In a recent post about building donor loyalty I promised to reveal my personal #1 SECRET – the one principle that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success.
I’m going to share that principle here; then I’m going to turn this principle into a word – actually three variations of the same word – that you can use to transform the way you’ve been doing business.
Are you ready?
Okay. Don’t just shine this on. I promise that if you give this some serious thought it will make some serious difference in your results. At first, it may seem like just a little tweak. But little tweaks can soon become second nature — from whence great changes can arise. So… get out your tweaking sticks and let’s make some beautiful music together.
The principle that will change your life, should you choose to embrace it, is…
Let me explain. Because it’s real usefulness lies in how you apply it on a daily basis. And I’ll explain to you fully how I use it to build lasting donor relationships.
Here is the BIG SECRET:
Feel, Felt, Found
“I understand” is your greatest friend. Not all prospects immediately agree to commit. Agree with them. Say “I understand exactly how you feel, and… I’ve felt that way myself… and what I’ve often found is…”
- Feel: When you use the word “feel” you show them you heard them. You feel for them. You feel their pain.
- Felt: When you use the word “felt” you empathize with them by drawing on a similar experience in your life.
- Found:When you use the word “found” you show them another path by returning the conversation to the need; to your heart, and theirs. If they feel they can’t commit, find out why. Then, gently reframe the conversation to potentially show them ways they might be able to participate. Ways you’ve found to deal with a similar situation.
Here’s are a few examples:
I have two kids in college/am supporting parents/have medical expenses.
Wow, I really feel for you. It looks like you do have a full plate. We appreciate what you’ve been doing. I understand if the amount I’ve requested for this special effort is not manageable right now. Honestly, I get it. I’ve felt similarly (explain some of your additional expenses right now). Yet, even so, I’ve made an increased gift this year. Why? Because I believe our community really needs an institution like [your organization], especially to help folks with these very types of expenses. I’ve found I can do this (maybe at a bit lower level than I’d like), and that I feel good about it because our community needs a resource like this one. One we can all rely on, in good times and bad (You are inviting investment by example).
My giving priorities have changed/I gave to the ____ Crisis Appeal.
I understand. ________ is a really worthwhile cause and it’s wonderful that you lent your support. I can see how you feel the way you do. I felt that way too. Then I found out that [your organization] actually has a number of programs of which I was not aware – programs that are also here for people during times of crisis (describe the program or programs). I found that it made a lot of sense to give a thoughtful gift to the crisis appeal, and to also give a passionate gift here, in our own backyard. People need help everywhere, of course. Yet I know you’ve been a long-time supporter here and I hope we can continue to count on your caring and leadership support. It truly means a lot!
I’m not feeling positive about the [your organization] leadership.
I can understand how you feel uncertainty while we go through a leadership transition. I’ve felt that way too in the past. But then I found that what I really cared about is the role this organization plays, which goes well beyond any one person at any one point in time. I would hope you still support the mission and the important work [your organization] achieves in our community. Leadership may come and go, but we all want to assure that our organization will always be here for people who rely on us.
Empathy is Not a Trick.
You must be genuine. You must truly listen and be open. You can’t downplay how your donor is feeling in any given moment. You can’t tell them not to feel that way. What you can do is offer a listening ear, a supportive shoulder and an alternative perspective. Sometimes they’re ready and willing to embrace a new point of view. Sometimes not.
Though you may not always get the response you want today, tomorrow always comes. When it does, your donor will remember you were there for them.
Learn to Use this Secret Asking for Major Gifts
Feel, Felt and Found works especially well when meeting with donors face-to-face to make a major gift ask. Get lots more secrets in the new Clairification Major Gifts Playbook: 4 separate Volumes that work as stand-alones as well as companion pieces. If you’re new to major gifts, get ‘em all at the “Bundle Bargain” discount . Have a specific area that’s proving to be a stumbling block? Buy one or two that meet your precise needs.
If you’d like me to coach you or your board volunteers through this asking process, just contact me. I’m happy to chat!
Sneak Peek for Subscribers
Because you’re a subscriber I’m giving you the first opportunity to catch the Early Bird deal on my upcoming 4-week E-Course: The Power of Thank You. Learning to say thank you properly is every bit as important as learning to ask properly, if not more so. In this course you’ll get hands-on practical advice to help you retain and upgrade your donors. Improve by just 10% and the lifetime value of your donors will shoot up by 200%! Check it out here; Grab the EARLY BIRD here.
I stand by my products. If you’re not happy for any reason, let me know and you’ll get a full refund.
Images courtesy of Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void, and Freedigitalphotos.net