Andrea Kihlstedt recently joined us for a webinar in which she explained a kinder, gentler way of asking for gifts that’ll help your donors say yes.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: Hi there, Andrea. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially?

Andrea: Yes, sir.

Steven: All right, great. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for joining us for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Asking as an Intentional Conversation: A Better Way to Get What You Want.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion. As always, just a couple of housekeeping items for everyone before we get started officially.

I just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation, and we will be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. In case you didn’t already get the slides, hopefully you got them already, but if you didn’t and you want that recording, have no fear, you’ll be able to get that later this afternoon. So if you have to leave early or perhaps want to review the content later on, you will be able to do that. Just look for an e-mail from me later on this afternoon.

And as you’re listening today, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments for me and our guest. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy at all. We’d love to see your questions and absolutely answer as many as we can before the two o’clock hour.

And if you are a Twitter person, you can follow along on Twitter. We’d love to see your tweets as well. You can use the #bloomerang and our username is @bloomerangtech.

And last note on audio, if you’re listening today via your computer speakers, just know that these webinars are usually only as good as your own Internet connection. If you have any trouble with audio or maybe the slide is moving slowly, try dialing in by phone. Usually the phone quality is much, much better we’ve found. If you can dial in by phone and don’t mind doing that, there is a dedicated phone number for you in the reminder e-mails from ReadyTalk.

And just in case Bloomerang is new to you, if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do do these webinars just about every week, every Thursday afternoon. But in addition to that, we offer donor management software. So if you are interested in that or perhaps want to be looking for that soon, check us out. You can even download a quick video demo. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. So we’d love for you to learn more about Bloomerang later on after the presentation.

But for now, I am super excited to introduce today’s guest. This is one that I’ve had circled on my calendar for a long time. Very pleased to introduce today, Andrea Kihlstedt. Andrea, how is it going?

Andrea: Very well. Thank you so much, Steven, and thank you so much to all of you who are joining me today. That’s great.

Steven: Well, thanks for doing this. We got connected through the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, where she is going to be presenting at in November in Chicago. If that event is not on your radar, definitely check it out. We’re even giving away $100 scholarships to that event. If you’re interested in that, shoot me an e-mail afterwards and I can get you connected.

But Andrea, she’s just an awesome person, very well-known. If you don’t know her, she’s got 30 years’ experience as a speaker, trainer, coach, and author. She actually was the pioneer of the concept of asking styles, which maybe you might have seen on the cover of “Chronicle of Philanthropy.” She is the author of four books on fundraising, including what many considered to be the Bible of capital campaigns. She is also the founder and president of Capital Campaign Masters, which if you’re gearing out for a capital campaign or maybe thinking about doing one, definitely check out that website and learn more about Andrea because she can be very helpful in that process. She’s a blogger. She’s got a great blog over at her own website. Definitely check that out as well, a wealth of information.

And I just cannot wait to pipe down and let her take over. So I’m going to do that. So, Andrea, why don’t you go ahead and get us started, my friend?

Andrea: Pipe down. I love it. I have to remember that. Maybe if I remember to pipe down more often in my life, I would hear more people. Steven, the other thing, you know, I love that you’re an engagement officer. I just think that’s a great title and every once in a while, I try to think about different things we might call major-gifts officers or development directors. And I think the world might think more about engagement and engagement officers. I just love it as a title.

So, thank you so much, Steven. I so appreciate your invitation to be here. I’m excited to be seeing you and meeting you at the Storytelling Conference. And there has really been an overwhelming response to this webinar. There are I think well over a thousand of you who signed on and I am totally honored that you signed on to join me for this webinar.

It’s on when I believe to be a really incredibly important part of the fundraising business. In fact, I think it’s an important part of life because while asking for money is, of course, what most of us in the development business and the fundraising business think about most perhaps, there are many things we ask for in life all the time. And if we get good at asking, you know, the world tends to go our way a little better. So, I tend to think about fundraising as sort of a microcosm of life, and I would, towards the end of this, I’m going to give you a real example of how you might use these skills and the things that I’m going to talk to you today for things that are a little more mundane but things that you might use all the time in your life.

Before I get going on Asking as an Intentional Conversation, I’d like to introduce you to two characters who are always really on my mind. The first is Lizard Brain, and that’s the part of your brain and the part of my brain that trigger when we’re afraid. The part of our brain that keeps us safe. People like Seth Godin and other people have written about Lizard Brain. And over the years, I have come to believe that it’s really an important part of who we are, right? And the reason I bring it up here is because most all of us are afraid to ask. We’re not only afraid to ask for money, but asking itself triggers our Lizard Brain. We’re afraid people are going to turn us down and say no. So I think it’s important that we understand how Lizard Brain functions in most human beings.

If we were only triggered, our Lizard Brain was the only part of us that we’re triggering, we would be in a sad state. In fact, I wonder if people who suffer posttraumatic stress syndrome, if that’s really not what’s happening, Lizard Brain just keeps on triggering. But for most of us, we have a counterbalancing force, which I like to think of as Lion Heart. In fact, I think neurologists who work on this refer to it as the parasympathetic nervous system, your vagus nerve triggers, and that’s the part of you that makes you want to reach out and touch people. It makes you want to help people. It makes you respond positively with a warm feeling when somebody reaches out and says hello to you or does something nice to you.

