Four Proven Strategies for a Meaningful Conversation in a Digital World
Dear Sir/Madame . . . spam
Dear Robin Thompson . . . spam
Hello Dear One . . . are they from another universe?
I just inherited $2 million and want to wire it to you . . . yeah, right
You’ve probably had emails that start out just like that. Not to mention robocalls! Thankfully, my phone can identify those calls even before I answer and announces, “Scam likely.” Obviously, we know what a meaningful conversation isn’t, because we are bombarded with them every hour of every day to the tune of thousands of emails, texts, social media sales pitches, and on and on.
Does it give you cause to pause and think about how your messages are being received? What is the difference between an email you are eager to open or a phone call that you want to respond to? What makes donor email communication compelling?
Through digital media, we have peered into other’s houses on their video cameras. We have seen their kids, pets, spouses, photos on the wall, and many times what is important to them. Now that the toothpaste is out of the tube, there’s no way to put it back. That’s good news for experiencing the feeling of true connection. How can we use what we learned to continue developing relationships for our nonprofit?
As many businesses experienced during the shutdown due to COVID-19, my business also ground to a halt. To do something meaningful, for eleven weeks I interviewed nonprofit professionals who were successful during COVID despite the circumstances. I asked them what they were doing and what was working. Many of the people I interviewed said that fundraisers just needed to pick up the phone and call their donors. I decided to practice what I had been teaching and do it for my own business.
I challenged myself to make six meaningful contacts five days a week for one month for a total of 120 meaningful conversations. I set rules to hold myself accountable. It could not be counted unless the other person responded to me in some way. Whether I am asking for business or raising money, I cannot treat the phone like it will bite me if I pick it up. I asked myself what would be relevant and important to them. My crutch to set up coffee, lunch, or drinks was taken away. So, I had to find something meaningful to talk about that they would find interesting.
This is what I tell my nonprofit clients and what I employed for myself:
1. Apply the SW4—some will, some won’t, so what, someone’s waiting said Jack Canfield, the well-known author of The Chicken Soup for the Soul books. He said that some people are going to say yes, and some are going to say no. So what! Out there somewhere, someone is waiting for you and your ideas. You have to keep asking until you get a yes.
To me, this just said that not every contact I make will want to connect with me or will get back to me. That doesn’t mean I write them off and don’t try again. It just means that at this time I need to move on to the next one and not lament why this one doesn’t want to talk to me . . . right now.
2. Step Aside—I tell fundraisers if you have a reluctance to make the call or send the email have yourself step aside and have “your cause” walk through the door. So, I had to get over “myself”. My cause that walked in the door is that I help people who help people.
3. Start Your Day—How you start your day is often how the rest of the day will go. If I start answering emails, that’s probably most of what I’ll get done during the day. But if I begin my day with the important thing, making meaningful connections, it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Regardless of how I felt, I did it anyway. Even if sometimes it took me most of the day.
4. Run Towards The Roar—On days I just didn’t want to do it, I’d make a promise to myself: after I made the six meaningful contacts, I got a thirty-minute break. I would ride my bike around the block, read a book, social media surf or just talk to a friend on the phone. The reward felt so good!
Sam Horn, a popular speaker, and business strategist said, “People can’t jump on your bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage.” Prospective donors won’t give your nonprofit money unless you tell them about your nonprofit. And that happens with meaningful conversations.
In this all-consuming digital fundraising world, some things have changed; however, having meaningful conversations hasn’t changed. Needing to raise money hasn’t changed. It is still donors giving money for causes they believe in. How we ask for money hasn’t changed, but the medium that we are asking for it may have changed. Instead of over a cup of coffee, it may be over Zoom or the telephone.
Let’s make a pact to rid the world of spam that we may be causing. Let’s opt for meaningful conversations and find out what is important to the donor.
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Introducing Guest Blogger, Robin Thompson. She is a professional fundraising consultant, trainer and coach. Robin managed over $17 million in assets as Executive Director at a university. As Vice President in Vail, Colorado, Robin and her staff were responsible for raising over $10 million annually. She successfully designed and implemented a $3.9 million Comprehensive Campaign and closed two debt reduction campaigns, each one raising several million dollars in less than one year. Robin has built endowments from less than $100,000 to over $2 million in less than two years.