On July 9th, Marc Pitman joined Jay Love for a webinar entitled “Ask Without Fear! Powerful Secrets to Help Fundraisers Handle Objections.” Marc drew on his years of experience to present simple & effective fundraising ideas to help fundraisers raise lots of money by deftly handling objections. In case you missed the webinar, you can watch a full replay here:
Steven: Well good afternoon for everyone there on the East Coast
and good morning if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for joining
us for today’s webinar, Ask Without Fear: Powerful Secrets to
Help Fundraisers Handle Objection. My name is Steven Shattuck
and I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be
moderating today’s discussion.
I’m joined today by two leaders in the nonprofit sector. The first is
fellow Boston Bruins fan Marc Pittman. Good afternoon, Marc.
Marc: Good afternoon.
Steven: Marc, otherwise known as the fundraising coach, he’s an
international nonprofit organizational development consultant
and a fundraising trainer and he’s here today to help all of you
nonprofit professionals out there get excited about asking for
money. Marc, thanks for joining us.
Marc: It’s my pleasure.
Steven: Also joining Marc is my colleague Jay Love. He’s the founder
and CEO over here at Bloomerang. Hey there Jay.
Jay: Hi there, Steven.
Steven: Some of you may recognize Jay as the original co-founder of
eTapestry. He’s currently a Senior Vice President at Avectra in
addition to his duties here at Bloomerang. Thanks for joining
Steven: What we’re going to do today is Marc is going to get us started
here. He’s got a great presentation. He’s going to share some
tips on effective fundraising and after his short presentation,
he’s going to hand it over to Jay who’s going to talk about how
to keep all those donors donating to your organization after
you’ve gotten them to donate, which is what Marc’s going to talk
As always, what we do on all of our Bloomerang webinars is we’ll
leave some time at the end for a quick Q&A session so if you
hear something during either Marc or Jay’s presentation,
something maybe you’d want elaborated or explained further,
please feel free to send those questions over the chat
functionality. I will see them. Marc and Jay will also see them.
We’ll try to answer as many questions as possible up until the
2:00 hour. Marc, without any further adieu, why don’t you take
it away for us.
Marc: I’d be glad to. What I’m going to try to do in just about 20
minutes is blast through the format of asking for money. I call
ask without fear. What I’m going to also try to do is highlight
throughout the time how to overcome objections in ever step of
the asking process because I think that when we have a
structure around our asking we can do a much better job
effectively asking, answering objections, the three times that
they can happen that we can do something about them.
Before they come up we can answer objections. While they’re coming
up, after they’re coming up we can answer some of them so it’s
best [inaudible 03:37] front loaded answering as we’re doing our
ask and talking to the donor. But the structure all helps with
that. Before I get into the structure I just want to say I think
fundraising is the best privilege in the world. I think we get
to do the highest calling that could be out there. We get to
talk to people about their values. We get to talk to people
about their legacy and what they want to make different and
change in the world and how they want to make the world a better
place. We get paid to do this or we’re volunteers but we get to
do this, have the, participate in this with people and for me
it’s like this power cord here.
Nonprofits are a wall of outlets and some of them are three pronged
some of them are two pronged. Here in the United States we used
to have just two prongs and then we get two prongs with one side
being a fatter side. If you’ve ever tried to stick a plug with
two prongs, one side fatter, into an outlet that doesn’t have
the fatter one side, it’s really frustrating but we do that with
our donors. We often will try to, our donor is the electrical
cord and we’ll often try to shove them into something, a part of
our organization that doesn’t fit.
When we do walk up and down the wall of our nonprofit with the donor,
get to know them a bit. Let them get to know our organization
and then plug them into the outlet that fits them best, it’s
electric. Their eyes light up and usually, if I could see all of
you here, type in the sidebar. Anybody that’s on this webinar
right now that has had that moment when they’ve asked a donor
for money and the donor’s eyes lit up with joy that they could
give. Just say yes right into the chat box there. Lots of
people. That’s where it becomes addicting. You guys get it
because when you start having those yes’s where the donor’s eyes
light up, you realize it doesn’t matter if I have to go through
five no’s to get to that yes. This might be that next yes.
That’s why I think fundraising is an extreme sport because I think it
just has all the adrenaline rush that I’d imagine you’d get from
bungee jumping but you don’t have to risk your life to do it.
All you have to do is risk a little rejection. Let’s get into,
I’m glad there’s still lots of yes’s coming on. This is awesome.
The structure that I do as a GenXr, I heard “get real” growing
up, a lot, so I decided to get real as a fundraising structure
in part because often when we get into fundraising we think we
have to contort ourselves into something that we’re not. We
think we’re not a sales, “I’m not naturally a salesman.” Right
now all my coaching clients are introverted task people and they
think they all have to become extroverted people people to be
effective fundraisers and they don’t.
Part of what I do, the reason I use Get Real is you get to be
yourself. The other part is real is an acronym also. The R is
for research. The E is engage. The A is for ask and the L, it’s
for love really but some people you don’t really love them but
you kind of like them or some people you have to love because
[inaudible 06:44] that you choose to like and then there are
other people you just have to live with the response. I parsed
out the love a little bit.
In the next 15 minutes we’re going to go through each stage of that
and show how we can answer objections in each of those.
[inaudible 06:58] When I ask nonprofits, “What is it that you
want to raise?” they don’t know. If I were to ask you right now,
“How much money are you trying to raise this year?”
Statistically a vast, a lot of you in this call would say,
“Well, more. More is better. We don’t have a defined goal.”
[inaudible 07:22] book the perfect for high school graduates and
for lots of other people. The title is “If You Don’t Know Where
You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.” It’s the
same thing here.