And these two characters are set on a, what I think of as a delicate balance, a seesaw, a teeter-totter. Now, I think this is important because in the fundraising business or in the asking business, we do not have Lizard Brain and Lion Heart in hard pressure against one another. We’re tinkering with getting one to be up and the other to be down. And as with a seesaw that balance is delicate, it doesn’t take much to lean it in one direction or another. And that’s true when we’re asking and we’re nervous about asking. Something little can make us more confident, and it’s also true of our donors that when we ask our donors for money, Lizard Brain is often the first thing that triggers because they’re afraid we’re going to ask them for more than they can give or we’re picking their pockets. But it doesn’t take very much to lean it in the other direction.

So, I’d like you to keep this kind of teeter-totter image in your mind, understanding that when you ask anybody for anything, what you’re really doing is looking for opportunities to have Lion Heart becoming the ascended position. Now, as many of you know, if you’ve been in the fundraising business for a while, asking, the actual meeting, asking, meeting is only a very small part of what is a longer process. You begin with selecting the prospects, with preparing to meet, doing prospect research, finding out about them, being able to articulate what your organization is doing that is important, the impact of your organization. That’s all important stuff before you ever schedule a meeting and ask someone to meet. But we’re not going to talk about that today.

Today, we’re talking about the two of these icons that are in red. We’ll begin briefly by taking about scheduling the meeting. And then the heart of what I’m going to talk to you about is this next handshake, when you’re actually sitting down and meeting with someone. And of course, after you’re finished, there is a very important piece of this process, which is “follow through.” But for the purposes of today, we’re just focusing on scheduling the meeting and meeting. Now, why am I beginning with scheduling the meeting? Honestly, I think setting up the visit, scheduling the meeting is probably the hardest part of what it is you have to do. Why? Because that’s where you’re likely to encounter objections. And honestly, it’s hard to sit in your office and pick up a telephone and call someone if you’re not sure they’re going to be willing to meet with you, if you’re not sure they’re going to want to have this conversation.

You know, I’ve coached many people over the years, and sometimes, I think the most important piece of information I give them, the most important coaching, specific coaching strategy I give them is to say, pick an hour or if you can’t do that, a half an hour every week. Go into your office, close the door and make calls to schedule appointments with donors during that period. Maybe you’d make a list of 10 donors. You actually make those calls. Of those, you may connect with five. Of those, you may get three visits.

But if you do that week after week after week, you’re going to be having donor meetings, and I promise you, you are going to be raising more money. So if you want a simple takeaway from this, try doing that every week, and watch and see what happens over a period of month.

What happens . . . ? Well, let me talk about how to go about scheduling, setting up the visit. So, at these days, you want to predispose someone to having a meeting with you. You’ll want to start with a letter or an e-mail telling them what it is you want to come and talk to them about. Then, I still like either e-mail or telephone calls to schedule. If you use the telephone and even on an e-mail, this is where you are likely to get objections. Why? Well, because people haven’t made a commitment. You’ve talked to them on the phone and the first thing that triggers is Lizard Brain. They’re going to think about all the reasons they can’t do it. It’s going to take a while before you get the Lion Heart part of them moving. It’s going to take a little persistence, a little courage. But if you do, then you will confirm and get a time and location.

So, what are the kinds of objections you are likely to hear? Well, these are objections all of you, I’m sure, know. Think about it. What are the objections that you would give if I were to call you and ask if I could come and meet with you to talk about a particular cause? Right. You’re making dinner for the kids. You’re running out to a meeting. Kihlstedt calls and you say, “Uh, Andrea, you know, send me a letter. I’m too busy. I know what I’m going to give. There’s no need to meet. I’ll just send a check. Don’t worry about me.” “You know, I’ve got two kids in college and this year, I really don’t have any money to give you.” “Well, frankly, Andrea, I like you fine. It’s just like the cause you’re calling me about just doesn’t interest me.” Ha, can you imagine saying one or another of those to me if I were to call? Of course, that’s what people say.

Well, here’s a simple response to these things. It’s a response that comes out of sales, I didn’t make this up, and it’s a pretty good effective way. It’s called the 3F’s: Feel, Felt, Found. So if you call somebody and they say, ” You know, I’m really too busy.” You can say, “You know, Joan, I understand how you feel. I’m chronically too busy, too. What a little world we live in. But I’ve found that it really pays to sit down together and talk. And then in fact, it’s really quite fun. So, what if we schedule something like three week’s when you’re not going to feel so pressured.” Feel, felt, found. I understand how you feel. I felt that, too, But I’ve found that it’s really worth getting together and that you’re going to enjoy it. It’s just a simple strategy, you can use it. And once you’ve done that, then you’re set up, then you’re ready to get set for the meeting.

