Today’s post is a guest contribution by my colleague, Peter Heller. Peter suggests using a simple but effective strategy for cultivating donors known as the Whisper Strategy.
This advanced donor cultivation strategy is easy to envision, easy to carry out and if you put it to use, you’ll find that it works so well because it lays the groundwork for building strong relationships with your most important donors.
The Whisper Strategy for Building Donor Relationships
The biggest and best gifts come from direct personal conversations built on strong relationships. But how do those relationships start?
The people you hope to have as your donors are not always easily accessible. As a major gift fundraiser, you need to be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with your prospects.
Here’s one of my favorite strategies. I call it “The Whisper in the Ear” (or simply “The Whisper Strategy”). It’s both simple and elegant because it provides vital forward momentum in the cultivation process that otherwise might not happen.
Who is it Good For?
This strategy is for prospects who are already in your organization’s orbit, but whom you have not yet gotten close enough to have an easy dialogue, phone or email relationship.
These prospects are not total strangers nor pie-in-the-sky prospects (like Bill Gates); they are also not your closest friends, though there are occasional exceptions to this when you can’t get your friend’s attention in other ways.
When Should You Use it?
Use The Whisper strategy at events of any size or meetings that your prospect is attending. The strategy is designed for events or meetings where discussing your organization’s fundraising agenda would not be effective or appropriate.
How Does it Work?
I said it was simple and it really is.
At your event or meeting, you commit to at least a few moments of polite, engaging conversation with your prospect. During the conversation, you say (The Whisper)…
I am hoping I can call your office next week to schedule a time to meet so that I can…
You might complete The Whisper with:
…get to know you and your nonprofit interests.
…learn what excites you about our work.
…follow up on Sue’s letter regarding our campaign. Your views will help us shape our next steps.
This “Whisper” Strategy works well whether you are introducing yourself or whether you already know the prospect.
Paving the Way for Prospect Meetings
You can get your board members and executive director to use it too.
The Whisper Strategy is a simple, unassuming strategy that sets up a chain of action. Because, of course, once you’ve gotten a prospect to agree to meet with you, you can follow up without any anxiety. In fact, your prospect will be waiting for your call!
This strategy rarely gets a negative reply and has started many long-lasting nonprofit relationships that couldn’t otherwise get off the ground. Give it a try!
Peter Heller runs the Heller Fundraising Group in New York City. His team of consultants advises and trains local and national nonprofits on fundraising strategies for capital campaigns, feasibility studies and major gift programs.
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