There are many obstacles to overcome to become a master fundraiser.
But the biggest roadblock for many is fear.
Fear of failure. Fear of alienating your donors. Fear of being perceived as something you are not. Fear of rejection.
Thankfully, there are a few key practices you can use to conquer your fears and help your nonprofit fuel its mission.
Let's Get R.E.A.L.
World-renowned fundraising coach Marc A. Pitman has devised a foolproof four-step fundraising formula called the R.E.A.L. model. This acronym stands for:
The first step involves determining the needs of your organization, i.e. how much your nonprofit needs to raise—in real numbers.
Ballpark estimates just won't cut it.
If your nonprofit does not have a specific goal to work toward, benchmarking your progress will be next to impossible.
The next step is to reach out and get to know your donors. Find out what motivates them and ensure that your own messaging and mission are the right fit.
The most oft-cited reason that donors do not give is because no one ever asks them to.
This is where the adage, "You don't know unless you ask" comes into play. The way Coach Pitman sees it, this is the most crucial step for success, even if attempts at the first two steps might sometimes fall short.
Even in the worst case scenario—the donor simply says "no"— your nonprofit is still in an advantageous position.
Which brings me to the last step: love.
Show appreciation for your donors over and over (and over) after they give. They will remember if the only time you ever reach out to them is when your annual campaign rolls around.
We all know it is bad form to skip right to the ask when you first meet a donor. We should not ignore the "get to know you" phase. It is equally as important to continue building a stronger relationship once a donor contributed to your contributed to your nonprofit.
And even when donors decline to give right when you ask, don't write them off completely.
They may have just made a major gift to another charity. Or perhaps they just need to learn more about your organization—this often happens when you skip the first two steps.
Develop a long-term relationship with these potential donors by adding them to your nurture marketing lists. Go back a step and get to know them better so that next time the timing feels right for the ask, it will be right for both parties.
Don't forget: refusing a request for a donation can be as difficult for them to make as it is for you to hear. Be friendly, compassionate, and patient.
They will be grateful to you for making the interaction as painless as possible, which may lead to more mutually beneficial interactions—i.e. donations—in the future.
Working Up To The Ask
"But you make it all sound so easy!"
While it is true that a streamlined system like R.E.A.L. may be less complicated than what your nonprofit is used to, there are many ways you can build on and improve each step.
However, the step that most fundraisers seem to want guidance on is the ask itself.
And the best practice that fundraisers seem to skip over the most is just that.
The way to get to Carnegie Hall is the same way nonprofits reach fundraising success. "Practice, practice, practice." Who'd have thought?
And according to Marc Pitman, the best tool in your arsenal for this technique isyour steering wheel.
Marc explains more in this short video:
The importance of practice is not only about knowing the right things to say. It's also about presenting a calm, confident demeanor to your prospective donors. They take their cues from you so if you fumble and hesitate, so will they.
Having talking points on hand to be ready for any conversation is a lot like the "anticipating objections" debating technique that has become doctrine in the sales world.
You can write these talking points on note cards and keep them in the console of your vehicle. When you first get in the car, grab a card and read the talking point. Then after you start driving, you can practice out loud on your way to your next destination.
(It helps that with the advent of hands-free car kits for mobile phones, you're less likely to receive quizzical stares from other passengers when they see your lips moving but there is no one else in the vehicle.)
Imagine how helpful this technique can be on those days you're running errands all over town. On the way to a business lunch? Talking point. Post office? Another one down. Picking up dinner at the grocery store? One more.
Before too long, you'll be ready to win over any donor you meet.
Be yourself. Be sincere. Practice often. Then when the time is right, make the ask!
For more great tips and advice, learn about The Fundraising Coach's simple yet effective tutorial, "Ask Without Fear".