Now, what happens when you actually get into the meeting is that your Lizard Brain and your Lion Heart are going to be playing loud for both you, the person in the meeting, and for the person you’re meeting with. You’re going to be anxious that you’re not going to do it well, that you don’t know how to go about doing it, that they’re going to say no to you, that you’re going to have this horrible feeling of not connecting. And they’re going to be worried that you’re going to ask them for something they don’t want to do and they’re not going to know how to say no, because really, nobody knows. Nobody likes to say no, right? Of course, the chances are if they’ve given you a meeting they’re going to give you something. Otherwise, they really wouldn’t have given you a meeting.

Now, when we get to the heart of what I said I want to talk to you about today, it’s what I call Asking as an Intentional Conversation. Now, we have many intentional conversations. What I mean by that is you go into a meeting, you go into the asking meeting with the sense of what you want to come out with. If you’ve gone into it thinking, “Well, I’m going to ask this person for $1000 or $50,000 or $1,000,000,” you’re not going in saying, “We’re just going to have a nice conversation.”

If this is a fundraising meeting, you will want to go in with a clear intention. And one of those clear intentions should probably be, in most of these meetings, that if given an opportunity, if you are invited by them to do so, you will ask them for money. And even if you’re not invited, you might have a clear intention that this is the time to ask them for money. So an intentional conversation is a conversation where you know where you’re beginning and you know where it is you want to go.

All right. Here’s what often happens when we actually sit down with the donor and start talking. We make the mistake frequently of sitting down and starting talking, that’s exactly what we do. Partly because we’re nervous, right? Partly because we don’t know what else to do, so we sit down with the donor and we start yammering at them about our organization. And we look up and with much too much frequency this is what we see. Right?

I imagine that you’ve seen that, too. You look up and you realize these people are nice, they’re sweet to have met with me. I am boring them to tears. Right? I have totally disconnected with them, and I don’t know what to do. Your Lizard Brain is screaming at you saying, “Ah, what am I going to do?” And you know what most of us do when we look up and we see a donor look like this? I’d give you one guess, we talk more. We talk faster, because we don’t know how else to handle it. What we’ve done is that we’ve created a wall of words, and talking more and talking faster, believe me, it’s not going to do anything to get rid of that wall of words.

What we really want to see is this. Imagine that. Imagine you’re the woman in white and the donor is the woman in the beige, and that you’re having a great conversation about her interests and your interests and where you share common interests, common desires, common beliefs, common aspirations. And out of that, grows your ability to work with her and her ability to work with you to figure out how she can invest in the project you both feel strongly about. It’s quite a difference isn’t it between that image and that image. And I’ve come up with a way to help you get to this. Okay.

Now, I should tell you that this here is the pattern, and we’re going to spend the rest of our time together today talking about this six-part pattern. I came up with this over years. Here’s how I came up with it. You know I was a capital campaign consultant for a great many years. I don’t do that part of the campaign business anymore, but as a capital campaign consultant, you are expected to go in and train people how to ask for money. So I would go in and I would work with campaign committees and boards, and I would train them how to ask. Because of course, in a capital campaign everybody, you know, board members and staff members, should be going out and asking. And I thought I was pretty good trainer, and honestly, I am a pretty decent trainer.

But what I would find is that in the trainings that I did, where we would do the standard in training people to solicit, we would talk about making the case and overcoming objections and making the ask and then not saying anything. All the standard stuff, what I found is that the people who came in to those trainings excited about asking and willing to ask and good at it, left that way. And the people who came in to those trainings not being excited to ask, left as perplexed as they had been when they came in. And that triggered me to say there’s got to be a better way to think about this.

So I started paying attention to other kinds of conversations, other kinds of intentional conversations. And I came up with this, I just pulled a healthy conversation apart and said, what are the pieces of it? A healthy intentional conversation. And I found that it falls into six categories. Well, I’m going to go over each of these so don’t worry. It’s Settle, Confirm, Explore, Ask, Explore, Confirm, from left to right.

Now, it turns out that in an intentional conversation, you play two roles. You are the participant in the conversation, so you’re actually having a conversation with the person you’re talking to, but you are also the conductor of the conversation, and it is your job to make sure that you move from one of these slices to the next and that you don’t miss any of them, that all of them are covered. So you have to be wearing two hats. It’s like you’re having a conversation and you’re rising up above it to make sure that you’re going through the pieces because honestly, the donors that you’re talking to, they don’t know what the pieces of this conversation are.

How many of you, I wonder, has been at a meal for example with a donor and the idea was to solicit the donor? Maybe you’ve been there with your executive director and you’re out to lunch with a donor, and you go on through an hour and 10 minutes, and nobody’s gotten around to asking for the gift, it’s all been chat. Well, that’s what happens and that’s what this model will keep from happening. So let’s begin at the beginning.

