Nonprofit Solicitation: It’s Harder To Get The Appointment Than To Get The Gift

Nonprofit Solicitation strategy

A successful campaign requires that your solicitors understand the nuances of a nonprofit solicitation, also known as, “the ask.”

Among other things, a successful solicitor will:

  • look to develop a long-term relationship with the donor(s)
  • offer a strong case for giving
  • practice what they are going to say and how they are going to say it
  • understand how to overcome objections
  • establish follow-through mechanisms
  • believe that they will be successful

Mersky, Jaffe & Associates has taught many, many people how to achieve their financial goals.   But we are always happily surprised when someone asks the seemingly simple yet ultimately essential follow-up question.  It can come in many forms, but a classic version is – ‘so do I just pick up the phone and start calling these people?’

As long as you have a plan.  Successful solicitation is in large part, a matter of preparation – including how a solicitor can get the face-to-face meeting with the donor, in the first place. Some long term donors will make it very easy for you and will respond to your first call with potential meeting times.  But others will give you such a hard time that you will wonder if this donor is worth the effort.

Their resistance to the meeting will in no way correlate to their ability or willingness to become a major donor.

The following are some tips that will help you get the meeting:

  • Prepare a script and practice, practice, practice
  • State upfront that you would be happy to come to their home whenever it would be convenient for them (an office is a second but less ideal option)
  • Ask whether his/her spouse should be present.
  • Offer two specific times on two different days of the week, as in “Would you like to meet on Tuesday at 3:00 or would Thursday at 10:00 be better for you?”
  • If neither of those days work, offer another pair.   And, if that does not work then ask whether a morning, afternoon or evening time would be best
  • Ask whether a work day or weekend would be preferential and then offer up additional options
  • If a spouse will be present, ask when you should call back to check if the suggested times work (give options).

In general, be prepared to ask questions in which you offer a choice of answers – not just a yes or no.  Do not accept, “can I think about it and get back to you.”  You know how busy this person is and how hard it is to get back to someone.  Make the appointment-making as easy as possible by asking when you can get back to them.  If the person asks if this about giving money – always be honest.  But, remember that a good solicitor is not only going to ask about a donation.  “Sure, I would like to speak with you about your contribution to organization ABC, but not only your monetary contribution.  We want to talk to you about how you feel about the organization and what aspects of it interest you.  We want to hear your opinions about how we are doing and where we should be heading.”

It may not be a conscious thought, but few people want to give substantially to an organization without having their voice heard.  Letting someone know that you want to hear their thoughts may make him or her more receptive.

Above all, remember that you are representing an organization you value.  Determine how you would like to be treated and keep that in mind at all times.  And don’t forget your patience.  It is one of the successful solicitor’s strongest tools.

Want to read other of MJA’s essential articles? How about:
Top Ten Reasons Why Nonprofit Fundraising is Successful
Overcoming the Anxieties of Asking
The Habits of Highly Successful Fundraisers

Note: this post was originally published in 2006 and updated in 2017