You need to research your goal. Before you get into researching
donors you need to figure out what is it that you want to do.
Some people put together a whole case statement. In fact I just
got off a call, we were working with a person that was putting
together a case statement for her cause and the kind of back of
the envelope way I describe a case statement is if you were to
have to stand in front of a court of law and argue for the
veracity of your cause, what would you say? You’d have to put in
all the statistics about why your cause is the right one to give
to, why the need is real, why your organization’s trustworthy.
You’d also want to put in all the heart stories, all the real
life examples of the world being made a better place, whether
it’s land being conserved or children’s lives being changed or
elderly people getting food, whatever it is that you do, pets
being rescued, you’d put in the heart and the head.
Then, as you’re writing out your case statement you can start listing
out the dollar amounts and put it through something like a gift
range calculator. I have one, a giftrangecalculator.com. There
are other ones on the web that have different, basically the
same statistics that we’ve been studying with giving USA for
over 50 years now. I tend to be more conservative and here’s
why. Usually people tell you that the top goal, the top gift of
whatever you’re trying to raise should be 10 to 25 percent of
your goal. I know it’s just as hard to ask for 25 percent as it
is to ask for 10 percent so that’s why I put 25 percent as the
The slide in front of you shows $100,000. To raise that you need your
first gift to be $25,000 and you need five prospects.
Statistically we find you need three to five prospects. Again,
I’m just trying to be conservative in helping you map out your
This is a perfect tool for not only planning your cause, planning
whatever your fundraising goal is, it’s also perfect for using
with donors to help overcome objections because one of the
biggest objections donors have is, “I don’t want to be on the
hook for the whole cause. I don’t want to have to do it, I don’t
want to have to pay for it all.” When you map it out this way
they can see that you have a plan and you’re asking them to be
part of that plan.
Some of you are more statistically accurate than I am. You’ll notice
at the far right that you’ve raised 128 percent. If you were to
follow this mathematically exactly there’s three reasons for
that. First of all, I find that most projects tend to go up in
cost. They don’t tend to go down, whether it’s healthcare or
construction or staffing, costs tend to increase.
The second one is we tend to not factor in donor appreciation into
our fundraising. We tend to pull together the case statement,
list out all the costs it’s going to take to do what we want to
do and we forget that we need to thank the people that brought
us there. Raising more money helps.
The third thing is people love to . . . people love backing a winning
horse. Economists out there that are doing some very cool
testing of fundraising appeals, one of them that was done both
in Florida and in Chicago sent out two direct mail letters for
the same computer cause and a computer lab that they’re trying
to raise money for. The only difference in the letters was one
of them said, “We’re just getting started,” and the other
[inaudible 10:47] “We’re over 50 percent of the way there.” The
over 50 percent of the way there pulled in three times as much
money as the “we’re just getting started.” People like to back a
While there are some people that like to invest in seed money, there
are more people that like to back winning horse. Once you start
coming near to your goal it’s great to be able to blow past it.
Giftrangecalculator.com is a good way to help overcome
objections and then you can also just do other research. Now
that you’ve got your case statement and you’ve started to think
about your dollar amounts, you can go, we’ll go back to look at
the [inaudible 11:21]. What you can actually do, if your board
members say, “We need to raise $100,000,” you can go to
giftrangecalculator.com, put $100,000 in and say, “Awesome. We
need five people that we think could give $25,000. Who would we
go to? Who do you think,” don’t say it with a chip on your
shoulder like, “Who is it, huh?” Be nice. Appreciate their
enthusiasm for how much they want to raise.
As you start building that name first then you can go through the
research and your prospect. Google their name, figuring out what
they give to, you can just put a spreadsheet asking people what
their capacity is on a scale of one to five. What their
philanthropic intent is on a scale of one to five and what are
their interests in your causes on a scale of one to five. There
are different ways you can do the research, both from your desk
and talking to board members and other donors, going over lists
of names, asking them what they know.
You can also go hire groups, [inaudible 12:28] Lenox [inaudible
12:19] point hire services that can do research but the real
thing here to remember is to be realistic about it. You can feel
like you’re moving the ball forward on the filed when you’re
doing your research because you’re visioning, you’re planning,
you’re creating this mathematical formula for how you’re going
to reach your goal. Everything feels wonderful but you haven’t
asked anybody for money yet. Just be realistic about it and
avoid what Zig Ziglar calls paralysis by analysis.
We’re going to go through the engage step into the ask step but I
want to just, that’s not because the engage step isn’t
important. What engagement does in helping overcome objections
is you get to know the donor. It’s like dating. I think the 2008
housing market bust was one of the best things that happened for
North America nonprofits because up until that point we thought
we were doing a good job developing relationships with donors
but what we were really doing was invoicing them. We sent out a
mailing and every year they’d send us a check. When push came to
shove and they had to focus on who they really wanted to give
to, we were shocked that we were left out in the cold. We
weren’t in their inner circle.
That forces us to get back to the dating step and building the
relationship. We’ve learned about them on paper, now we get to
learn about them in the, I was just talking to the person on my
coaching call, I said, “It’s very good to study donors and their
natural habitat.” Go to their office. Go to their home. Go to
the clubs that they’re at, see how they interact. How do they
like to be thanked? Do they have a lot of pictures up of people
that they can’t possibly know well but they’re famous
celebrities. Or do they have a lot of little plaques from
community organizations? You can learn all sorts of things abut
how you’re going to thank your donors and the things that matter
You can use the telephone. I think the telephone is having a
resurgence in our highly technological age where you can still
get the tone of your voice, the enthusiasm in your voice and the
cadence of your voice and you don’t have to be there at the same
time as them because you’re generally going to get voice mail.
