can’t or won’t use. They might say no. (And that’s OK) You need to be ready for all of that.
It’s better to ask, and learn more about your donors, more about your work (or at least their perception of it), than to assume you know how they feel, what matters to them, and what they want.
Think about how you can talk less at your donors, and ask more--this is something you can do across your donor base, for every single person who gives. You can use surveys, social media and personal phone calls.
Asking often will bring your donors closer to you, it will make you better in your work, and it will make it easier to ask for money when you (and your donors) are ready.