Settle. Now, you all know what Settle is, right? You all know what Settle is. Settle is small talk. It’s the small talk we all do when we first walk into a room. If it’s raining out, it’s “Whoa, it’s sure wet out there.” It might be, you know, “How are your kids?” It might be, “Were you on vacation recently?” It might be, “Gee, what a beautiful picture of the boat on your wall.” Right? It’s chitchat. Now, why do I put chitchat in here? Because during that chitchat period, what’s really happening is that you and your donor, the person you’re talking to, are finding one another. It gives you a minute or two or three to drop whatever else is happening in your life and to be present in the same room, not just physically but mentally.

And if you learn to listen and pay attention to that, you’ll know when the chitchat has accomplished its purpose. You’ll know when everybody is actually calmer and focused. Right. Many times you’d go into a meeting and the person you’re talking to will just have had an argument with a staff member, or maybe you got a speeding ticket on the way over, or you bring other stuff into the room, and you’ve got to give it a couple of minutes for that to die down, so you can hear one another’s voices.

When that happens, it’s your job as a conductor to move it on, and you might do something like this, ask a meta question, a permission question, “Shall we get to work?” Well that signals that you’re ready to get down to the meat of the conversation. There are many other ways to do that. You can just get down to it, but I find these permission questions, moving the conversation literally from place to place, are really easy and useful for you and for the person you are talking to, that everybody’s on the same wavelength.

All right. That moves us in the Confirm. There are two things you need to confirm early in every solicitation call, every visit that you have, the purpose of the visit and the amount of time it’s going to take. Now, I’m always amazed at how often both of these get lost. The first one gets lost because you may not have done a good job setting it up. When you set up the meeting, if it’s going to be a solicitation meeting and if you know that, I would encourage you to set it up that way so that they know you’re coming to talk to them about their annual fund to your organization, or about a special capital gift. They should know. You don’t want to bait and switch. You don’t want to get in there and all of a sudden just spring it on them. Right?

You undermine the trust that is so important to your conversation by doing that. So, let them know what you’re coming for, and when you get in the room and you found one another, right, everybody is listening carefully, confirm why it is you’re there. You might refer to a letter or an e-mail, so you would say, “You know, I know in the e-mail, I told you I was going to be coming to talk to you about your annual fund gift.” So, that’s the purpose.

Confirming the amount of time is equally important. You will have set up your meeting for a particular amount of time, maybe it’s 45 minutes, maybe it’s 20 minutes. But you want to take just this couple of seconds right now early on to say, “You know, when we set this up, we scheduled out 45 minutes. Does that still work for you?” Well, that’s really simple, I know. But by doing that, you set the parameters of the discussion. You take leadership of the structure of the discussion. And I promise you, many a gift has been lost because the person you’re talking to, their schedule changed, turns out they only had 15 minutes, some things come up. If that’s the case, you want to know it right here so you can adapt your timing for the rest of the call.

So, all right. We’ve been through Settle and Confirm. Simple and easy and again and again, people don’t understand on how to use them. Now, we move to what is perhaps the most surprising part of the asking conversation. Instead of diving in, which is what most people do, to say, “Yes, all right, I’m here to talk to you about your gift. We have 45 minutes. Let me tell you about my organization.” I want you instead to say, “Before I tell you about my organization and what I’m here, you know, this project, I’d love to ask you some questions. May I ask you some questions?”

So, what you’re doing is you are turning this to be a conversation about the donor. Now, why is that important? Well, in the end, you can talk as much as you want about your organization. But the fact is that if the donor is not engaged, and if you’re not listening to what the donor is interested in, you don’t know what it is to ask them for. You may have done some homework upfront and you may have a pretty good idea of that. But even then, you should stop and get the donor talking about their interests. If you’ve done some homework, that may be something like, “You know, Sue, you know, I looked at all of your giving before and I realized that you always give to the education program, the education aspect of what we do? Why is that your interest? Where does that come from in your life?”

Now, think about that. Think about that. If instead of just diving in and asking you and telling you and asking you, I would say, “You know, Maryann, I really want to know what you’re interested in. And if your interests are consistent or if you change what you’re thinking about. I want to know why you’ve been a donor to this organization for a long time.” Or, “If you’re a first time donor, you know, you took this call. You agreed to take this call, so I know you have some interests. Right? All right, tell me where you are and why you agreed to take this call.”

In doing this, you are opening the floor to your donor, and you will be surprised that if you were genuinely interested in their response, they will be happy to tell you. Right? In fact, it’s going to lead to a really interesting conversation, where you are listening like mad to find out where the overlapping interests are between your organization and the donor’s current interests. I’ll take a moment and tell you about one of my favorite stories when this did not happen.

So, I have some friends who were quite wealthy. You’re in business long enough, you end up with some friends who are wealthy. So, and my wealthy friends, I mean they’re wealthy to the point of having given enough money to name a building at a university, that kind of wealthy. That’s pretty wealthy. So my friend, I was doing some training with her, a solicitation training actually. And this is the wife of the wealthy couple, and I said to her, “You know, when we train people to ask for money, we are always taught that when we actually make the Ask, we should then stop talking.” Now, most of you on the phone have probably heard that before. When you ask for the gift, then stop talking until the donor says something.

