Days of Dread, I call them. You know, those days when you awake, after a night filled with anxiety dreams where you are slogging through quicksand, lost and have no map, looking for something you can’t find, and the day feels a lot like an extension of that night.
On those days, I’m sure I’ll never get another client. In days past, I was sure that I could never get another prospect to want to make a gift to my organization. And long before that, I was sure I would never get a date, get married, have kids, have a life worth living at all.
I hate those days, but I know that I have to do two things—go to the gym and work out extra hard, and then tackle the very thing that feels most difficult. So on those days, I make sure I connect with every potential client and see if I can scare up some interest so I will once again believe that I can keep profitably doing this work.
I learned early on that I actually had much more success when I was a bit more specific about the reason for m call or email. Just “I wanted to check in and see how things were going,” was fine and would usually start a conversation. But adding, “and to see if there was any way I could help you build your fundraising program and/or get your board committed,” actually led to more specific exchanges. And, while it rarely turns into a job right then and there, it does allow me to remind them what I do and how it actually could be of assistance to them. Frequently, it leads to deeper discussions about what they are doing, what issues are facing them, and then—in a few weeks or a few months—they discover there is a way in which I can assist and I have another client. Typically, of course, this happens not during the days of dread but rather on those days when I am feeling confident about the value I bring to my clients and about the fact that clients will hire me.
I had the same experiences when I was fundraising. The more convinced I was that no one would ever say yes again, the harder I worked to find someone who would prove me a liar. It was during these times that I became convinced that being direct about your purpose led to more rather than less success.
For people who had been donors, the call was easier. I’d thank them for past support and ask if we could get together to talk about what they would like to happen in the future. I might touch on a special project we had, or mention something that I knew from their donor record and/or past meetings that was near and dear to their hearts.
If they hadn’t made a gift yet, this anxiety that was eating me up somehow gave me the courage to ask them for a meeting to talk about what we—the organization and me specifically—needed to do to get them more interested in supporting our work.
What I discovered, of course, was that those who agreed to talk with me were pleased to discuss a potential gift. They wanted to talk about what they hoped to accomplish through their philanthropy. They were thrilled that someone wanted to hear what they had to say.
The point, of course, is that you don’t need to wait until your days of dread to discuss philanthropy with your prospects, your donors, and even your suspects. If, as they do for me, those days push you to try a little harder, that’s all to the good. But even your best days are good days to talk about gifts—the ones your donors make to your organization and the gift that the act of charity gives to them.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build more engaged boards. Learn how Janet can help you turn your days of dread into productive and positive fundraising times at http://janetlevineconsulting.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.