What follows are the nineteen habits of highly successful fundraising. In this way, you can work to introduce these habits into your daily routines so that your next encounter with a major gift prospect will have the best possible outcome, a meaningful gift to your campaign.
Habit #1: Communicating that it is Sound “Business” to Trust You
Don’t cut corners at the expense of your own credibility–it’s one of your most powerful weapons. You’re not in the business of attracting suckers and “getting the gift”; you are in the business of building mutually beneficial long-term partnerships on behalf of the nonprofit.
Habit #2: Asking the Right Questions
Ease in with simple questions that get the prospect talking about him or herself, and then move on. You must take the responsibility of keeping the conversation moving forward.
Habit #3: Taking the Lead
Tell the prospect where you are in the process. Don’t be afraid to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. If there are questions or problems, you’ll hear about them–and that’s what you want! Take the initiative in a calm, professional manner.
Habit #4: Engaging the Prospect
Guide the conversation from the unique set of verbal and nonverbal cues your prospect will supply. Discuss that with which you are comfortable and familiar. Discuss the surroundings. “Lean in” when the prospect begins to talk about him or herself. Show care by really caring.
Habit #5: Pretending You’re a Consultant (Because You Are)
Don’t improvise. If you need to take time out to come up with a workable solution, do so. Solving problems is the name of the game–and you have to listen before you can come up with a solution. The prospect will respect your candidness.
Habit #6: Asking for the Next Appointment on the First Visit
Perhaps the simplest, easiest-to-follow piece of advice. You and the prospect(s) live busy lives, neither of you have the time to get in touch again by phone to see each other again.
Habit #7: Taking Notes
Taking notes during your meeting with the prospect helps you listen, puts you in a position of authority, encourages your prospect to open up, and sends positive signals that you are really interested in what he or she is saying.
Habit #8: Creating a Plan with Each New Prospect
It may be routine for you, but the prospect has never gone through this development process with you before. Produce and share a customized, written plan based on your notes from early meetings.
Habit #9: Asking for Referrals
Don’t be shy–you can’t afford it. Referrals are the life blood of a successful fundraising program. Before you leave, make sure to say, “I’m willing to bet there are people you know who could benefit from my talking to them. Do you know five people I could talk to?”
Habit #10: Showing Enthusiasm
Talk up your nonprofit–and remember that there is a difference between enthusiasm and poorly disguised panic. Enthusiasm builds bridges; panic tears them down.
Habit #11: Giving Yourself Appropriate Credit
Talk about yourself–but be humble. (No, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.) Convey success, confidence and flexibility. Highlight past successes, but don’t try to one-up the prospect. Try to exhibit the characteristics of a person who makes things happen.
Habit #12: Telling the Truth (It’s Easier to Remember)
We tell on average, 200 lies every day! Well, social conventions and pleasantries are one thing–misleading the prospect about your ability to meet a deadline is quite another. Remember, your credibility is a precious asset; defend it!
Habit #13: Selling Yourself on Yourself
Motivate yourself! Avoid the radio during your morning commute; listen to something motivational instead. Be specific with your goals–and your rewards. Get positive reinforcement. Leave yourself notes. Keep things in perspective.
Habit #14: Starting Early
There is a world before 9:00 AM! You can ease your commute, reduce your aggravation, and improve your attitude by making it in an hour or so before everyone else does. It may sound tough–try it anyway. You’ll be a convert before you know it.
Want to know more? Email Abigail Harmon to find out how Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can help you make your fundraising program a complete success.