You have successfully taken your donor into the need. You know this is true because it has changed her. She is keenly aware of what the need is, the cause of that need and the consequence of the need not being met. So she has a firm intellectual grasp of the situation.
More importantly, she FEELS the need. Through your words and images you have not only taken her head into the need, you have also brought her heart along as well. Now she is totally engaged.
How do you know she is totally engaged? Because she has an urgency about her – she has a level of energy that you may not have seen before. And she wants to take action – she wants to DO something about the need.
This “wanting to DO something” is an important sign that you have done your job well. Let me explain.
We, as humans, are wired to respond with empathy, concern and urgency when a need is presented to us. It is natural. It is logical. It is part of our DNA – we want to solve problems, we want to make things right. So it goes without saying that if a need is properly presented, the reasonable, natural, logical and urgent response is to do something about the need.
If, after the need is presented to the donor, you do not get this kind of response, then you have not done your job. It really is just about as simple as that. Really.
The reason it doesn’t seem simple at times is because, over and over again, MGO’s stumble around on presenting the need, not taking the donor to the scene, and then wonder why the donor is either confused or does not want to accept what they thought was a clear request to address the need.
The truth is the message was not constructed properly on the front end and the donor is doing what comes naturally out of that reality. They either ignore, delay or reject the request from the MGO to help.
I hope you can see this point clearly because it is an area in major gift fundraising that Jeff and I see mismanaged all the time – the MGO thinks he has done a good job on the front-end, when he really hasn’t and then gets frustrated that the donor is not jumping on board.
When you get a rejection or a “no” to your ask, pose this series of questions:
- Did I give the donor the facts about the need – its causes and consequences?
- Did I engage the donor emotionally with the hurt and pain of the need and the tragic consequence of not taking care of it?
- Did I use pictures and stories to reinforce the emotions that one would naturally experience if they were actually there?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions you have failed in your quest to transport your donor to the scene.
If you could answer “yes” to each question then you are ready to take the following next steps:
- Tell the donor what you are going to DO about this need. This is the program plan – the solution to the need. It needs to be specific with deadlines and outcomes. You need to write this part in simple (but not simplistic) and practical terms. Get rid of any jargon and just plainly tell the donor what you are going to do, when you are going to do it and the outcomes you expect. Do not make the outcomes some general statement – be specific. There is nothing more frustrating – and in danger of becoming a real deal killer –than starting to babble around in generalities in this area. When you do that you are telling the donor you really (a) don’t know what you are doing, and (b) don’t have a conviction about or urgency for the need.
- Tell the donor what it will cost. This is the budget. Again, specifics are good here. And budget categories that are practical and make sense are critical. I have seen so many budgets that only a Ph.D. in Finance from Harvard could understand. Get down on the street on this one too. If your finance department must use their categories for their purposes, it doesn’t mean you can’t call the category something else in your proposal – something that the person on the street will understand.
- Ask the donor for her involvement. This is the ask. This is when you go back to reminding the donor about the need and what a difference her gift will make in taking care of the need and avoiding the consequences of that need not being met. There are four elements to an effective ask: (a) A specific amount, (b) A specific description of what that amount will DO – I call this the “promise” – it is the promise about what a donor’s gift will accomplish, (c) when this gift is needed, and (d) what will happen if help is not on the way. It is very important to make sure these four elements are in every ask you make.
This six part series on Transporting Your Donor To The Scene is really made up of two major parts: (1) properly describing and documenting the need, and (2) all the other stuff. I say it this way because Jeff and I really think the need part is about 80% of the effort – it’s the most important.
If you get the need part right you can make a lot of mistakes on the rest of it and come out alright. Why? Because the need will be so compelling that the donor will give you “room” on what you don’t get quite right on the rest of it.
Don’t get me wrong – the rest of it needs to be right. I’m just saying, in relative terms, you need to get the need part really right. Spend a good portion of your time on that.
Jeff and I, every single day, experience great joy in knowing we are helping good people in good causes address real need. It is a humbling and fulfilling thing. It is so satisfying to “fix” a problem, to heal a hurt, to dry a tear, to lift a spirit, to make things right. That is what taking care of need is all about. That is why when we go to the scene – when we take donors right there with us – it causes such great emotion and brings them such great joy when they give.
Work hard to make that happen every time to you talk to your donors.