"Hangin' with Henry and talking about Keeping the Ask Simple

As most of you know, the first Thursday of every month has been dedicated to featuring a short video from Henry Freeman, who is an accomplished non-profit and fundraising professional. We affectionately call this monthly series “Hangin’ With Henry”  because of the conversational format around which he has framed his online videos. This month we’re talking about Keeping the Ask Simple (aka applying the K.I.S.S. principle to asking donors for a contribution).
For those of you who subscribe to DonorDreams blog and get notices by email, you will want to click this link to view this month’s featured YouTube video. If you got here via your web browser, then you can click on the video graphic below.
After listening to Henry for almost seven minutes this morning (and I wasn’t even done with my first cup of coffee), I was left thinking the following:

  • Face-to-face solicitation is the most effective form of solicitation (even though Henry was talking mostly about mail and email solicitations)
  • There is a serious risk of burying the donor in lots of collateral material and talking the donor’s ear off, especially if the person doing the asking is apprehensive about doing so
  • Fundraising professionals should probably only give volunteer solicitors nothing more than an internal case for support document (aka their talking points), an external case for support document (aka the campaign brochure) and the pledge form

This video also reminded me of an awesome training my former employer developed that turned every solicitation into a series steps. As I reflect upon those steps in the warm glow of this morning’s video, I now appreciate how they were trying to make in-person solicitation a simple exercise for volunteers.
checklistFor those who are curious, here are those 12 steps to a simple and effective face-to-face solicitation:

  1. Don’t call your prospect until you’ve inked your pledge form
  2. Don’t think about the money . . . think about the client who will benefit from this potential contribution (and keep doing so throughout the entire process)
  3. Make sure you have a connection or relationship with the prospects you’ve chosen to solicit because cold calls are scary and not very effective
  4. Pick-up the phone and ask your prospect for time in their calendar (guard against accidentally asking for the contribution while you’re on the phone)
  5. Prepare for the meeting (e.g. review the case for support doc, FAQs, etc)
  6. When sitting down with the prospective donor, talk about what is in the case for support document (e.g. org mission, community need/s that the org is trying to address, what the org is doing to address those needs and the effectiveness of those programs, etc)
  7. Share your personal commitment to the campaign and the organization (e.g. your gifts of time, talent and treasure and why you are doing so)
  8. Ask the prospect to join you by considering a contribution of a specific dollar amount (e.g. “we’re hoping you will give some thoughtful consideration to making a contribution of $XXX to support the programs we just talked about as well as everything else this organization does for its clients)
  9. Be quiet and let the donor give your request some consideration (and the first person to speak should be the donor)
  10. Answer the donors questions
  11. Set-up a time to follow-up with the donor if they aren’t ready to immediately ink the pledge form (e.g. never leave the pledge form behind and always walk out of the meeting with a definite date and time to touch base again)
  12. Express your thanks and gratitude for their time (because their time was a gift unto itself)

I love this list because as Henry expressed in his morning’s video, volunteers need tools to help them keep the solicitation meeting simple and following this 12 step process could very easily help keep the in-person meeting focused and short.
matt damonThis morning’s video also reminded me of another YouTube video a friend sent me a few days ago. It is a montage of video clips featuring actor Matt Damon in the HBO television series “Entourage“. The YouTube video illustrates the emotions, fears, and mistakes associated with asking your friends and colleagues for a charitable contribution.
The person who posted the Entourage video clips blocked my ability to embed the video into my blog. So, you need to click here to watch that video directly on YouTube. But don’t forget to circle back to this post and finish up our discussion.  😉
So, what are you thinking this morning after watching two great YouTube videos and reading this post? How do you help your fundraising volunteers “keep it simple“? How do you keep it simple when soliciting donors? How many mistakes were you able to spot in the Matt Damon video clip? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

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