By Jonah Halper
There are a myriad of articles and blog posts emphasizing the importance of investing time and energy in the relationship when fundraising from prospective and existing donors. But that advice is already built on the fact that you already have a cursory relationship with the donor. Let’s take a step back and ask: How do we “turn the donor on?” How do I make a good first impression, while properly conveying my organization’s mission and vision?
I have seen some great, and some very bad, first dates with potential donors. When you have the opportunity to meet with a prospective donor for the first time, the desire to run through every program and service your organization offers may be overwhelming. Yes, you are super excited about your programs, and yes, you feel the time constraint, but this approach often translates into a very self-centered meeting, where you are trying to get through your pitch within the allotted amount of time. Your organization may indeed do great work, and there is plenty to share with your prospective donors, but remember you are playing the long game. If your goal is to make this the first of numerous meetings and interactions, then slow down, hotshot!
In dating and courtship, you would never get past the first date if you were self-centered and your conversation is all “I” and “me.” Good flirtation is a manifestation of your confidence, and not a sign of desperation. Therefore, when you are early in your relationship with a prospective donor, only offer information that relates directly to the conversation, and avoid rambling through a whole sales pitch. Stay in the moment and think how you can make the person you are talking to feel good in the process. When opportunities arise to elucidate on your mission or programs and services, then you can share them with enthusiasm.
How can you flirt effectively with a new prospect? Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Give them backstage access. If you have something exciting you are working on, whether it’s a new program, event, or upcoming publicity, give your prospect the inside scoop before it becomes available to your general audience. This will let them have a snapshot of your good work while also getting VIP treatment by receiving exclusive information from you.
Get their hands dirty. Have something specific that can require your prospects help and leave them feeling accomplished? Ask them to help out in a very limited way. Leave them wanting more.
Ask them for relationship advice. Assuming you are working on multiple prospects, you are probably trying to figure out engagement strategies for other folks besides the one in front of you. Get their opinion on the best way to engage someone else. This forces your prospect to put themselves in another potential donor’s shoes, and this tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for themselves!
There is no manual when it comes to donor cultivation and engagement, but just like dating, if you are other-focused and looking for ways to give your prospective donor meaningful opportunities, then your meetings will be less self-centered, more flirtatious, and a lot more attractive to your donors!