Multiple choice

The inherent beauty and challenge of fundraising is that there's hardly ever just one correct approach with a donor. You could say this or you could do that, and neither option would be wrong.

I attended a workshop this week where colleagues were presented with donor "case studies." Basically, the facilitator described a specific situation and the attendees had to offer up options on what they would do or say next. Here's an example:

Sally Fundraiser plans to ask John Donor to give $50,000 to Nonprofit X. It seems like the perfect time to do this because
  • Mr. Donor has made annual gifts of $5,000 to Nonprofit X.
  • He continually expresses his interest in "doing more."
  • He attends every event that Nonprofit X holds.
  • He's in the process of selling his start-up company and said he's "delighted about how well the deal is rolling out."
  • Mr. Donor has happily hosted intimate donor dinners at his home in support of Nonprofit X.
  • Mr. Donor and Sally have met three times before at his office and talked on the phone several times about his philanthropic interests and his commitment to Nonprofit X. They have a good working relationship.
Today is the $50,000 solicitation day! The fundraiser truly feels like this is the right time to ask Mr. Donor for such a generous gift, given the above criteria. When she steps into his office for the meeting that they scheduled a month ago, Mr. Donor looks upset. When she asks him how he's doing, he replies, "I've been better. My lawyer just called and there's been a big setback with the company sale."

What could Sally Fundraiser do next?

Well, the options are endless. Sally could insist on rescheduling the meeting until John feels like it's a better time to meet. She could ignore his comment, sit down, and start talking about the new funding proposal. She could tell him she's sorry about how poorly timed this meeting is, excuse herself, and leave some materials behind for him to look at. She could express how sorry she is to hear of this news, and ask John if their conversation would be a welcome distraction or if he would prefer to reschedule.

There are many more combinations for Sally to choose from--her words, her actions, etc. And while some options may certainly be more productive than others, there are truly lots of acceptable options.

What would you do?


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