Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fundraising 102. going from good to great.

Fund raisers working in outsourced call centers, or directly for just one non-profit, face many of the same problems. While non-profit fund raising can be a very rewarding career choice, it can also be very stressful at times.

Donors who support a given charity don't always feel that being contacted by their non profit whether by phone or by means of a direct mail campaign, is something that they want to have any part of.

Often times, a fundraiser will feel that the campaign they're currently raising contributions for is a perfect and fool proof campaign. Donors have other ideas. At times it seems that donors who give to groups like The Humane Society Of The United States or PETA are far more receptive to a general appeal for animal welfare than those donors who support Oxfam International, or Habitat or Habitat For Humanity, when considering helping out on an emergency appeal.

Why should this be so? A quick answer to this question is that those fund raisers who are less emotionally invested in a campaign are better able to communicate the wishes and needs of an organization. Quite frankly, believing that one particular type of campaign is less important than another, will limit your ability to do well on either type of campaign in the long run.

After a year or so of professional, fundraising I had an epiphany; it doesn't really matter so much what you say on the phone to a donor. What matters is how you say it. My attitude changed at that point. I became less concerned with asking and more concerned with communicating. My performance improved, I felt far less burned out at the end of the day, and I began to raise more money.

There are certain truths that are universal to all campaigns. Mastery of these axioms of fund raising can only bring about better performance from fund raisers, and better results for the non profits we work for. Scientists who look deeply into the universe become mystics, fund raisers who strive to perfect their craft do as well. This is the first in a more abstract series of posts known as Fund Raising:102

The first is: Always regulate your mood.

No matter how enthusiastic a fund raiser is about a charity, or a campaign, being in control of ones emotions at all times will provide the best results. Donors can hear our emotions on the phone. Most people would rather hear a calm and compelling fund raiser map out the key strategies of a fund raising campaign than unbridled enthusiasm that borders on mania.

There is perhaps no better skill a fund fund raiser can have than the ability to match their tone, their emotional state, with that of the donor's.

Be enthusiastic, but remember that you are a complete stranger to your donor. You've interrupted their life and what always seems to be a critical time, and you want them to give you money!

So build your enthusiasm during the course of the call. Allow the donor to catch up to you rather than bowling them over. A single moment in a good fund raising call is like an eternity. Donors are compelled to listen the the truth of a good pitch.

Fund raisers who speak slowly and clearly, with a mastery of their fund raising campaign, are far less likely to be hung up on at all. Knowledge of the subject matter of a campaign, confidence in the virtue of the cause you are fund raising for, and empathy with the donor with whom you speak, create instant gravitas.

Instead of a rambling mendicant, a skilled fund raiser personifies the true meaning of the word solicitor; An authoritative figure who by virtue of the truth of their cause, and the strength of their argument, compels those who hear to listen, and those who listen to act.

This brings us to the second rule; focus on listening at all times, even while speaking.

If a donor shows a high level of enthusiasm for your campaign then by all means match that enthusiasm. Always strive to be listening to the donor listening to your voice. This concept surpasses what can be taught about fund raising, it must be experienced first hand; an experienced professional fund raiser can measure the attitude and attentiveness of a donor.

Listening to a donor while speaking at the same time is done by knowing, and believing in your campaign enough to stop listening to yourself say the words, and focus solely on the fact that you are speaking with another human being. Not a name, or a telephone number on a screen, not a statistic in a database, a person. The donors can hear this in your voice.

This strategy can change the outcome of virtually any fundraising call in a positive way. If a random donor plucked out of a database somewhere in an autodialer in the belly of your call center can tell what kind of mood you're in, how much better at doing the same thing should a fundraiser who makes 500 to 1000 calls each week?

Anyone who's had even limited success at fund raising through telephone campaigns has had life changing and inspiring conversations with people from all walks of life. Great fund raisers enjoy these moment several times per day.

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