The Why and How of Direct Solicitations, Part 1: The Ask

The Why and How of Direct Solicitations,Part 1: The Ask

By Rabbi Yisroel Brod, Kfar Chabad, Eretz Yisroel

The goal of fundraising is to receive a gift from a potential donor. There are many ways to go about trying to achieve this goal, including raffles, dinners, Chinese auctions, mailings, crowdfunding campaigns, parlor parties, and more. However, one of the most effective ways to professionally and successfully raise money is via direct solicitation.
Some of the advantages of direct solicitation:

  • There are no direct expenses (other than your time) and therefore no risk factors
  • You get the greatest return on your investment
  • You are able to create a personal, meaningful relationship with the donor
  • You are able to share your vision with the donor
  • Direct solicitation is very time effective
  • You are the one who is in full control of the process

The difference between receiving a donation via the events and programs listed above and building a donor via direct solicitation is the difference between taking the derech ketzarah va’aruchah or the derech aruchah uketzarah. Receiving a donation can usually be accomplished relatively quickly. However, while the abovementioned fundraising events and projects may gain you many donations, they won’t necessarily gain you donors. Being preoccupied with the events themselves take away from your time and ability to create meaningful personal relationships. Additionally, while events may create a lot of noise, they often come at the cost of honorees, chairmen and committees limiting your ability to be in full control of the direction they take.

Building a donor, however, is the process of creating a personal relationship by way of much cultivation over the course of many years. Though far more effort is involved, you will gain larger and more significant support in years to come.

Building on this premise, the following article focuses on two key elements of building a donor:

  1. The Ask
  2. The Cultivation Process [see next issue of Compass for this installment]

The Ask

There are several stages to the ask and we will review each of them.

Stage 1: Obtaining the Appointment

The way you go about obtaining the appointment often affects the outcome of the meeting. Here are some tried-and-true rules for obtaining a meeting:

  1. Don’t be a nudge. Don’t call several times a day or day after day; wait a few days between one call and the next.
  2. Leave a message. When you call and the potential donor is unavailable, do leave a message with the secretary, requesting that the potential donor return your call.
  3. Don’t drop it. Once you have started to pursue a potential donor, don’t stop until there is a definite result–either that you secure a meeting, or that you are told that he is not interested in meeting with you. It is very unhealthy to try to pursue a person and then drop him after he or his secretary brushes you off, only to wake up several weeks or months later and try again until they brush you off again. If your request for a meeting is declined, take a break and then determine what other opportunities (local events, etc.) you may have to meet with the potential donor.
  4. Prepare your reply. When asked what is it that you want, the answer should be, “I would like to make a presentation to you.” If you are asked for further details, say, “If you like the presentation and would like to be a part of it (by supporting it), I would be grateful and thankful to you. If after the presentation you are not inspired to participate, I will be grateful and thankful to you for giving me the time and opportunity to share with you who and what we are all about.” Of course, you will need to express the above in your own words but this is the gist of what you should say; after all, this is what you would like to accomplish.
  5. Be firm. Don’t accept a “no” so quickly. If someone declines to meet with you, ask, “You don’t even know what I want. May I ask why you are declining to meet with me?” In extreme cases, you may also ask, “Is the work we are doing in our/your community not worth 15 minutes of your time?” A high level of determination to secure the meeting will go a long way.
  6. Always record your next step immediately. There is no way to succeed in fundraising if you’re not going to implement this rule rigidly, religiously and consistently, because there is no way you can possibly remember what the potential donor told you to do next–wait for his call, call again, stop calling, wait for a specific development in his life to start or end, etc. By not recording the next step you will be totally lost, unless of course you will work with just a few potential donors at a time and trust your memory, in which case you are losing out on reaching many potential donors and are still not guaranteed to remember. Remember! The opposite of forgetting is not remembering, because there is no guarantee that you will remember. The opposite of forgetting is recording.
  7. Work with a calendar. This involves far more than the following step. To be elaborated in another article b’ezras Hashem.
  8. Use a calendar. Immediately upon securing the appointment, be sure to enter not only the date, time and location of the appointment, but also what time you need to leave to the appointment. If you have a 3:00 p.m. appointment and it take 20 minutes to get there, make sure to record in the 2:30 slot: “Leave to appointment,” in addition to the 3:00 entry, “Meeting with so-and-so.”
  9. Come to the appointment:
  • On time
  • With your car parked legally
  • Wearing a clean, ironed shirt, polished shoes, etc.
  • Prepared with a presentation
  • Alert, rested, upbeat
  • With a high level of determination
  • A kapitel Tehilim never hurts

Stage 2: Beginning the Appointment

There are several steps to follow during the appointment itself.

