Responding to Donor Objections

Putting Heads TogetherLast week, I attended a capital campaign donor event for a client.  After the presentation, when attendees were asked for input on the proposed project, one prospective major donor suggested an extreme change to the plan. That was closely followed by a flippant comment about how it would be hard to support the project unless this change was included.  David Mersky, who was standing next to me, leaned over and said, “there is the excuse that he will give when someone asks him to support the project.”

Of course, that is just one of many objections that will come up during the $15 million campaign.  While there is no way to include every suggestion from every donor, success will be found when each solicitor understands how to listen to the concerns and handle each objection.  And, in order to prepare a response, you have to know what the objections will be.  Consider, as a group, listing as many objections as you can think of on a sheet of paper.  Then consider potential responses that will put your nonprofit in the best position to achieve your goals.

Responding to Donor Objections

Consider these tips:

  1. To succeed in turning around the objection, you have to listen to what they are saying (and what they are not saying), watch for non-verbal cues, and ensure the individual or couple that you have truly heard what they are saying.  Rephrase the objection in your response so that you make sure you heard it correctly and they know that you are listening.
  2. Don’t assume the donor is working on your schedule.  Knowing that you are going to be asked for money and being asked are, for some people, two different things.  You may need or want a follow up meeting.  Try to arrange it before you leave the first meeting to ensure momentum.
  3. No one wants to give money to an unsuccessful endeavor.  Know, and be able to explain, your specific path to success.  Show pyramids with the number of potential donors next to each category or explain how many donor meetings you have scheduled in the coming month and how much you expect to raise.
  4. Remember that donors might not know what their objections are. Help them figure it out so that you can respond accordingly.  Ask questions like, “what are your concerns?” or “is there something that you would like me to clarify a bit more or explain again?”
  5. Facts are only impactful if they are relevant to the recipient.  An older couple may be glad there is a young constituency, but that doesn’t mean they need to hear every detail of the success in that demographic cohort.  Instead, an overview followed by how their gift will ensure people like themselves to do XYZ while ensuring future generations will have the opportunities for ABC.
  6. If the amount you asked for seems to high, explain different payment options or time frames.  They can consider a planned gift or still join their friends in the $25,000 category by spreading the payments over 5 years – at $5000 a year – rather than over three years at more than $8,000 per year.

And above all, remember that the idea of overcoming objections is NOT to convince them into giving more than they should give.  The goal is to have people join together with the community to fulfill the vision,  ensure a stable and secure future for the nonprofit as well as feel great about it.