Overcoming first solicitation jitters

This past week, more than 70 veteran fundraisers responded to the LinkedIn generated question, “If you could provide just one sentence of strategy/advice to someone who is about to embark on their first solicitation, what would it be?”

Their comments—sifted, sorted, and spiffed up by me—are balm for the nerves of fundraising virgins. If you (or someone you know) have a case of first (or anytime) solicitation jitters, consider the following words of advice from folks who’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell about it.  

  • It’s not about you. It’s about the donor, your organization, and the people the organization serves. So get over yourself. You are asking on behalf of something a whole lot bigger and much more significant than little old you.
  • Be prepared. Script the visit in your mind, including possible responses to “curveball” questions.  As an added measure, role play the call with a colleague.
  • Asking on behalf of a great cause means never having to say sorry. Don’t apologize. You represent a noble cause. Be confident as you help donors achieve their goals/dreams through partnership with your organization.
  • Connect with potential donors on their level.  The likelihood that a fundraising call will go well has everything to do with how genuinely interested you are in the person with whom you are speaking. Great solicitations are fueled by genuine curiosity about the donor’s values, passions, and beliefs.
  • Listen your way to the gift. You were born with two ears and one mouth, and that’s the proportion in which you should use them when meeting with a potential donor. Be respectful, chat, listen, and ask when the time is right.

In fundraising, as in dating, it is only human to be nervous the first time out. But remember, if someone agrees to see you, they likely want to say yes if asked for a gift. And even when the answer is no, folks are usually civil. So relax and kiss the first solicitation jitters good-bye. Disappointment is the worst that can happen.

What's your take on this topic?

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