  1. Keep small talk small. It’s good to shmooze, but don’t let the conversation turn into a long megillah, even if the potential donor starts to get carried away. Though you may think the conversation is going wonderfully, after half an hour the donor may ask in a non-friendly tone, “So, what do you want?” as if it was you who took up so much time. Remember, you called the meeting so you should make sure it stays focused. If the donor is taking his time shmoozing, be alert and wait for him to pause and take a deep breath. At that time, say, “I want to thank you for this meeting and would like to share with you why I’m here.”
  2. Establish success. People like to be associated with success, so do your best to establish that you are a success. This should be done by sharing what you do, not only on a local level but also on a national and international level. You can say, “We are the largest network of Jewish educational institutions in the world,” or “We have the highest presence on campuses all around the world, etc.
    In addition to establishing general success, you must also mention specifics, such as, “We’ve only been here for two years and already have a large growing Hebrew school,” or “In the two years since we’ve set up shop, we have had 86 families over for Shabbat dinner,” or “Thank G-d, we were privileged to help a single mom make a bar mitzvah for her son at no cost to her,” or “The largest outdoor Jewish activities in town are the ones we organize.” Of course, you should not come across sounding like you are boasting, but rather sharing the facts of life.
  3. Present Chabad. Establish the fact that, as an ever-growing movement, we believe we are the future of Judaism. This specific point is actually part of establishing success but has been listed here separately as #3 because this point can be a very sensitive one and should only be used where and when appropriate.

Stage 3: Making the Presentation

After making small talk, sharing who you are, and establishing your success, it is time to make your presentation.

  1. Submit your presentation. Now is the time to say, “I’ve prepared a brief presentation and would appreciate if you could please take a look at it now.” Whether it is a sheaf of papers or a slide presentation, it should be short, sweet, and to the point. The presentation should include:a. A summary of your fundraising goal. This should be presented clearly, by listing:
    i. your total projected expenses for the fiscal year
    ii. your total projected income from programs, tuition, membership, and other types of income (not including fundraising)
    iii. your fundraising goal (the difference between items A and B)
    If you have a $328,000 projected expense, and a projected income of $154,000 leaving you with a deficit of $174,000, set your fundraising goal at $180,000. Within a few seconds of presenting these three items, the potential donor will have seen what you’re all about financially.
    b
    . A breakdown of how you arrived at the projected expenses and projected income. This should include items such as:
    i. Youth activities
    ii. Adult educational activities
    iii. Women’s programs
    iv. Hebrew school
    v. Camp Gan Israel
    vi. Preschool
    vii. Synagogue
    viii. Social services

    You notice that expenses such as rent, salaries, and general administration costs have not been listed. The goal is that once the potential donor sees the overall financial projections, his next first impression should be to see items that bring value to the community. Later on in the presentation, he can be shown the details of the breakdown, including the building expenses, general administration, salaries, etc., as well as how you arrived at the figures listed in the general categories above.

    c. A pyramid-like chart detailing how you plan to raise your goal. Divide your total fundraising goal into 100 units. For example, if your goal is $180,000, divide it into 100 units of $1,800 each. Then, create a pyramid including the following calculations:
    i. 1 donor will give 10 units ($18,000)
    ii. 2 donors will each give 5 units ($9,000), totaling $18,000
    iii. 3 donors will each give 4 units ($7,200), totaling $21,600
    iv. 5 donors will each give 2 units ($3,600), totaling $18,000
    v. 35 donors will each give 1 unit ($1,800), totaling $63,000
    vi. 40 donors will each give ½ a unit ($900), totaling $36,000
    vii. Many donors will give various smaller amounts, totaling $5,400

    This will bring you to a grand total of $180,000.

    The sample list above is nothing more than an arbitrary chart. In order to create your chart you must analyze each of your donors and determine how many you believe you will be able to bring on board at each of the listed levels. Once you see that you do indeed potentially have enough donors to help you meet your goal, you will walk into each fundraising appointment with a very high level of determination. You know that the donor in front of you has the potential to bring you to your final goal of reaching $180,000 (this formula can be applied to any sum of money, as well as any number of units).

