What We’re Hearing (It’s Not All Bad!) + An Essential Question
If you’re one of those nonprofit executives or advancement professionals who’s remarked that “this is different than the Great Recession,” we at Averill Fundraising Solutions generally agree. Indeed, in 2008-2009, at least we could fall back on the time-tested gold standard of prospect interaction: the face-to-face meeting. Or could we?
Then, like now, many of our most impactful donors and prospects were reeling from dramatic declines in their wealth. Also like now, many individuals and organizations that were ready to give suddenly were not. Whether the intent of our meeting request was to make a solicitation or simply further cultivation, from those folks we often heard, “I want to help, but can’t really get my mind around making a meaningful gift until I get a better idea of how things are going to shake out.”
Two Observations and One of the Most Important Questions You Can Ask
In those cases – and in what we at Averill are hearing from our clients’ supporters during the COVID-19 crisis – I’m struck by two things in particular:
First, even when supporters are faced with their own painful challenges and uncertainty about the future, they still want to help.
Second, generous people are generous in lots of different ways. One of those ways is to be incredibly forthcoming about their financial situations.
With those two thoughts in mind, over the last few weeks we’ve heard our clients’ leadership gift donors and prospects say things like:
- (When asked for an initial meeting via videoconference with the organization’s lead executive) “A payday I’ve been expecting has taken a hit and I won’t know the full extent of things for a while, but I’d be very happy to make his acquaintance – if only via Zoom – for now.”
- (When solicited via videoconference for a multi-seven-figure gift)“You know what, we’re glad you asked and we want to continue this conversation in person as soon as we’re able.”
- (When asked via phone if they’d come to a decision on a significant gift request made before the current crisis) “I need to see where I stand on a major deal I’ve been working on, but for now I’m going to send you a check just to help with your most pressing COVID-19 needs.”
So yes, continue to request and hold virtual meetings and phone calls with your constituents. When appropriate, solicit them! But when you request that meeting or that gift, be ready to do some listening, because they’ll almost certainly provide you with insight on how to proceed. If they say that they’re just not ready to talk, or can’t commit right now to the gift you’ve asked for, before you hang up or click “Leave Meeting,” be sure to thank them for sharing what they’re going through, and keep the conversation going by asking this vital question:
“Can you give us some guidance regarding when and how we should revisit this with you?”
It’s a simple, non-threatening question that may very well produce the roadmap to a terrific gift.
For more of our thoughts on engaging supporters during COVID-19, please click here.
Averill Fundraising Solutions stands with you through these challenging times, and is available to talk with you about the thoughts outlined in this memo, YOUR thoughts, and all your advancement needs. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 888-321-1810.
From the desk of:
Bob Happy has nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector. During his career, Bob has served more than 2,000 clients and has guided them to raise more than $3,500,000,000.