Fundraisers: Listen up!

You are in an office waiting room, ready to pitch your heart out.  You have planned a presentation about all the work you do and how far their generous donation will go.  Vocal cord preparations have been underway for weeks now, you have watched all of the Rocky movies and you will not take no for an answer.

If this is true, prepare to hear that fatal no.  How many boring meetings have you found yourself stuck in?  Looking at the clock, checking your watch, thinking about lunch- and smiling all the while.  We are all guilty of sitting through these meetings, walking out and saying phew, happy that’s over.

One of the major mistakes made when soliciting is talking too much and over selling your cause.  If they are taking the meeting in the first place, they care for your cause on some level. They already know in their heart that they should support your cause.  As a Fundraiser, it’s your job to bring those feelings to the surface.

Get the donor to talk so you can understand what exactly about your cause speak to them. The more they talk the more you can learn how to best present your ask.  

How to get them chatting in an organic way:


  • Make eye contact, smile, and sit upright with confidence.  Make sure you’re caffeinated and excited.
  • Gain their trust: You are a real person, if you work in the non-profit space you are an altruistic person- let them see that.  Start off with questions about how their weekend was? Do they have any exciting trips coming up?  In other words break the ice, it’s an oldie but goodie.
  • Let them lead in the beginning, people love having their feelings validated- this is no different.  Empower the Philanthropist to be proactive.
  • Ask Questions: What about this cause speaks to you? What in your opinion is the root of the problem? How do you think it can be solved on a large scale? What can we do now to fix the problem? Do you think our organization has been making a dent in the problem? How long have you been championing for this cause?
  • Let the conversation snowball deeper, allow the donor get off track and talk about what’s important to them, in fact you should build on it.


By now you may have a migraine and a parking ticket- but you also have all the key information you need to ask your ask.  You can now clearly show them how you will realize their dreams with their generous gift.


EX: You are soliciting large gifts for a Children’s home.  Your organization provides food, shelter, education, and free legal services to underprivileged children.  After a 30 minute conversation with the Donor you see his huge passion for education.  Focus your ask around this valuable information.  Speak specifically on educational programs within your organization.  Mention how important it is to adequately feed, clothe and shelter these children in order to provide top notch education.  This will really speak with the donor in a direct way and make the need for his donation clear.


We are born with two ears and one mouth.  This is nature’s way of telling us to listen double the amount we speak.


Time for me to stop talking and start listening, comment below or send me an email – I would love to hear your feedback.