1. Get really clear. More appointments per month with current and potential donors can only lead to improvements in major gift income. Fewer or the same number of appointments can only lead to flat-lined or poorer results this year and in the future.
2. See it as your job to secure appointments. Potential major donors will only give at a significant level once they have a strong sense of where the money goes (i.e. that it is urgently needed, and that it works) and they trust you (you personally and you the organisation). It is impossible to achieve these two objectives if they don’t meet you / representatives of your organisation. Each time they meet you, they are likely to get more sense of the difference that donations make, and to trust you more. So, as a major gifts fundraiser, most of your job is about ensuring that you arrange as much face to face contact with potential and existing donors as possible.
3. Set a target. If you don’t already have a monthly target for the number of appointments, coffee meetings or event attendances you are going to arrange with potential and existing donors, set one today (even if you modify it later). There is no single action you could take this year that will be more powerful in improving your results, than knowing what you’re aiming for. Ideally, set it with your manager, but even if you don’t, at the very least, write down in your own notebook or on a desk-side memo, the number of ‘donor contacts’ you have set your WILL to achieving.
4. Do three actions to improve donor relationships every morning, before you do anything else. One of the most successful fundraisers I’ve ever met, puts much of her multi-million pound success down to her discipline to talk to donors as soon as she gets into the office. Her rule of thumb is to improve her relationship with three current or potential donors before going anywhere near internal-facing tasks. So at the very least, she’s aiming to make progress with 15 donors every week. This much donor contact can only lead to increased trust and therefore donations.
5. Focus on helping the person at the other end of the line. Never ever EVER pick up the phone for your reasons (‘must make my target’, ‘please my manager’ or even, to help our beneficiaries). Pick up the phone because you genuinely believe (and are focussing on the idea) that it is in the donor’s interests to become involved with your organisation. Once you have understood and practise the distinction between these two mindsets, i.e. you call to give not get…everything changes. It will be easier to pick up the phone. More people will agree to meet you. And you’ll be less upset by the ones that don’t because you’ll know they’re not saying no to you; you were good enough to offer them a great opportunity and they decided it wasn’t right for them.
6. Sit up straight, with your shoulders back and chest out. You will feel way more confident when the body language you choose is that of a confident, assertive person. Some people ask me “what if I don’t feel confident, won’t I then be phoney to pretend?” The reality is, as soon as you adopt body postures that are confident and worthy of respect, your biochemistry changes. As Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School demonstrates in this inspiring TED talk www.wimp.com/bodylanguage, adopting power poses, even only briefly, affects the hormones that your body releases, making you feel and sound more confident.
7. Associate to (focus on and feel, so that it comes across in your voice) how great it will be to attend the event you’re inviting them to e.g. tell them how interesting or inspiring your head of programmes is when she talks at the breakfast seminar you’re inviting him to; or how everyone is excited at the prospect of this thank you event at XYZ Impressive Venue.
8. Slow down. The piece of advice that I’ve found almost everyone on my telephone skills workshops needs, is to slow your speech down when on the phone. This gives you more gravitas and gives your brain more time to THINK, and so to choose the most persuasive ideas, and to honour them by meaning (feeling) everything you say.
9. Hold a prospecting event. This might be a breakfast meeting where your head of programmes will talk about progress with your new service or a champagne reception to say thank you (ideally without an auction and raffle). If you don’t have any budget to organise something, there must be some existing events your organisation puts on, which you could tag a (sponsored) VIP drinks reception onto. Send invitations and follow them up with calls. At the event, make sure you and your team chat to everyone and find out who is interested enough to agree to meet you for coffee. Without fail, while the event is still fresh in their memory, call the next morning to get those follow up meetings in the diary.
10. Pick up the phone. Then do it again. The only way to get better at this game is to take the plunge. Don’t over-think it. Sit up with your shoulders back, put a smile on your face, focus on how they’ll benefit and… call a past or future donor to persuade them to meet you. When you get this habit, your fundraising results will be transformed.
If you have found these ideas helpful, come to my session How to get more meetings with millionaires at the IOF Convention on Tuesday 2nd July, when I will coach you in strategies to help you get in front of the wealthy people who could make the biggest difference.