So my friend says to me, “You know, Andrea, I just have to tell you what this feels like on the other side.” She said, “You can only stop talking after that question if the donor’s voice has been in the room fully beforehand.” If it grows out of a conversation. She said, “My husband and I were solicited by some people at the university recently, and they came, they launched into their pitch, they told us about the university, which was having a big capital campaign. One person talked, the other person talked, a third person talked, they didn’t ask us anything about what we were interested in or how our philanthropy was. They made an assumption. The only time they stopped talking is after they asked for the gift.” She said, “I have never felt so disrespected in my whole life.”

So, that’s a cautionary tale. When you move from confirming what the purpose of that visit is and the amount of time, the next thing you need to do is to turn the conversation over to the donor by asking questions. And if I were you, that’s really what I would prepare. I would prepare questions. The rest of it, you know your organization. The rest of it will come out quite naturally. But think about what you want to ask that donor in order to turn the conversation over to her. Right? You might say, “You know, towards what end is your philanthropy? What difference do you want to make in the world?” Right? There are many questions. “Tell me more about what your interests are.” Prepare questions.

You know, everybody talks about listening more when you’re with the donor. Being able to ask a good question is what will enable you to listen. That’s going to lead you into this whole Explore, which really may be quite a robust part of your conversation. The donor is going to be telling you what they’re interested in. You’re going to be saying, “You know, I’m so happy to hear that because here’s what’s exciting in our organization now.” So you’re exploring common interests. And when you have a sense that that conversation has led to the time when you are ready to ask for a gift, only then are you going to say, “You know, I think you might be interested in this.” And that’s what leads you to the Ask. Right? That’s the conductor question, we’re back.

Every time you see one little arrow, you’re a conductor and that you are conducting into the Ask. I encourage to have the Ask take no more than two minutes. You can create a mighty wall of words even in two minutes, so it should be very short. And really the Ask itself is, “Would you consider a gift of . . . ?” Notice that’s a transition question, right? The Ask, you have to very simply say what would you like some donor to consider, how much money are you asking for and how would that money be used, what’s the impact, what impact would there be from your donor’s gift. And then, you say, “Would you consider a gift of . . . ?” And then you are quiet because the donor’s voice has already been fully in the room.

Now, of course you move in to another Explore. So, what’s this Explore about? Well, this is an Explore all about the gift. All right, how much should the gift be? How will they be recognized? How do they want to transact the gifts? Maybe it’s an Explore about whether they need to talk to their partner, talk to their attorney. Maybe it’s going to be a complicated gift, maybe it’s a simple gift. Maybe they would want to make it next year instead of this year. All right. So, the first Explore is an Explore about shared interests, and the second Explore is an Explore about the terms of the gift, or how to go about thinking about the gift.

It may be that the gift you ask them for isn’t the gift they would want to give. And it may be that you would have asked them for a gift around your education program. And they would say, “You know, this year, I’ve really become interested in the issues of prison, and I’m really interested in how your organization, your social service organization addresses this. Do you have any programs in that area of the incarceration of juveniles?” And by the way, it happens to be something I’m interested in personally, which is why I bring it up here.

So, it may be that the Ask changes around the donor’s current interests, because just someone was interested in something two years ago doesn’t mean they’re necessarily interested in it now. So that’s pretty another robust part of the conversation once you feel like you have come to some conclusion, and it could be one of many conclusions. It could be yes, you have a gift. It could be, they need more time. It could be, they would like more information. I mean all kinds of things could come to that. Once you have a sense of what that is, then it is your job to Confirm, to summarize and review next steps.

Now, this too is so important. I can’t tell you how many times people don’t do this, and they get back to their car or back to the office only to find that they didn’t really understand fully. Or maybe they misheard the amount. Honestly, I’ve done that in soliciting a gift, where a friend of mine, I asked her for a gift. And she said to me, “Yes, I’m happy to give you.” She said, “I’m not going to give you one gift this year, I’m going to give you two gifts of five each.” And then I said, “Oh, thank you so much. That’s terrific,” and I went home. I woke up the next morning and I thought, you know what, I don’t know what five she’s talking about. Is she talking $500 or $5,000? I was asking for this, right? I mean, I had no idea what she was talking about. Or $50?

I had to call her up and say, “Hey, I’m really embarrassed.” I mean, this was a newbie mistake and I am not a newbie in this business. I said, “Ugh, I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t clarify with you, I didn’t confirm. Are you talking two gifts of $500 or two gifts of $5,000?” And her immediate response to me, this is a wealthy woman, her immediate response is, “How do you know I wasn’t talking two gifts of $500,000?” Well, anyway, that made me remember never to assume things. But before you leave the room, before you leave your solicitation, you will want to say, “Let us summarize and review the next steps. What I think I heard you say is that you’d like to give to our education program, that you would consider making a gift of $25,000, but in order to confirm that you really need some time talking to your partner. Is that right?” Then they confirm or don’t confirm. Then you move to this.