You can send letters. Again, handwritten letters, I like blue
ink. That tends to be just remarkable. People get a real note
from you. Print the name off. You could use Google alerts to do
the engagement step. You could put your donor’s name in a Google
alert. Go to Google.com/alerts and then anytime their name comes
up in the news you could get emailed something from them and you
could either print it out or you could say, “I just found this
in the paper,” or “Congratulations on your honor.”
The big thing is you don’t want to be creepy. You don’t want to say,
“I set up a Google alert on you and so I’m spying on you and the
NSA reports when they’re snooping in on your cell phone calls,
said that this was happening.” You don’t want to do that but you
do want to acknowledge people. One way Google alerts help me
with a board member, my board chair for two or three years, I
didn’t realize he was the head of a national industry
organization. Put his name into Google alerts and all of a
sudden I started seeing him popping up in national media, his
name. Not quite mainstream but national in his field. I was able
to say, “Hey, I was reading this article the other day about
your field and I saw that your name came up. Thank you. It’s
really neat to know somebody from our home town has leadership,
that we know is a leader is also received as a leader
nationally.” Those are all engagement tools.
Part of the big deal with engagement is that you’re looking to find
out what will motivate the donor to give and you’re looking to
prove to the donor that you’re not treating them like an ATM.
That you see them as a person, not just an ATM. I have the can
of Spam there because email, we tend to get a little bit too
flip in nonprofit use of email. We think it’s free and it’s not
really. Not only does it take staff time to do an email
correctly but it also, the minute we start abusing the privilege
people can spam us, they can remove us, they can automatically
have our messages deleted or they can leave our mailing list. So
we lose all the benefit of having a good email system.
Then social media is amazing. There’s so much on social media that we
can do to keep up that engagement right from our desks
[inaudible 16:35] on Facebook, great. We can acknowledge that.
We can follow people on Twitter without their permission and
start just interacting with them that way, on Google+ also.
There’s all sorts of ways you can start the engagement but this
all leads up to the ask. There are some steps for the ask that
make it important. This is where the plug gets, boom, put into
the outlet and this is where the electricity happens.
Here’s, well first of all, when you’re setting up your ask, this is a
freebie. I didn’t put this in the slides but when you’re setting
up your ask make sure that you make it clear that this is
different than an engagement step. You’re setting up, you’re
making your call for a major gift to make a solicitation. I
wouldn’t say necessarily, “I want to talk to you about the money
that you’re going to give to our cause,” but I would say
something like, “Hi Joe. This is Marc. I’d really love to get
together with you for lunch or over coffee to talk about our
project,” or maybe you could say the annual fund, just enough so
that they know that you have a purpose for being there.
The first few solicitations that I personally did 20 years ago, I
didn’t let them know that and so I spent the whole time not
listening to them at all but trying to manipulate the
conversation to be something that would be whatever I thought my
spiel was. I thought I had to have a spiel that was rehearsed. I
didn’t realize I was looking at donors and trying to figure out
where is the donor’s ability and our need meet.
When you make the ask, when you make the setup, the solicitation
setup with, “I’d like to talk to you about our project,” it
makes it a lot easier because you can chit chat with a donor and
then if you forget or you get scared the donor will say, didn’t
you come here to talk about what you’re doing with your
nonprofit? Then you’re off to the races again. Even if you get
cold feet they’ll help you.
Some ways to make your ask easy. Always make your own gift first. I
love doing mood boards because I really hammer this one home.
You got to make [inaudible 18:37] first. People have internal BS-
ometers. They know when you don’t have any skin in the game.
When you haven’t made your gifts. You have to make your gift
first. Does that mean you’re giving at the level you’d like them
to give at? Of course not but you need to stretch. If you’re
asking people to consider giving ten times their normal gift
because you’re on a campaign, you need to ask yourself to
stretch ten times also.
When you make [inaudible 19:03] shut up. Usually when I’m doing the
extended presentation there’s another picture of Mr. T. “Shut
up, fool.” The reason you want to, what you do is you, I would
recommend your phrasing be, “I’d like to ask you to consider a
gift of,” and tell them the specific gift. I like asking for the
big amount. I want them to know that I’m asking them to
prioritize their giving. This clears up a lot of objections
because they know exactly what you’re asking them to do. Asking
them, “Will you just support our cause?” is a cop out. It’s not
really asking. They don’t know what it is. They may think $250
is supporting the cause when you really wanted $250,000.
The minute you get that dollar amount up, shut up. Most sales
training will say, “He who speaks first loses. It’s all about
win/lose.” That’s not it with us in nonprofits. It’s not
win/lose. What you’re doing is you’re giving, you’re asking that
person to do something they’ve never done before or they haven’t
done at that level yet. They just need [inaudible 20:03] process
so by your being quiet you’re allowing them time to process.
Then they’ll tell you when they’re done processing by being the
first to speak. This is the part where you’re totally out of
control and it freaks you out.
Usually the way you can use them to help you with that ask, if you
can’t get that dollar amount ask, you could print out the gift
range chart and say, “Will you give in this area,” and wave your
pen over an area. You could have renderings. You could have
pictures. Sometimes it helps to focus your eyes and their eyes
on a piece of paper or on a video as opposed to focusing it on
each other. It doesn’t seem as confrontational that way.
After you’ve made the total dollar ask then you can say, “You know,
$1000 a year is really only about $84 a month. It’s like a cable
bill.” That’s when you can start, everything you do after the
ask is try to get back on the same side of the table as them.
You’ve said it, you’ve put yourself at odds with them by asking
them to take action then everything is help them come across,
come on the same side of the table.
