By Scott Jones, CFRE, CAI, BAS Senior Consultant, Raising Paddles

Quite often I am asked to share with board members strategies on “How to begin the conversation.” Specifically, how do I ask guests to participate in the giving the day of your biggest fundraising event? It’s simple. We must help each board member to find their comfort zone. 

Every day each of us has conversations with individuals, whether it be at home, work, at an event, etc. These conversations are most often easy to navigate and usually have some shared value. For example: at home you may talk to a family member about today’s agenda. At work, you may want to share exciting news about landing a new account. And later, while on the golf course, you will find yourself conversing about many things that you and your friends have in common. Having a conversation about your upcoming special event is no different.

Comfortable Conversation Take Place at:

  • Dinner
  • Outings
  • Offices
  • Events
  • Golf
  • BNI

Last article, I spoke of the significance of having each board member develop their “WHY”. Also, having each board member select three highlight stories associated with their connection to your organization. This is an effective means to start a conversation. This is an opportunity for a board member to share some exciting news, to talk about what’s coming up (ideally your gala), and to discover commonalities in interest with friends and cohorts. We have learned by studying the characteristics of philanthropists, every person wants to be a part of supporting the betterment of our social welfare. Knowing that your friends and acquaintances want to be a big part of what brings you joy, you can now set up the ask.

We know emphatically, Honesty is the Best Policy. Here are some ideas to consider when you are considering asking someone to make a gift to support the important mission of the organization.

  1. Don’t hide the fact that you’re raising money.

Be open. Remember these are people who you know closely. Asking for a gift should never be uncomfortable if you love your mission and what it is accomplishing in your community.

  1. It’s never a good idea to “surprise” someone or catch them off guard.

 Remember, this is a comfortable conversation, and we want to keep it that way. Before someone has accepted an invitation to attend an event,inform them there will be a moment where they will be invited to “join you” in donating to support something you are very fond of.

  1. Let them know you’d like to have a conversation about the needs of the organization and ways they might help.

As I mentioned earlier, people want to be a part of the good you do. Help them understand by sharing your stories of success and stories of need.

  1. Don’t worry that they won’t meet with you.

 Move on, come back later. You have a tremendous resource bank of connections. Be productive with your time and energy, if they aren’t interested in meeting with you to discuss the opportunities, they are most likely not going to want to participate in the giving.

  1. If you’re nervous, it’s okay to share that with your prospective donor. 

This is my favorite! When we let people know, we are on unstable ground, they will most likely look to support you even more. 

In my next article, I will share some sample scripts that can help your board members to open a conversation. One example, I will share now—

“I’ll admit, I don’t love asking for money. What I really love is helping the disenfranchised and I believe you do too!”

In sum, it is important to empower our board members with the tools they need to see success. We should remember most board members do not like asking individuals in their networks to give money. It can be a very uncomfortable situation which finds our board members moving away from the idea instead of embracing the potential. Reminding them of the daily conversations they already have is a good tool to help them find their way. Using their why and stories that are meaningful to them are effective strategies they can employ to begin the conversation. Most importantly, using honesty and transparency is key to their success. 

Happy August and Best wishes for your upcoming events!!