Okay, here’s what we’re going to do now, right, this is the follow through. “Here’s what I suggest, why don’t you go and talk to your partner, I’m going to send you a letter confirming that this is what we talked about. You talked to your partner. And is it okay if I call you next Wednesday at two o’clock? All right, let’s put it in our calendars.” And if the person says, “You know what, I’ll just give you a call.” You don’t want to do that. You need to own the end of this conversation. It’s critically important that you own the end of it. And then you say, “You know what, I found that if I kind of leave it out there foggy, it doesn’t work for either one of us. So, if it’s okay, I’ll just shoot you an e-mail next week and then we can figure out where to go from there. We can tie down the details there. Is that okay?” Permission question, “Is that okay?”

There are permission questions throughout this arc. We go move from one section to another to another with these little permission questions. And once you’ve gotten to this last Confirm and you’re finished with it, then your job is really the follow through. What’s going to happen if you follow this model is that everyone will feel settled. People will feel like you have moved them through reasonable steps in the conversation. They’ll feel like they have accomplished something, like you have come to some closure together, and you will know exactly what to do moving forward.

And you know what, never in this model, as I’ve talked to you about it, have we talked about overcoming objections. Because we haven’t created any objections. We’ve taken the donor’s lead to ask them for something that they will want to do. So, it’s an interesting way to think about how to solicit a gift and, you know, it’s remarkably effective. People always want it . . . Well, let me just show you two more things about this.

So, the numbers at the top of this indicate how much you talk and how much your donor talks. So in the Settling it’s 50/50. In the Confirming, it’s 90% you and 10% the donor, right, that just takes like 30 seconds or 60 seconds probably. In the Explore, it’s probably 25% you and 75% the donor. Though it may be 50/50. The Ask is 100% you, it’s the smallest part of the meeting, and you are on. I don’t think you want to memorize something in advance for this because you will want it to grow out of your conversation with the donor, so you have to be while you have an intention going in, you don’t want to memorize a pitch even in the Ask. Then, the Explore is 50% you, 50% the donor. And the Confirm is 90% you, 10% the donor.

Now people always want to know how long it takes. Honestly, I’ve made these numbers up. You can do a whole meeting like this as I’ll show you in a few minutes. You can do a whole meeting like this really quickly, or you can take a whole hour. But you should know that the first Settle, I mean the blue triangle is really too big. It’s very quick. It can be two minutes or three minutes or five minutes. Confirming is two minutes or less. Exploring can be 15 minutes maybe. The Ask, don’t go over two minutes, bad idea. The next Explore, it can be really quick but it might take a while. And the final Confirming is like two minutes. Just to give you a sense of proportion. Okay.

Now, one of the neat things about this model is, as I said in the beginning, you can use it for other things in your life. And I know when I’ve gone through this step by step, slice by slice. It feels like it’s big and complicated. But I want to show you how it works when I want to get my husband to take me out to dinner. So I’ll just run through what that might look like. Steven if I knew you better, I’d ask you to play my husband, but I didn’t prepare you for that. So, I’ll just run you through this conversation. So here’s the scenario.

I’ve had a long day downtown at meetings and I’m on my way home. And what I know is that I don’t want to cook. I’m tired. So, I walk into our apartment thinking to myself, “All right, I don’t want to cook.” And my husband is listening to the news or something. Lying on the couch or doing whatever it is he’s doing. And I walk in and I say . . . I’m going to go back to this model here so you can watch me go through these things. So when I say to him . . . Hang on, let me get a better model of this. I say to him, “Ugh, it’s really cold out there today.” Right, we’re settling.

“Yeah, it is.” I said, “How was your day today?” “Oh, okay,” he tells me. “You know, I went out and played tennis. I, you know, went and did some grocery buying. It’s fine.” And I say, “Wow, did I ever have a day?” Right. “This day has really left me a little weary.” This is settling. When I feel like I have his attention and he stopped listening to the news, and I can actually get his attention on the fact that I am finally home, then I want to Confirm. All right, so I might say something like, “Hey, you know what,” I won’t say shall we get to work, of course, but I might say something like . . . Oh, I’m sorry, that’s my doorbell. My husband will get it. I might say something like, “You know what, it’s 5:30 and it’s going to be soon be time for dinner. Why don’t we take just a couple of minutes and figure out what we’re going to do.”

Right, I’ve settled the time and the purpose of the visit, the purpose of my meeting. “Let’s figure out what we’re going to do for dinner and let’s take just a couple of minutes now.” And then instead of saying, “You know, I don’t want to cook. Let’s go out,” I might say to him, “What are you hungry for?” Isn’t that a nifty idea? “What are you hungry for, Tyko?” Tyko is my husband. Right? “Did you walk by that new restaurant that you’ve been wanting to go to today?” So I’m going to talk to him. Right? I’m going to pull out from him what he’d like to do for dinner. And he might say something like, “You know, all day, I’ve been hungry for pizza.” Well, if he says that then I’m good to go. Then I say, “Okay, how about going out to this new Italian restaurant that just opened down the street. I was looking at the menu. I’d be happy to treat you tonight.”