Part of the way to do that is, I call it [tangibilitize] your ask,
only because I wanted to irritate my high school English
teacher. I thought that would do it but [Heifer], I’ll just
leave this site here, you’ll get the recording. Heifer does a
really creative way and a lot of other places have done this now
of trying to get people to think tangibly about this gift that
they’re giving to the overall cause, to unrestricted giving. I
love that it doesn’t feel bait and switch. Right in there
there’s this paragraph that says, “Look, you’re giving to our
cause. We understand you’re giving to our cause but, so if you
give a gift to the cow, we fill all the cows in New Guinea.
We’re going to buy chickens and turkey. That’s just what we’re
going to do because we know we trust you” Then we can answer
questions about that later.
I want to show you a quick [inaudible 21:55] exercise you can do with
your board or your team to really hit home some of the
objections because normally, if a donor says yes, you’re off to
the races. Pull out the pledge form. If they say yes too quickly
you can say as calmly and as smoothly as possible, “A year for
the next three years.” That’s actually how that happened. A lot
of donors say yes too quickly for me. I knew I left money on the
table and I ask you to write a gift again, the same check next
year without knowing what the check was. She said, “Sure. I’ll
do that,” and it turns out she became one of the top donors for
a particular project we were in because her gift was higher than
Usually they’re going to say yes or no and [inaudible 22:37] yes,
they may say no which is atypical because after you’ve
researched them, researched the cause and engaged them some
you’ve sifted through a lot of people, that won’t be a good fit
for your nonprofit but often they’ll have an objection. One of
the best ways to figure this out is to get your board together,
your team together, your staff together. I’ve done this with
groups of specific teams or groups of just [inaudible 22:03] and
have everybody think about asking their friends for whatever
they think is a lot of money and then one posted note per
excuse, why they couldn’t give.
“My kids are in college,” [inaudible 23:17]. “Don’t have the money.
My kids are in college.” Then you put them all on a wall, group
them together into common themes and as a team you work together
to answer those objections because invariably people say they
don’t have money while somebody else will say, “I didn’t have
money either but these people have less than I have so I needed
to give.” You can start coming up with stories as your team. We
could write these all out. Typically they’re only five to seven
excuses or objections. I’ve had teams come up to 11 but if you
have your teamwork on it together, it becomes not just this
generic somebody from somebody place else said their people are
giving to us but Joe who I sit with every month at the board or
Harry who I see gives to this cause, he was telling me the other
day that this couple is giving because they felt it was so
Totally going through this because I want, Jay’s got great
information and I want you to be able to [get] that too and then
we’ll have questions and answers. I want to just go through the
objections part here. Some of, the most common ones this is
isn’t a good time. We don’t have the money right now. If you
just usually respond to them, “Well when can we come back to
you?” If you’re getting that a lot you could start putting in
stories in your engagement of people that don’t have money but
are still giving. You could start highlighting them in your
cultivation material. Giving elsewhere is the best objection in
my book because at least they’re philanthropic.
I had a boss that looked at donor’s square in the face and said,
‘”Awesome. I’m glad you’re giving elsewhere. How do we get in
your top ten?” They said, “What?” “How do we get a seat at the
table? We are so good at what we do, I know we’ll quickly rise
to the top three of your giving priorities but how do we just
get a foot in the door?” The donor told him, it was really. When
you say, “We are so good at what we do,” it totally recommits
you to your cause too. It’s pretty empowering.
The last one I joke about is if they’re not interested, what? Are
they comatose? You’ve already researched your cause, researched
them, engaged them, you didn’t just ask them willy nilly. You
had a plan in doing that so they’re not going to be not
interested most likely. If they are, then you can always ask,
end every solicitation with, “Who else should we be talking to
about this? Who do you know on your bowling team? Who do you
know in your rotary club that might be interested in giving?”
Then the last step of research, the research, engage, ask and then
it’s live, like and love. If they say yes, great. Get the
receipts out, do whatever your processes are for who gets
personal calls, who gets personal thank you calls, notes,
handwritten notes, all the other stuff that you do. But if they
say no and you can handle that well you’ll set yourself apart
because most people that are in business have the sales training
of, it’s all a numbers game. You got to get more asks out there
because more numbers in the hopper. If they say no, flush them
and move on.
With nonprofits we don’t have the privilege, the numbers to be able
to just flush them and move on but their no could be legitimate.
It may not be a good time but in my almost 20 years in the
business of raising millions and millions of dollars for
nonprofits around the world, I’ve rarely come across a hard and
fast no. Most no’s are just no for now. It just isn’t a, they
use their, they’re saying no now but if you go back to them in a
year they may be open to that and so you keep that relationship
and one of the best stories I have is that I was a donor who
pulled a $40,000 gift from an organization I was working for by
ten percent of our annual fund. He cut the check, sent it back
but we kept it in strategy for relationship buildings and 18
months later he was giving half a million to us.
I could talk about the other details in that story if you want later.
The business is much more than just, everybody has an [inaudible
27:10] worth and so part of the love step is recognizing the
fact that even if they don’t give you money, they’re still
worthwhile individuals. Even if your organization doesn’t have
time to invest in heavy relationship building, you need to live
with their response. Boom.
To sum up, my whole 20 minutes, 26 minutes, sorry.
Steven: [No problem at all, Marc.]
Marc: Great. Fundraising is a tremendous opportunity and part of
overcoming the objections is having the enthusiasm of knowing
that you’re offering people something, remembering all the yes’s
that you’ve gotten in the past and knowing that this could be
the right time. Whether you’re asking in a letter or a phone
call or a face to face ask, rather than telling yourself, “I’m
probably bothering people,” telling yourself, “I’m probably,
this could be the thing that they’ve been talking about. This
could be the cause that they’ve been looking for that will add
meaning to the stuff that they do 40, 60, 80 hours a week.”
