W.A.I.T. for the Gift!

In our get-it-done-quickly, get-it-done-now world, any type of slowdown could be viewed as weak or uncertain. COVID will come to an end and we will again be able to meet our key donors in person. Until then we are limited to Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, Twitter, email, text, smoke signals, the ole cell phone, or whatever. There are many ways to communicate. All too often our communication is one way. We get so excited about sharing our ministry needs and our impact in the world, we forget to listen. Learn to talk a lot less and listen to your donors a whole lot more. Memorize this acrostic: W.A.I.T. – Why Am I Talking? Sometimes, we must W.A.I.T. for the gift. Here are some questions that will help you improve your donor listening skills.

• How did you first become involved in our ministry? How did they learn of you and what caused them to give the first gift? True stewardship is very value-based. What does your ministry accomplish that matches their value system? Why do they continue to give? Ask them what sets apart your organization from the other 1.8 million non-profit organizations in America. 

• Tell me about you. Continue your W.A.I.T. approach. Ask them about their family, goals, dreams, and plans; those things that make them unique. People will share their heart and soul with you if you ask them and show genuine interest. With the pandemic still in full force, people are lonely and are delighted to visit with you in their home, in person (with a mask), on a Zoom call, or on the phone. They will share their passions with you. Asking good questions and listening will help you deepen your relationship with your key donors.

• How do you feel about our ministry’s ROI and SROI? What do they really think about your organization? This can be a daunting question but listen and take copious notes. Do they feel your organization wisely uses their hard-earned money? Do they feel positive about their return on investment (ROI)? Do they see clear evidence of a spiritual return on investment (SROI)? What aspects of your work interests them most? This discovery phase is your opportunity to ask, inquire, and probe. Asking good questions moves your relationship forward and builds trust that might culminate in a major/mega gift.

• What brings you the most joy in your giving? Ask them about other organizations they support and why. Who else might be influencing their stewardship practices? You are asking about their stewardship/philanthropic vision; most donors love sharing their passion to help impact our world. Perhaps you will discover another giving interest they have that could also align with your ministry.

• Ask for advice. Convert them from a customer to an owner. Your major donors are smart people and often will share good ideas. “Do you believe the community will support this project? Do you know any donors who might be able to assist us? Who can become a “Friendraiser?” Who can help us open that door and make an introduction? Who should be involved in the ask?” Remember, the number one reason why people give is because of who asks. People give to people not to proposals or organizations. 

• How could you see yourself becoming more involved with our organization?  Good question! Ask and then W.A.I.T. Don’t make assumptions. Drill deeper in your conversation with each ministry partner. Could this be a family gift, from a trust, or from a donor directed fund? Would they be willing to serve your organization as a volunteer, perhaps in a capacity where they could involve their friends, family, and colleagues? Ask, listen, and W.A.I.T.

• Final question: If you were to give a lead gift what would you want your gift to accomplish? Here again we see what the donor values. “What other information could we provide to help you make an even larger impact on the people we serve?” Major donors will fund your organization’s 3 P’s: programs, personnel, and property. Program – donors will support strengthening existing programs, starting new programs, and finding innovating ways to help your organization be better and sometimes bigger. Personnel – some donors will invest in new staff/team members knowing that it takes deeply-committed, highly-qualified people to run your ministry effectively. Property – perhaps you need new or expanded facilities to maximize your ministry. People give to what you ask. Listen to their heart and present them with a tailormade proposal.

W.A.I.T. means listening your way to an upgraded gift; from low to mid-range, or from a mid-range to a major or mega gift. Learn to include these great questions in all your donor conversations. Good things come to those who W.A.I.T.!

Author: Pat McLaughlin, President and Founding Partner

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