Over time I have heard the donor lament--What do I say to a development officer or a board member when they ask me for a gift or a meeting and I am simply not interested in the organization for which they are soliciting? Or not interested now? I get so many calls--it used to be before the end of the year, but now, it seems that it goes on all year long!
Please bear in mind that giving and receiving should be the most enjoyable times for all involved--but it is a time to be candid with one another as well.
So, let's be forthright. Donors and prospects use a variety of techniques to avoid a discussion about a donation:
1. A prospect may not any return phone calls. Why is this not a good strategy? It simply places the solicitor in the position of having to call again and again. Maybe the prospect has just been busy, the solicitor suggests to the team? Perhaps they just haven't had the phone number to return the call? On vacation or perhaps there is illness in the family? Let's try again. After all, their lives don't just circle around me, the solicitor.
I guarantee that it takes a very long time to dissuade a determined development officer or volunteer from calling. Their hearts are in the mission and they don't give up easily. So many development officers and board members have an indomitable spirit.
2. A prospect or donor may give the solicitor false hope--yes, I'd like to do something, I'll get back to you. And then the prospect never calls and this whole process simply circles around to number 1 above.
3. By all means, says the donor or prospect, let's talk about it in the spring...and then the whole process may circle back to numbers 2 and 1 when that call is never made. This becomes very frustrating for the donor or prospect as well as for the development officer or volunteer. And it wastes a great deal of time better used for other things.
4. Worse yet is the prospect who is rude on the phone or has negative things to say about the organization or the leader or....
Having been a development officer for a long time as well as a solicitor or a donor for outstanding charities, I have been in both positions. However, if the prospect has no interest in giving to this charity, the most expedient way to stop the calls is simply to be politely honest. All parties will be happier.
A prospect or donor can take an even better approach if they receive a voice mail or an email or a letter. He or she may actually answer the phone (or letter or email) and call the solicitor back, thank them for the work they are doing, and politely say no. Depending on a prospect's relationship with the caller, he or she can provide more details as to why or just leave it at that. Or provide a more appropriate time in the year to call. While there will be a very disappointed solicitor on the other end of the phone, those in development are generally very resilient. They will live to work another day!
At this point the prospect or donor may also ask to be removed from their lists for the remainder of the campaign underway or permanently. The prospect may indicate several major charities on which he/she focuses and that he/she are pleased to continue.
It is very important for all parties to be polite, the non-profit world is actually quite small and sooner or later paths will cross once again.
Many donors actually enjoy talking or meeting with a development officer or volunteer. He or she appreciates an update on the organization's progress or about a particular project or department which has been supported previously. Donating to a charity should make one feel good--very good. Every season is about helping others. Talking by phone or meeting for a brief time is a very convenient way to continue your support or learn something new about an organization.
Resource development is a people to people business and should make all parties feel so pleased--there is nothing more gratifying than to give a gift or secure one for the mission of an important organization. Or, even if you are not interested in giving, learning about what others in the community are doing.
In the meantime, enjoy the holidays, and if you make a gift, enjoy the feeling that comes along with it--this season or anytime throughout the year.
Our giving may not always be understood, but our responsibility is to give as our heart dictates. What appears on the surface has little significance when our motives are pure.