Also the whole idea of ask without fear, part of it is courage is not
the absence of fear, it’s pushing through fear. If there were no
fear you wouldn’t need courage but you can have courage as your
asking because this, you’re making the world a better place.
Jay, I’m going to turn it over to you because I could do this
Jay: Thank you, Marc. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of questions
that will keep us fueled as we go into the Q&A period. Thank you
so much. Well I want to come in and talk about some of the
technology assets that will help you with this asking process.
The final piece of the puzzle there is the effective use of a
donor database to make the ask a natural progression of a
relationship. I’m basing this off of my involvement over the
For 30 years now I’ve been a technology vendor but for the last 20
years I’ve been also a donor to many organizations and for the
last ten years I, what would be considered a major donor and
actually have run a couple of campaigns as a campaign chair for
that and really figuring out this natural progression of the
relationship is so important. Really, to make that come to life
with your database is not that difficult. There’s really one
panel piece of that to make it come to light, the effective use
of the donor database and is one simple aspect here and this is
going to fool a lot of you there, doesn’t require a lot of fancy
features or a lot of capabilities. I feel like the key part of
making it a tool that you can help everybody with is having it
be the type of tool that everybody on your team is knowing how
to use it and using it on a daily basis.
If you can make that come to life, that really changes everything.
We’re going to allude to that being a revolution here in a
second but if everybody can do that, then that will come to
life. In my situation of helping with some capital campaigns, in
one situation we had a database that had a wealth of information
and another one we had no database at all to speak of and there
were very few notes and the details of even how the
organization built their original building no one had kept that
information there. We didn’t even have the names, let alone the
dollar amounts and what led to those gifts being the founding of
the organization in the early years.
Let’s talk a little bit further about this. If you can assist, when
you talk about this final piece of the puzzle and how do you
assist in making total usage happen well that boils down to the
nature of the product. That’s the biggest, if not the huge
factor that comes into play there and we have found this out
over the years. I’ve gone back to so many of my customers and
these are the same customers that took me through the ring quite
a bit as they were deciding which system to use and you always
find quite a bit of difference if you back a year or two or
three later and every time I went back to the organizations I
was always amazed at how little of the application they were
In fact, the majority of a nonprofits use less than 20 percent of
their database of functionality so a large amount of features
equals this complexity and one of the things I always talk about
is that database complexity keeps fundraisers out of it. I often
tell the story of my alma mater which is one of the universities
here in the Midwest and when they approached me the first time
for making a major gift, we sat down, my wife and I, with this
organization and the major gift officer and had a two hour lunch
and really shared all of our hopes and dreams and passions and
sort of opened up our soul to this entire spectrum of what they
were wanting to know and we thought that that was well covered
Nine months later that person was no longer employed and a new
individual, a new major gift officer contacted me and asked me
to lunch and in the first 15 minutes we were going through the
same exact questions. Marc, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of
this happening for organizations but to me it was really sort of
embarrassing to know that they really did not keep any of that
information and after awhile it became quite frustrating for me
and I mentioned [inaudible 32:33]
Marc: Jay, I had an 80 year old donor blow up at me after I asked
him, “How did you come to our school?” He threw some expletives
in my face before we’d even ordered our dinner and said, “Don’t
you guys keep any records? Why? Are you not talking to each
other? I’ve shared this story five times over the last 80 years.
What are you talking about?” It was not pleasant.
Jay: This whole concept of keeping it simple enough for people to use. I’m
really going to view that as a revolution and if we think back
to the French Revolution and what happened there the revolution
I’m talking about here is a revolutionary change from this game
changing idea of keeping it simple enough that even the
executives and the fundraisers can use. The day and time of a
database being used by a single administrative person has really
got to end if we’re going to let it be a tool that helps in
major gift fundraising.
Now certainly it can still continue to be a tool for direct mail and
it can still be a tool for other areas but if you really want it
to be the right arm that we all need in major gift fundraising
to come to life, then we have to make sure that we have
something that everybody can use. We have this, when we talked
about revolutionary change I also think it is where an idea
whose time has come and based upon relentless execution. We’re
going to show you some examples of that execution and how we
make that come to life for you.
The game changing ideas that we’re talking abut here, a database or
CM so intuitive that no training is needed. I know that’s hard
for some people to believe but that’s what we want to be
alluding to here is something that anybody can just sit down and
start using it and in this day and age of smartphones that carry
more functionality than earlier databases every dreamed of
having, nobody I know of sat in a class for a full day or a full
week in order t learn how to use a smartphone. They were
intuitive enough that people could sit down and start using it.
If you do, anyone can and will use it and you can bring the best
practices to life and you can focus on the core functions that
you would like to see come brought to light. If all the
fundraisers and all the executives of your organization, anybody
that’s involved with talking to prospective donors or existing
donors I really feel like that is quite revolutionary and really
makes us all come to life. In fact, it really is the lynch pin
of engagement. When we talk about that, making this engagement
come into life and being able to track and measure that is what
we’re alluding to here.
The word lynch pin is used to really talk about something that holds
all of the elements of a complicated structure together. I
cannot think of anything more complicated than building a long
term donor relationship. It requires many pieces coming
together. Many actions and many details to be tracked there and
the thing that I think really is the glue of this whole area are
the engagement levels for that. Engagement tracking, if you know
the level and the progression of engagement for any donor or
prospect the relationship is natural progression that we were
referring to earlier that you allow that progression to move to
the next step when the ask really comes into play and all the
techniques that Marc was alluding to earlier.
