Are you a fundraiser who spends a lot of time preparing for meetings before you go to meet with your potential supporters or partners? Particularly for the first meeting? And do you feel that despite doing everything you could, you are not receiving the desired results?
If you can invest three to five minutes right now to continue reading this post, it might help you to learn just one key change you need to adopt to gain the desired results.
When we are preparing for these important meetings, everyone in the organisation, whether it be fundraising colleagues or programme teams or trustees, everyone is happy to help and provide us with material and stories and facts and reports.
However, no-one ever seems to tell us this:
Everyone gives us the answers, but no one trains us to ask questions.
Albert Einstein said:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
We need to spend more time in preparing to ask the right questions to our donors and really listen to their answers; thoughtful and genuine questions; relevant and inspiring questions.
When we meet prospective donors for the first time, just become a learning machine:
- learn about their lives
- what they want to achieve
- why they want to get involved with charity
- what are their philanthropic ambitions
And the best way to become the learning machines is by initiating questions. Fundraisers need to be masters of asking questions before they ask for money and support.
Andrew Olsen, the author of Rainmaking: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Landing Big Gifts, says:
“uncovering someone’s philanthropic passion is simple. You ask key questions, then shut up and listen. I mean really listen.”
Every donation has a story behind it
Before we try to tell our story at length, we need to realise that every potential donation has a story behind it and our job is to ask the right questions to explore that story, about what really motivates the donor – why they want to get involved.
I have found that it’s not only the answers we know, but thoughtful questions we ask to our donors that helps to pave the way for donors to get inspired, motivated and persuaded by themselves. Because, if you don’t know what problem they want to solve, you cannot offer the solutions and all your knowledge about your cause will be useless.
What fundraisers can learn from a good doctors?
One of my mentors once said that a good doctor doesn’t solve your health problem by giving you the right medicine. He solves your health problem by asking you the right questions and diagnosing what problem he needs to solve. For example, where is the pain? When did it start? What you been eating? Have you taken any medication?
The more we focus on asking questions and getting to know our donor the better we it make for ourselves when it comes to making the ‘Ask’ for the gift.
The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people
I love what Tony Robbins says in his book, “Awaken The Giant Within.” Perhaps as a fundraiser we can learn from this.
“The main difference between the people who seemed to be successful in any area and those who are not is because, successful people asked better questions, and as a result, they got better answers. The way to make effective new connections is initiated by quality of questions we ask others.”
Donors like to talk but not to interrogate
There is a fine line in making the donor feel like they are being interrogated and demonstrating that we are asking questions because we are interested in what they have to say. Avoid questions after questions. Ask the right question at the right time, and share your own thoughts and experiences where appropriate without an indication that it is about you.
Here are the top 6 reasons how asking questions and really listening to our donors can help us:
1. Helping them to open up with you
2. Building rapport and inspiring your donor
3. Gathering information
4. Showing the care by listening to them
5. Understanding your organisation from your donors perspective
6. Helping them to reflect and connect with our cause and find the deep rooted passions why they want to solve the specific problem and how they see it to be solved.
Always remember what Eugène Ionesco once said:
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.’’
- This article was initially published by UK Fundraising.
- Picture Credit: https://www.pexels.com
You can find out more about why fundraisers need to start listening more and how how it can help us to raise more support from our supporters at links provided below:
Ikhlaq Hussain is Head of Major Gifts at Orphans In Need, Trustee of Mind in Harrow, Board Member, Mentor and Trainer at Institute of Fundraising South East & London.