Should I develop people skills or technical skills? Which is more important?
People skills are by far the most valuable to your success. You can always hire a professional to assist you with the technical details. If you are gifted with both skills (which is rare), may the force be with you.
Most companies base 80% of their hiring decision on technical skills, yet 85% of turnover is due to behavioral incompatibility. We’re so hung up on fulfilling the technical requirements that we frequently forget we’re dealing with people, and fail to identify or analyze the necessary people skills required.
Always remember: People give to people, not to institutions. So instead of taking the next course on gift annuities, pick up a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
How important are donor visits?
They’re a must. There’s no way we can over-emphasize this. We always tell our clients the most important thing is visits. Everything we do is designed to get you in front of more prospects. We can come up with the coolest marketing stuff but if our clients aren’t visiting their prospects, the cool ideas are meaningless.
Some planned giving officers make few visits because their institutions are successfully raising a lot of money. We call them DNPs – Do Nothing People. Yes, their institutions are raising planned gifts, but only due to the size of their constituency and the momentum of the institution.
Unfortunately, with DNP fundraisers, they are also leaving a lot of gifts on the table.
How many planned giving calls should I schedule when I am on the road?
Fewer than if you were making annual fund calls. Remember that typically you will be visiting older people, and either soliciting them or thanking them for a major gift. This is a big deal to them – a gift made from capital, not an annual fund contribution made from discretionary income. They expect you to take your time with them.
In addition, many of the people you visit will be retired, often to a location far away from their old home and family. They may be bored and lonely – and they will want to talk.
A typical planned gift visit will last one hour, perhaps longer if it is a repeat visit and the prospect has become friendly with you. Physical impairments – hearing loss, limited mobility – will increase this time. Figure two to two-and-a-half hours if you also take the prospect out for a meal.
A good average to plan on is three visits per day, or four if you schedule a dinner call. Any tighter schedule will be frustrating for both you and the prospects.
How can I use my personal email to build awareness of planned giving?
At the end of your email is your signature line. Develop a set of 5 signature lines and use the appropriate one depending whom you are writing to. For example, if you know that your prospect owns appreciated securities, below your signature you may add, “Did you know giving stock could be more beneficial than giving cash?”* Better yet, have this hyperlink to your website’s page on Appreciate Securities.
Avoid vague blurbs like “Our Foundation’s Goal is to Support Our Institution.” First, most people don’t even know what a foundation is (a lady we know thought is was part of the building’s basement); second, it’s too generic to get a point across. Even stay away from words like “bequest” – most do not know what it is.
Here are some promotional one-liners you can use.
[* See our Stock Calculator]
What's a good recording for my voicemail message?
This may sound silly … but we have clients who do it: Tell callers about your website as part of your voicemail recording:
“Hi! This is Richard. To skip this recording and leave a message now press #.
“While I am unable to take your call, please take a look at our website that features creative ways to give to (organization name); It’s fun and informative. You may even recognize some of your peers who are profiled online! The web address is …”
Won't I annoy my prospects if I mail them too often?
We hear it all too frequently: “I don’t want to mail my prospects too often because I may annoy them.” If you are that sensitive, perhaps you should not ask them for donations at all. Take a fundraising powerhouse like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for example; do you think they worry about how often they mail? And, like other successful charities, they do mail often.
Here is an amusing story:
“I sometimes eat breakfast at a little neighborhood mom-and-pop coffee shop near my home. There on the counter next to the cash register sit three different receptacles for charitable donations of coins — one for Kiwanis, one for some organization for the blind, one for disabled veterans. One morning, as I dropped my change into one of the receptacles, it registered with me that I always plunked my change into the same one. Why? I stood there for a few minutes pondering my own behavior.
Then it hit me. The reason I always put my change into the disabled veterans jar was
- NOT because I had preference for that charity over the others
- NOT because of any reasoned decision to support it instead of the others
- NOT because of the graphic design or appearance of the containers
- NOT because of any sales copy on the containers
- NOT because of their arrangement on the counter
- NOT for any logical or admirable reason
The reason, and only reason, I put all my change into only one of these charity jars, each and every time, is because the hole in the top of my favored jar is bigger than the holes in the lids on the other two jars.”
Lesson learned? Ask steadily, ask obviously, and ask for more.
Is it better to meet a donor prospect at their home, office or the agency location?
There are advantages to both. However, meeting a donor prospect on their turf allows the agency representative to learn more about the prospect. Donors are usually most comfortable in their own surroundings. If you are observant and ask the right questions you can learn much more about the prospect if you are in their home or office.
Be observant. What touches has the donor used to decorate the home or office? Do they appear to be representative of wonderful travels to foreign places? Ask the donor about them. Get the donor to talk about what interests them. Your visit should be more about them not you. Are there recognition plaques on a wall? Here again, ask about them. The key is to remember that a donor call is all about relationship building. It won’t happen if you do not appear to be interested and do all of the talking.
Oh, I almost forgot. After you ask a question, be quiet, let the donor answer, and above all, listen!
What do donors like to talk about?
Donors will talk about a myriad of things interesting to them. However, they do tend to fall into three main categories: Family, Occupation, and Recreation. If the donor is retired ask about what he or she did during their career. The people we deal with in fund development generally were very successful in life and work and express their success with pride. Have your prospects talk about their career and what they may have thought was their greatest achievement.
Ask about family. Grandparents love to talk about their grandchildren. I know! Next time you see me at conference, or if you write to me, ask to see a photo of my grandson, Ty Vincent! Have I ever told you about him?
Donors also like to talk about their recreational interests, especially travel. When you note items on display in an office or home that appear to have been brought back from a visit to a foreign nation, ask about it. Show a personal interest in the donor prospect.
What should I talk about during a donor prospect call?
You should always have a purpose in mind when making a call to a donor prospect. The primary purpose of most donor calls is to get to know the donor and establish a trusting relationship. Part of your responsibility during the visit is to talk about your agency. Thus you need to have a message to deliver about your agency.
Prior to your arrival you should have prepared in your mind two or three items or programs that you wish to convey about your organization. If you know what the donors’ interest is in your charity bring them up to date on the program’s status. Talk about needs and future direction. Share ideas about the agency’s strategic plans for the future without going into too much technical detail.
The second purpose of your call is to ask for or discuss a potential gift to your charity and how it can be structured. You may have a donor who initially contacted you in regard to a Charitable Gift Annuity, and after talking about their economic and philanthropic objectives, you both discover that a better gift might be to use undeveloped real estate to fund a Charitable Remainder Unitrust.
Don’t be afraid to talk about a gift arrangement. That’s why you are paid the big bucks!