How do we make this engagement tracking come to life? Well we do this
at Bloomerang by involving two very well known experts. First,
on the right you can see is Dr. Adrian Sargeant, sort of the
father of engagement and donor loyalty and donor retention in
the nonprofit world. Then on the left, Mr. Tom Ahern our Donor
Communications Head Coach and we took all of their factors that
they thought were important and built them into the application
that we’re talking about and when we do that, we make these
particular engagement factors come to life. Think about as you
are moving forward with somebody, if you can track this
automatically it makes the positioning of the time to make the
ask come about very easily for you.
Some of the factors that we’re tracking here are the recency and
pattern of giving. Whether or not they are an outright cash or
check giver or whether they’re a sustaining donor. What we’re
referring to there are recurring gift transactions or maybe a
multi year pledge. The number of years of consecutive giving
really makes that come to life. Whether it’s an upgrade or
downgrade or maybe they lapsed. Obviously that moves the level
up or down.
Then we come into a couple of areas that are fairly easy to track if
you are tying it in with your website. If people are registering
or attending events you can register them through the website.
All even attendance and all volunteer activity are really true
signs of engagement for somebody and then we move into the
communication area. If you’re sending out emails, if you can
easily track whether or not someone opens the email, whether or
not they click on something in the email, whether or not they
forward it on to other people or they unsubscribe from it, those
are all factors of moving the engagement needle up or down. If
they let you know what their communication preferences are.
If you’ve been smart enough to send out a survey and be able to track
whether they would like to get written communications or
electronic communications or face to face or telephone, we do
that. I saw someone mention the face to face and that’s what we
talk about here with inbound interactions. Anybody that contacts
you, we give almost twice the value in the engagement level for
that. If someone has picked up the phone and contacted you or
emailed you or actually come by your office, that makes such a
Then stewardship, that’s another factor here. If they are bringing in
matching gifts from their company or from a family foundation.
Any type of stewardship along with bringing people in as donors
and you provide that soft credit for it, it makes a huge
difference. Then in the very near future we’ll be tracking also
the social media. If someone likes you on Facebook or says
something about you on Twitter or on LinkedIn, those types of
activities all come together to move this engagement level up or
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of what we’re talking about
here. We’ll start off here with a foundation and you’ll notice
this particular foundation, their engagement level is just at
the level of being [inaudible 39:20] here so we move people up
or down accordingly to this.
This next individual here, James [inaudible 39:26] is at a warm level
so we’ve had several thing happen that have moved their
engagement level up a little bit. Then, want to take a look here
at Rod. We can see that he is on fire here. The level of
engagement has moved all the way up to the fifth level. If you
can imagine in your day to day activities, if you could come in
on the first day of every week and have a report sitting on your
desk and saying, “These are all the people that moved up or down
one engagement level in my database during the last week.” It
might be very prudent of you to fill in your gaps of who you’re
going to call, who you’re going to set up appointments with,
etc. Especially if it’s a major gift donor from previous years
and they’re engagement level is falling, then this makes a big
difference in being able to track that.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the Bloomerang software. Any way
that you can try to track these engagement levels and see if you
are moving people closer to a strong relationship or further
away from it, they come into play very nicely because we also
track this over time so we can see on this timeline for Melissa
here, every touch point that we’ve had, so you can see we had a
letter, we had an email that went out, we wrote a note about our
last discussion here. We had a financial transaction to come in.
All of those, over the lifetime of that donor are being kept in
their timeline and then what you’re seeing over here on the
right-hand side in this highlight area, these are the areas that
are moving the engagement needle the biggest amount for that
particular year. Not bad circles, huh, Marc?
Marc: [inaudible 41:10]
Jay: We’ve got all of those touch points there but more importantly being
able to create whatever types of reports you want. This is where
I love saying that something is simple and easy enough for the
fundraisers and the executives to use themselves. If you can go
in and create a report and figure out what headings you want,
how you like to arrange them, what you want to subtotal on, what
you would like to sort on. In this particular case we’re
bringing up the names of people in our database, their current
engagement level, the date of the last engagement items with
them, the lifetime amount raised and the largest single
transaction so that translates into a report that looks like
this. You can very easily pull that type of information together
and sort of see what are the steps that we’re going through and
what is the next logical step that can come from that.
Those items come together then to all make the engagement levels move
from one level to the next, up or down, just during the course
of doing our normal day to day business as we do that. We tie
all this together. Steven had mentioned that we wanted to talk
about the retention for that. I didn’t spend too much time on
the retention because I wanted to tie into what Marc was talking
about with the ask here and the fear of asking for it but one of
the things that we do with our dashboard here is be able to show
you the current retention level for all of the donors in our
This is really showing you exactly 365 days going backwards and we’re
seeing how many donors in the last 365 days had donated in the
previous 365 days. You can see what your retention rate is and
this gauge actually changes, literally, from day to day and from
week to week so you can see what’s going on and make that
happen. That can be for your entire donor database or we can set
it up so you can take a look at it for various subsets.
That all comes together with creating what we refer to as a NextGen
database or CRM system and two key areas, easy enough for even
the CEO to use and enables the fundraising best practices to
come to life as part of your day to day use pitch.
Marc, believe it or not we’ve got about 20 minutes left and I thought
we would open up her and let people share their questions with
Steven. If you can bring the questions to Steven. Steven as
those come in from the chat room. If you’d like to phone it to
either Marc or myself, we’ll see if we can try to interactively
answer some of the questions that are coming up. [inaudible
Steven: Are you doing a little bit, go ahead.
Jay: Sorry. I was going to jump in there Steven. Sorry.