  2. Sit back and relax. Once you’ve provided the potential donor with the presentation, sit back, relax, and don’t say anything until after he speaks. If the potential donor asks you a question while he is reviewing the presentation, answer briefly. After the potential donor has finished reading, he will most likely return the presentation to you with a comment about it. In most cases the comment will be a positive one, as the presentation will have been a professional and impressive one. Once that has happened, you will say, “As you see, I have a goal of raising $180,000. Permit me to share with you how I plan on raising this goal.” You will then explain the chart to him, following which you will say, “Larry, I would be greatly thankful to you if you would consider giving five units, totalling $9,000” (or whatever number you think he is capable of giving). No matter what amount you ask him to donate, it is most important that you have already predetermined this number before the meeting and that you present the ask in extremely short and simple language. Do not say, “Larry, you have been a good friend and a good supporter and I really need your help to make this happen. After all, it’s people like you whom I must rely upon, so please do the best you can because I really need you and you know how much this is going to mean to me and to the community….” While you may mention some of these points later on, in the event that he declines your request, your initial ask should be brief and to the point as described above. Though there is much to discuss about how to respond to the various replies a potential donor may give you, know that these can only be polished with time and experience.However, here are two important rules to remember:

    a
    . Don’t lower the number you asked for. If you asked for five units and he says that’s more than he was thinking of giving, don’t volunteer and say, “So how about three units?” Always ask him, “So what would you consider?” Once he provides a number, you try to raise it higher. If he says, “I’ll give you two units,” you can say, “Larry, bring it up to three and I will be grateful to you, as this is very important to me in order to reach my goal of $180,000.”

    b
    . NEVER leave a meeting open-ended. If he agrees to your request, after thanking him and letting him know that his gift is not merely an isolated gift but is in fact helping you reach your goal, your natural instinct would be to get up and leave–after all, the goal of the meeting was successfully met. However, you still don’t know when and how the donor will be giving you the gift. As such, after sincerely thanking the donor, you should ask, “Larry, how and when would you like to give it?” or “Larry, what’s the easiest and most convenient way and time for you to give it?” Only once that has been confirmed are you ready to leave. If he says he has to think about it or must discuss it with his wife, accountant, or whomever, you will say, “Larry, I can understand that. When can I call you for your answer/decision?” If he answers, “Rabbi, I’ll call you,” you will say, “Larry, that’s so kind of you. By when will I be able to expect your call?” The bottom line is that before you go out of that house/office/coffee shop/restaurant, it is clear in whose court the ball is and who has to do what by when. In addition to the fact that doing this raises your chances of getting a larger gift than otherwise, this is also extremely important because after the meeting you must send the donor a thank you and follow-up letter. It will be very difficult to do so if there was no clear conclusion to the meeting.

There are, of course, other important items to know and even to master. They include the art of negotiations, how to overcome objections, body language, among others. You can and should obtain this knowledge by reading books on sales.

Stage 4: Following Up

The very first thing to do after your appointment is to send a thank you letter. This must be done right away–preferably on the same day as the meeting, or, at the very latest, the following day. The letter must be personal and not a standard letter. While you will need to prepare each letter on its own, post-appointment thank you letters should follow the standard structure listed below.

  1.  Thank you
    The opening paragraph of your letter should say something like, “Thank you for meeting with me and for the ability you gave me to share with you the vision of Chabad and what we are all about.”
  2. Something personal
    During most meetings, the potential donor will share familial or business developments, matters of his health, his previous knowledge or experience with Chabad, etc. In the second paragraph of your letter, be sure to mention something about what he told you at the meeting, such as a wish for success, a refuah shelaimah, etc.
  3. Conclusion
    The third paragraph spells out the conclusion of your meeting in very specific, brief language. If he agreed to your request, you would write something like, “Thank you so much for your commitment to contribute three units, totaling $5,400. As concluded, I will contact you in September to pick up your check.” If he wants to think about it, you would write, “I hope you will consider positively my request to contribute three units, a total of $5,400, for the fiscal year of 2016. As concluded, I will contact you in two weeks.” Understandably, you cannot write this paragraph if you left the meeting open-ended.
  4. Blessings
    Bestow the donor with many blessings.

Once you have written and mailed the letter (in the old form of a typed or handwritten letter on paper and a personal signature), you then follow the rule of “Always record your next step immediately” and make a note in your calendar as to what your next step should be. This will enable you to follow up in a timely and professional manner.

To be continued BE”H.

Next issue: Cultivation

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