Just yesterday a Major Gift Officer called and said, “Brent, I’m struggling with how to ask this donor for a gift. We have a meeting today and I don’t know how to approach it because before me there was a whole bunch of problems with the way that we treated him.”
Now the gift officer was new to the organization. And she was actually in a position to make some of the changes to the challenges that the donor had experienced. But she didn’t know how to approach that meeting and she certainly wasn’t sure whether or not to ask for a gift.
So, here’s the advice I gave her.
I gave her four points. I said, “First of all, acknowledge the issue. Share with him that you see the problem and that you recognize it. Pause at that moment to give the donor an opportunity to talk.”
That’s the second step is: Let the donor talk.
The donor may have things to share about that. And they may say, “Yeah, I just don’t understand this. Or, “This is how I felt.” Or, “I don’t know that you take me seriously.”
The third step is to apologize. “You know, on behalf of the organization, I am sorry that we did not treat you the way you deserve to be treated. But as long as I am here, we are recommitting to doing the right thing by our donors. And specifically do the right thing by you.
And then the fourth step is to pivot on the mission.
“Now, regardless of what happened in the past the truth is we have kids, or we have students, or we have homeless individuals, or we have patients that need help today. I’ve brought an opportunity that I’d like to talk to you about where you can help and make a difference right away.”
And so you can pivot on that mission and bring it back.
And whenever you are in doubt, whenever you’re struggling with something you never are wrong by bringing it back to the mission. That’s always just a fail-safe response.
So, here’s what happened in the story.
Last night at like 8:30 at night I get a call from that same Major Gift Officer and she said to me, “Brent! We got a $25,000 gift from this donor. And we talked for an hour.” Now, in the call earlier this morning she said, “Yeah, this is a business person. He is in and out. I’ll be lucky if I get 20 minutes.” And she got an hour! I was thrilled for her.
And I think the reason is that she took his needs seriously. She honored him by acknowledging the challenge, listening to him, apologizing, and then bringing it back to mission.
Those four simple steps, while perhaps not easy to implement – sometimes it’s hard to apologize. But those four simple steps can help transition a donor from a negative situation into a positive one.
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