Steven: I know, Marc that you saw some of those questions coming in
through the chat. The one that you responded to from Danielle
and Tammy, for those of you who didn’t see it in the chat they
were curious how someone would know if a potential donor would
be a good fit or how they would know if they were going to plug
into your organization’s mission and culture. Marc, what do you
think about that? What are good indicators that someone’s going
to be a good fit other than just the fact that they have the
Marc: I think the one thing that first came to mind when I saw those
two questions about what are the questions for determining donor
fit and how do you determine if a donor is a good fit is you
have to be clear in your own mind on what your perfect donor is
and in the chat I’d said, “Is this for direct mail or is this
for face to face solicitation,” because you can have ideal
donors for different, if you really want to get sophisticated
you can have an ideal direct mail donor and I’d recommend
putting a picture of her on your, it’s usually a her, on your
For me, working at a rural hospital in Maine it was Edith. I knew she
was an 80 year old widow, World War Two veteran and I was
writing my letters to her. For major gift donations it may be
some other ideal type. Being excruciatingly clear on who your
ideal is and are they married? How many kids do they have? What
kind of income? Where do they live?
The reason you want to do that is as Katya Andresen says in “Robin
Hood Marketing” then you can go and see what are they reading
and pull out all the ads out of those magazines and stick all
the ads up on your wall and say, “What are the national
marketers telling me about this demographic? What are they
trying to appeal to? What are the hot buttons they’re trying to
appeal to?” Then see if your nonprofit fits some of those.
That’s one way to do it.
Another is to be really clear on who you are as a nonprofit, your
core stories. When you’re talking to people you can share some
of your stories and chances are good you’re not going to get
someone who doesn’t give a rip about your organization. You
might get some sort of social service club. That might be it but
you could, I find, I’m rambling a bit. I’m sorry about that.
I’ll land the plane this way.
I find it always better to be clear on who you are and what you
represent and to ask the donor or the prospect about themselves.
A lot of Bob Berg’s questions like, “What do you do when you’re
not in an event like this?” That way you’re not telling the stay
at home spouse that they’re half as worthy because you’re not
asking them, “What do you do for work?” “I’m an at home dad. I’m
an at home mom,” is perfectly legitimate and it’s not valued in
So “Just what do you do when you’re not standing in a buffet line at
the rotary club?” People usually chuckle. “Oh really. How did
you get into that business? Tell me more about that. What got
you there?” If they’ve already donate once you can, already made
a gift, you can ask them, “What did you like most about what you
saw? What do you like most about what we do?” Those are some
questions I found. Jay do you have some that you like to ask
that go well in a database?
Jay: I think what you’re talking about there is if it’s appropriate there
what are their other areas of interest and what have they
supported in the past? I just love to hear about what they, and
I don’t talk about, when I say support I don’t necessarily ask
them what they’ve donated to in the past but where have they
volunteered at? People love to talk about any volunteer
activities that they’ve done and I always ask people, what have
you done in the last few years in the way of any sort of
volunteer activity? That really spawns some neat conversations.
Marc: I like that.
Steven: Jay, you’ve been a nonprofit 30 or so years, is there anything
that Marc said that really resonated with you or that had
actually been used on you and worked?
Jay: I wish they would have been used on me more often. I think people do
not tend to be themselves sometimes and you don’t get a chance
to really find out. Part of the joy, in my opinion, of making a
gift is to really get to know the person who’s working with me
in that transaction and find out a little more about them and
what’s driving them and why this mission is important to them.
Is it just a job or is it something bigger than a job to them.
Steven: Marc, you talked a lot about researching the donation prospects
and Shane was wondering what are the three key pieces of
information that you should collect in that research phase?
Marc: Three key. What I love to collect, I did a lot of major gift
profile things for a client last year for capital campaign and
what I found were the most helpful for us knowing before we even
got into the calling them up to set up an appointment because
some of these were fairly cold calls. They’re people that have
been giving nominal gifts maybe but we’re going to ask them to
give five and six figures, some seven figure gifts. I like to
see what their work history was, where they lived and what their
work history was, sort of their life picture, as much as you
can. It’s not, that can sound really creepy but I like to see
kind of what they do and where they do it.
I like to see where they give to and there’s a lot of different,
there are a few different areas out there where you can find out
where they give to and if they have a family foundation you can
go to [Guide Star] and also see what kind of grants their
Then I happen to like to see what political causes they’re attuned
to. It’s not because I want to get into politics on the call but
it’s in part most because I don’t want to mess up. Most of the
organizations I’ve been part of can have people from all
different political persuasions donating to them. The only one
that I can think of not having was the political campaign that I
ran. Other than that, I think we could have people from all
different perspectives but I want to just choose my language a
little bit differently depending on whether I’m talking to
people of different political causes. You can see them in their
giving. You can also see that in their political giving which
you can find online too.
Steven: Great. What if the person you want to meet with face to face
just absolutely refuses to maybe have coffee with you or meet
face to face? What can you do to sort of get that person maybe
on the phone or through email or something else other than a
face to face meeting?
Marc: Jay do you want to handle that or do you want me to?
Jay: I’d be glad. What I have done in the capital campaigns I’ve been
involved with and sometimes you are dealing with a very busy
person for that, I’ve often asked if I could reach out and meet
with their spouse if they are extremely busy and see if we can
chat a little bit that way or really just fall back to the
telephone and find out when there is a convenient time. Most
importantly I’ve offered to do that during some part of their
drive time if they’d like to talk on a cell phone or after
normal business hours or something, making myself freely
available to do that and instead of requesting the coffee time
be during the week is say, “Is there a possibility I could meet
you on a Saturday morning or late afternoon on a Sunday, and
chat for a little bit too?” That has worked in some situations
for someone that’s been extremely busy.
