Secrets from the other side (part one)

publication date: Jan 10, 2018
author/source: Adrian Fernandes

In the charitable fundraising world, a key challenge that pops up again and again is the issue of prospecting. How do we find new donors? How do we attract lapsed donors? Who are our donors? So going the usual route, the charity hires a consultant to tell them what they already know. A strategic fundraising plan is put together, rarely executed, and life goes on until the same consultant is hired five years later to do the exact same thing.

The big fear in fundraising is really the fear we often face in life. Asking for what we want. Having consulted for a number of years and watching clients struggle to implement programs and ask for money, I decided it was time for a change.

Prospecting in the Profit sector So, I went and worked as self-employed individual in the financial services industry for a nationally recognized firm. It was the kind of education I never expected. Before I could even become licensed, I had to take courses in investments and insurance which means that today I have more technical knowledge about estate planning and bequests that most fundraisers. This is not to brag, but more so to highlight the expectations before you can even enter a profession.

To build a book of business, I was required to prepare a warm list of 200 individuals whom I could contact about becoming my clients. And, I had to develop a marketing plan indicating how I would find new clients in the coming months.

As I forayed out to call my warm list, and find new clients I had to prospect in a variety of ways. I called people in my warm list that I knew, cold called absolute strangers, visited businesses, knocked on doors in affluent neighbourhoods, set up booths at country fairs, and networked at business events. My entire day was basically spent prospecting. Most importantly, I had to track my activities on a daily basis so that I could understand where my success was coming from.

In building my business, I travelled through an incredible arc in my own awareness about working with prospects that went something like this.

Product Pitch Initially, when I met with prospects, I gave them the product spiel as in, “this is what we do”. I talked about what our firm did i.e. insurance and investments. Even writing this, it already sounds boring and so it was for many of my prospects. Most of them looked glazed over and I realized that they were not engaged.

Benefits Approach With some great coaching, I learned to steer the conversation towards benefits as in, “this is how we will help you”. The conversation centred around how specific products could improve their life or lack of one (think life insurance!). I started to gain more traction and found that prospects listened better, and so did I. The more effort I made to understand their personal situation, and their goals and desires, the better I was able to guide a conversation focused on them.

If you think talking about mission and vision is hard, try talking to people about money. They’ll tell you they have cancer before they’ll tell you what they have in assets.

Adrian Fernandes, previously consulted on launching annual giving programs. He currently works as a staff fundraiser in the healthcare sector and believes in the power of the crucial second gift to build donor loyalty. 

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