“Would you consider a $30,000 gift to support rehanging the historic gates at the end of the garden allee?”
I asked the question and then I stopped talking. You could hear a pin drop over the phone.
I couldn’t ask in person because the donor was in Japan or Quebec or maybe Spain.
I’d been working up to that ask for a year.
I knew it was coming. He knew it was coming.
The moon knew it was coming.
When you learn about how to properly raise funds for a nonprofit, one of the first things you learn is that you ask the question and then you stop talking.
It’s one of the hardest things to train yourself to do. Nobody likes silence. There’s a massive urge to fill it.
You can’t do that when you’re asking for money. You have to let the other person respond.
When you’ve done your job, the question asking is really a formality. You’ve done the donor stewardship, the research, the prep work. Everyone pretty much knows what’s coming. The donor doesn’t always say “yes,” but when you’ve laid the groundwork, usually they do.
The fastest way to turn a yes into a no is to talk before the other person does.
The fastest way to undo the agreement is to immediately backpedal it by talking and apologizing and saying, “Oh I didn’t really mean that.”
If you didn’t mean it, you wouldn’t have asked the question.
Backpedaling undermines the authority of your ask.
Why are we talking about fundraising, Katie?
Because fundraising is basically sales and we all have to sell work in order to get paid. Step one is not talking someone out of hiring you for the work before they’ve even had a chance to speak.
The freelancer equivalent of “the ask” is “The ballpark we’re talking about is between XXX and XXX. Is that in your budget?”
Ya gotta be quiet while they answer because if the answer is, “No,” then the conversation might not need to go any further.
If the answer is “Yes” then you can move to part two, which is: avoid doing what one of my colleagues used to describe as “Throwing dirt on the carpet after you’ve already sold the vacuum.”
This is like saying, “Thank you. I’ll send over the proposal and/ or contract” and then following that up with 15 minutes of chitter-chatter about how they’re gonna love it, you can’t wait to work with them, they’ll be so happy, they’ll be so glad they spent the money. (I have to fight the urge to do this, myself.)
They already said YES! Yes—they want the proposal or they want the contract. Don’t talk them out of it.
Thank them, briefly say you’re looking forward to the project, and then get off the phone.
Why do we keep talking?
Because we’re scared. Suddenly things have become real. We’ve put something out there for people to respond to. If we talk, we don’t give them a chance to respond in a way we don’t like.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to get off the phone and send the contract as fast as you can.*
I vary in my success with speed of contract sending. I’ll fully admit that. I’m working on procedures to make that piece of the puzzle faster and more efficient.
When I get a contract out quickly after the verbal agreement it always has a higher completion rate. Everyone’s excited. It’s good to capture the momentum for everyone’s sake. (You’re probably excited to get going, too.)
Practice Makes Perfect
As a follow-up to last week’s email: if sales calls make you nervous, practice saying, out loud and with some frequency, “The ballpark is between XX and XX. Is that in your budget?” or “The price for your requested services is XXX. Is that in your budget?”
In case you were wondering, the donor said, “Yes.”
Bookmarks of the Week
*Uprooting my life put a damper on my quick contract sending over the past few weeks. Luckily I have the best clients in the world!
I’m settled and enjoying time with my family. Developed a new habit of walking my dogs 2-3 times per day. Right after I get up, right before bed, and sometimes at lunch. It’s been amazingly beneficial for me and for them.
Every day is a new opportunity to start a new habit and I’ve learned that, even when relocated, it’s good for me to establish and keep a routine.
And remember: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Have a great week!