Marc: I’d like to say, I don’t like to get into, to ask on the phone
so often I’ll have something that I want to show them, whether
it’s a gift range printout, calculator printout or as simple as
that or as complex as a brochure or a video. There are some
people that are just legitimately very busy and so then what you
can try to do is find out what they do go to. One client we
ended up doing some high end donor events and it wasn’t the
cause that they were going to go. They didn’t want to get
pitched again. They didn’t want to get hit up again. It was one
of the better prospects [inaudible 52:37] but they did want to
be seen. They wanted to be around their peers to see and be
seen. That was something that, there was a prestigious enough
area that they could go to a small, more intimate cocktail party
with the right host so you can create a small event to get them.
A third way and probably the best out of the three is to continue
trolling your board and your friendlies. The people that are
already giving to you and whenever you’re around them saying,
“We’re really trying to get in front of so and so. Is there any
way that, do you happen to know her? Do you know who might be
the right fit to open up that door for us.”
Jay: You really hit the nail on the head there Marc. You really hit the
nail on the head using some other mutual contact to help make
that appointment come to life and that was the other key way
that we always did that was finding somebody else that we
mutually knew and see if there was a, especially if that was a
board member to see if I could help make it come to life.
Steven: Great. We’ve got a question from Judy in the chat room. She
says that she’s new to a small inner city parochial school and
it’s in a little bit of a low income area and she really needs
to raise money pretty quickly. She’s asking if there is a way to
fast track and ask. I guess, maybe Marc you could speak to maybe
how long this process should actually take and if there’s a way
to speed it up when possible.
Marc: That’s an excellent question. One time I was doing a training
for a consulting group actually. They had me doing [inaudible
54:12] training and the top guy said, “Now Marc,” and he
fortunately scripted the question so I knew exactly where he
wanted me to go. He was right. He said, “That whole engagement
stuff doesn’t have to take a lot of time, does it?” It doesn’t.
It can be done over a cup of coffee if, I think, if you have to
raise money really quickly I think the best way to do it is face
to face. Planning out what levels you need, if you’re trying to
raise $100,000, you need people that will give $10,000 to
$25,000, you need some people that will give 5000 to $7500, that
sort of thing. Planning that out so that you’re using your time
Then that’s an important part of fast tracking but the engagement, if
you get to, there’s two ways to handle it. One you can just ask
them to tackle up the cause. The other one is you can ask them
to get to know them to introduce them to the cause but if you
find when you’re talking to someone about, if you set it up as
an engagement and you find that they’re really eager to see the
neighborhood transformed or to see something that you’re
impacting happen you could say, “I love a chuckle. A chuckle is
I could say, I would often say something like, “Well, you know Frank,
I didn’t come here to ask you for money,” but now pause and then
say, “this time,” and then pause because that way it sets up, “I
am going to ask for money. That’s my job.” “Frank, I didn’t come
here to ask you for money, this time, but we happen to be doing
that playground project right here in our community. Would this
be a good time to ask you for it or should I give you a call in
a couple of weeks?” In sales we call that testing the close. “Is
this a good time?” I haven’t asked you, I’m just asking if this
is a good time to ask you. I’m going to ask you, I’m just asking
you when do you think I should ask you? Should it be now or
should it be in a couple of weeks?
They may say never but generally that doesn’t happen and so it’s,
they could say, “Yes. Now,” or they’ll say, “You don’t know what
a hedge is up and in the stock market or you don’t know what
happened here or whatever,” or “I’m finishing off paying a
pledge.” You start getting some of those objections already so
that know when you structure the ask you can have it.
Some people say it takes 18 months to develop a major gift
donor. I don’t know who created that and the cynical part of me
thinks there’s people that were looking for job security without
having results. If you need to raise money you need to raise
money and I would not be, I would err on the side of asking.
I’ve never had anybody offended that I ask too much. I have worn
people’s coffee on my shirt because they spit it out at me and
wondered what data I was looking at that showed that they had
that much money. But they were flattered, not offended.
Are you still there Steven? Can anybody hear me now? [inaudible
57:23] can you just say yes if you can hear me. You guys can
hear me. Great. I can’t hear anybody else. Good. I’m on my own.
I can do it.
Anymore last questions before we go? I’ve got a special offer for
everybody here. No. Steven’s putting me onto that. If you want
the copy of “Ask Without Fear,” I think it would work with a DVD
too. You can get $5 off by going to my site,
FundraisingCoach.com and then when you click on the product, it
goes to a shopping cart and you just type Bloomerang in there,
you get $5 off and there’s also, I’ll leave that there.
You can also go to my site and get a free newsletter. Every
other week I send out my best thoughts on fundraising and asking
and the folks of Bloomerang are going to make sure you get this
recording tomorrow. They’ll email it to you, everybody that
registered. Thirty of the people who registered are [inaudible
58:27]. Oh wow. Some people already have it. I love that echo.
Anything else that anybody has a question before we go?
Otherwise you can just email me at [email protected] FundraisingCoach.com
and I would love to thank Jay for the opportunity to be here and
for his 30 years of database experience. He’s been amazing. He
keeps getting better as he creates databases for donors, and
Steven for moderating this too.
[inaudible 58:58] you get the PowerPoint in your email tomorrow.
Steven will put it there. Thanks everyone for coming. Please
again, look at me on Twitter, MarcAPittman or you can email Jay
off of the Bloomerang.co website or you can email me at the
email on the screen, [email protected] FundraisingCoach.com. Have fun
Steven: Thanks, Marc. We’re back. Thanks for the wrap up. Our phone
booted us off so thanks for answer our last question.
Marc: You’re welcome.
Steven: Thanks to everyone for joining us today. I will be sending out
the slides of the presentation. I will also be sending out a
video recording so if there’s anything that maybe you wanted
refreshed or gone over again, you can watch that. Hope everyone
enjoyed it and have a great rest of your day. Thanks again,