Well, so why is this going to work? It’s going to work because he wants to go and have pizza, he told me that, and I’m going to ask him to go and have pizza, and then throw in a little sweetener along with it, namely that I’m going to treat. Then we’re going to have a little conversation about how we’re going to do it. Right? Are we going to walk? It’s raining. What time do we want to do it? Do we need to make a reservation? Who’s going to make the reservation? And if we’re going to drive, who’s going to get the car? Right? We’re exploring how we’re going to transact this.

And finally, we’re going to confirm by saying, “Okay, seven o’clock. Right? I’ll call. You’re going to get the car. We’re good to go.” Done. That whole conversation may not have taken any more than three or four minutes, but I will have walked in through this arc of the Ask, and I will have asked him to do something that fits my needs and also suits his interests. Try it with you kids, try it with your husband. It’s not manipulative, it’s polite.

What are the two things that I think are the most important thing, characteristics of a really great asker? Well, if you’re really curious, that sets everything up. Right? To make my Ask, getting my husband to go out to dinner, where I really need to care about what he wants. I can’t be pretending. And to get a donor to give you a gift, you really need to remember that what they’re interested in doing drives the gift, not what you need. And really good solicitors are what I think of as sounding boards. When a donor tells you what it is they’re interested in, then you take that and you amplify it, and you help them understand how you can help serve their needs through your organization. Become a sounding board for your donors. Find out what they want to do and help them accomplish it through the programs of your organization.

If you do that, what’s going to happen is you’re going to tip the balance between Lizard Brain and Lion Heart. And in the best of donor meetings, a donor is going to turn to you and say, “You know, what you’ve talked to me about, what we’ve talked about today is so important to me, and I see how your organization is addressing that. What can I do to help?” If they say that then you know their Lion Heart is triggered and their Lizard Brain is calm.

These conversational perks are designed to build trust. And when you build trust with the donor, you calm their fears and you let them realize that through your organization, they can accomplish what they want to accomplish in the world. They can make the world a better place. So try it out. I know I’ve spent the last 45 minutes telling you about it. But really, it’s simple. Play with it. Play with it in your everyday life. Play with it with your kids. Get your partner to take you out to dinner. Watch and see if it doesn’t work. You may be tickled.

All right. Steven, I think you told me that I should take 50 minutes, and it is 1:51.

Steven: Wow, good job.

Andrea: How is that?

Steven: That was awesome, Andrea. Man, I got to print that beautiful pinwheel graphic because that was fantastic. I hope everyone enjoyed that as much as I did, and I think people did based on the chat. So, thank you so much for that wonderful advice. I’m sure people will put it to use right away. We’ve got a little time for questions.

Andrea: Yeah, I see that Susan here wants how much time. She wants to see how much time for each part. I will put it up here, but honestly, don’t take it seriously. That’s why I don’t like doing this slide. Everybody asks for it, then I did it. Now, I think I shouldn’t have done it because really, this can be all over the place. This is not formulaic. When this works well, it’s because you are fully attuned to what’s going on in the room.

Steven: Yeah, filling it out.

Andrea: Only other thing in your mind is that you know you’re responsible to move through all six slices.

Steven: Well, that’s actually a good lead into Lydia’s question. Lydia is wondering, is there a way to save a situation when your partner talks and does not listen?

Andrea: Lydia, yes. I’m so glad you brought that up because it really is something I really wanted to say and I didn’t. So one of the things that you can use this arc of the Ask for is to prepare when you’re going on a solicitation call with more than one solicitor. Right, what happens when you go with more than one solicitor is that nobody knows what it is they’re supposed to be doing. You haven’t defined roles properly. If you use this arc as a way of preparing, so you sit down, Lydia sits down with Susan or John or whoever’s going to go out on the call with her, and says, “Listen, let’s go through each of these six steps, and let’s understand who is going to be driving the conversation, moving it forward? And which one of us is going to play which role in each of these arcs?” Then you have a reasonable plan, and it should keep John from just going on and on, because you can move the conversation and he’s going to know what it is you’re doing.

Steven: It makes sense.

Andrea: So, this model really works. I’m so glad you asked that question. I often just talk about it and I forgot.

Steven: Here’s one from Bridget that I really liked. Andrea, would you do anything different if you were talking to a new donor versus a repeat donor, someone who had given to you before, maybe giving consistently? What would you do differently? What would you do the same based on frequency of giving?

Andrea: Yes, so I would probably, I would do it differently. So, why would I do it differently? Because the questions I would ask would be different. If I’m going to see somebody who is a donor who has given a lot and given it over time and given many gifts, I would want to bring that up in the first Explore. I would want to say something like, “You know, you have been so remarkably generous.” And to understand how you’d like to move forward with us, I would really love to know, first of all, how your . . . I’m sorry, the air conditioner guys have come to take the air conditioner off. If you’re hearing rustling, my apologies.

I would want to say, “I really want to understand why you’re interested, why you’ve given.” And I would want to know more about how they feel as a donor, how it feels to be a donor. Do they like being a donor to the organization? What do they get back? What would they like to get back from it? And what would they like to do to move to the next level of their giving with your organization? So that’s one kind of conversation.

