This post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.
Your guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.
7 Keys to Better Donor Discovery Calls
Donor discovery calls aren't for every fundraiser. Yet, every frontline fundraiser has some role in qualifying new giving prospects – major, mid-level, or otherwise. Some of us might ever prefer to go in for that root canal rather than doing that (relatively) cold outreach.
"How do I open?" "What do I say?" "Why can't I get the donor to talk back?" "Would I accept this call if the roles were reversed?"
These are just some of the hesitations. If you take nothing else from this post, I want you to know that these hesitations are important to meet head-on. There is massive upside for your cause when you make the personal connection, and confidence in your communication skills is the key to getting there.
Here are some quick tips to have successful donor discovery calls:
- Keep It Under 10 Minutes Unless They Do the Talking.
We all know when someone is reading from a script. And, as someone who likes to over-plan, I can tell you that scripts always run long. Don't plan to take too much time from your prospects. However, if they are the ones doing the talking, let them go! Never cut short an engaged donor. Dig in. Learn who they are and what motivates them.
- Don't focus too much on the gift.
It may be tempting to try and move a donor directly to a solicitation, but the best thing you can do during donor discovery is listening. This is an opportunity to confirm that you understand a donor's affinity and passion. Think about how more powerful it would be to come back and say, "I've thought about what's important to you and came up with this idea for you to consider," rather than, "If you increase your annual gift by $500, you would be in the President's Club."
- Come with questions.
Always have a plan when you dial a donor. A lot of fundraisers use Gravyty First Draft as an outline for their approach to donor discovery calls. Try your best to keep questions open-ended, so your donors have to stop to think. This will help you collect qualitative, rather than check-the-box yes or no, responses.
- Give them an insider's view of your world.
Do you want to really capture the donor's attention in a phone conversation? Tell them about a tough decision your organization had to make or the way you overcame odds to deliver on your mission. Show your human side, and give them a peek inside your world.
- Ask for their advice.
What a way to open a conversation. Perhaps your organization is a zoo, and you know that deciding on the next special exhibit will happen soon. Are there two choices on the table? What are their thoughts? They'll love that you care enough to connect them to something that matters.
- Let them know you'll be in touch.
Before you hang out, indicate that this is a budding relationship. Let the donor know that you'll be following up. It might be another phone call or perhaps an email. Tell them to expect it and make sure you follow through.
- Allow the donor to commit.
Just because you aren't making a hard solicitation does not mean you can't make an ask. The worst thing that happens is that they say no or not yet. The best thing that can happen is that you have just inspired an unexpected gift. In between those, you may have just qualified a donor for a new giving level or even disqualified them out of a pipeline that wasn't right for them.
Some fundraisers are amazing at donor discovery. But, I'd venture to guess that most of us still feel better reaching out to the donors we already know. There is growth in discomfort for your skillset as a fundraiser and your organization's giving pipeline. Take the time to master a new skill takes some bravery. Embrace it. Inspire more donors!
If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.