If they’re not a donor at all, you’re going to want to talk at a more basic level about what their philanthropic interests are and why they accepted your call.

Steven: It makes sense.

Andrea: I think somebody wanted to know if this works with the breakup. It does. I haven’t had a breakup but I believe it does. Try it and let me know.

Steven: I love it. What about in-kind gifts. Gary here is wondering, how will we approach when requesting gifts in kind? Any differences there?

Andrea: No, same thing. I mean the kinds of questions you would ask would be different, so you might want to ask, for example, how do you usually . . . Do you give in-kind gifts? Would you rather give an in-kind gift that than another gift? What are the ways you decide if you’re going to give an in-kind gift to somebody? So, you’re going to want to probe that a little. But essentially, an in-kind gift is no different from any other gifts. You will have to quantify its value. The question is how does the donor want to give, and the bigger question is what impact does the donor want to have with their gift. So in-kind gifts are sometimes more tainted, right, more tinged.

Steven: Sure, absolutely.

Andrea: So, you’re going to want to explore that. Right.

Steven: Here’s one from Debbie and maybe you’ve experienced this yourself, Andrea. What do you do if you have confirmed with a donor during the meeting and the follow-up, but then they go quiet? So, they make that commitment in person but then you can’t get a hold of them, they kind of disappear off the face of the Earth. Any advice there?

Andrea: Stalk them gently and with humor. Humor, that’s my advice, actually. You can stalk people gently and with humor. In fact, I did that not so long ago with one of my coaching clients. In my capital campaign business, I coach people from the time they are thinking about a campaign until the time the hire a consultant. And I had one client who paid me, I mean he had bought my services and then he disappeared. So I started staking him online, e-mail. Right? And I finally sent him an e-mail that said, “Ray, do you feel like I’m stalking you?” And then I got an immediate e-mail back. It’s something like, “Yes, you are stalking me and I love it.” It was very sweet. So, humor is a great way to follow-up.

You know, talk, acknowledge what’s happening. Right. You acknowledge it, say, “I know, we decided to move ahead in this way. I’ve been trying to reach you and haven’t. Maybe you’re out of town. Maybe you’ve had a change of heart. But I’d really like to figure out what we should do about this. You know, it doesn’t feel good to either of us, I’m sure, this way.” So talk about what’s real, be genuine and be funny.

Steven: Love it. Funny is always good.

Andrea:Funny is always good. Right.

Steven:Well, we’re almost up to two o’clock, and I want to be respectful of people’s time, in case they have meetings or haven’t had lunch yet. I know we didn’t get to all the questions but we’re going to make those available to Andrea. And Andrea, why don’t I give you the last word to kind of talk about all the cool things that you’ve got going on, and maybe share your contact info as well.

Andrea: Sure, thank you. So, if any of you are thinking about a capital campaign, I do invite you to come over to It’s unusual. We have unusual and interesting services at this very front end of the capital campaign planning, which in my belief is all important. So take a look at the website. I’m quite proud of it. Sign up. We blog and I’m proud of that, too, once a week. I think it’s a very robust and useful set of information on this site.

For those of you who have a mind about other sorts of things, I also blog on, and sometimes I do that on prison issues and sometimes I do that on accountability or more personal issues. So, if you’re interested kind of in more broader conversation that is not about fundraising, frankly, fundraising is all right, but life is more interesting sometimes, you can come over there. You can check me out there on Facebook and see what I do.

I wish you all so very well and I would love it if you would e-mail me. If you try this out and you have experiences with it, I would love to know about them. So, you can e-mail me at, and I’ll be tickled to hear from you.

Steven: Well, you do reach out and read those blogs. Really awesome content there. She’s being modest. It’s a really great blog post. And follow her on Twitter, too. Lots of ways to get in touch with her. But Andrea, thanks so much for being here. This is a really excellent presentation. I enjoyed listening to it. So thanks for sharing your time with us.

Andrea: Steven, thank you so very much and thanks to all of you who stayed with us all this time. I look forward to getting to know you and hearing from you other ways.

Steven: Awesome. Well, we’ve got a great presentation coming up one week from today. Lori Jacobwith is going to join us to talk about storytelling. So it actually dovetails quite nicely from this presentation.

Steven:So check that out. We’re going to be back here.

Andrea: Steven, I know Lori Jacobwith and she is terrific. She is a wonderful presenter, so don’t miss her. She will be worth signing up for. She’s fantastic.

Steven:Yeah, she’s one of our favorites.

Andrea:She’s a little more polished than I am. I kind of fumble around but Lori is really a polished presenter.

Steven: No. You were great, too.

Andrea: Okay.

Steven: Well, thanks everyone. We’ll be signing out.

Andrea: I didn’t say I wasn’t good. I just have a different style.

Steven: Yeah, different is okay.

Andrea: Okay.

Steven: Well, look for the recording from me and the slides. We’ll get that out to you today, and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So, have a great rest of your afternoon and a great weekend, and we will talk to you all again soon. Bye now.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.