Beware the Chatty Cathy’s

Mark Twain - the Greatest American of All Time - (allegedly) said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

Mark Twain – the Greatest American of All Time – (allegedly) said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

I think we all know someone who talks too much. If you don’t, then you are that person and this post is for you.  In some contexts, one might choose to find this endearing.  But for fundraisers, where so much of our work hinges in our ability to communicate and connect with people, it can be a real hindrance (and also super annoying).  And so, I am going to lay out a few reasons why conciseness is next to godliness.

1.  Nobody likes a salesman.

A donor meeting goes well when I do about 25% of the talking.  If you are lucky enough to meet with a donor, remember that the conversation is all about them.  At this point, you have already sold the product!  The question is, why did they buy it?  You can’t find out why someone gave and what their connection is if you do all the yakking.  For prospects, I still apply the 25/75 rule.  While they are not yet as familiar with the program as you might like, the important thing to remember is that the vast majority of donors only know a handful of facts about the organizations they support.  Donors will choose you, not because you managed to ramble out the contents of the annual report, but because there was a story or a photo or a simple fact that stuck with them.  And how will you know what that is, or could be, unless you sit back and listen?

2.  The longer the pitch, the weaker the message.

Many nonprofit staffers, especially those fired up with passion for their work, seem to assume that there can be no harm in mentioning one more statistic, or telling just one more story.  In Robin Hood Marketing, Chapter 1 includes a discussion of the dilution effect.  The basic premise is that the opinions of audience members are weakened by information that is neutral to the message – meaning, when people babble, we tend to view them as less credible.  I don’t want to pilfer too much content because the book is wonderful and you should read it, but the gist is this – if you have a good point to make, make it, and then STFU.

3.  Make the conversation a pleasant experience.

On a very basic level, at the end of a conversation, you want the other person to leave feeling good about it.  This is a bit of a personal preference, but what I can say is that I do not enjoy exchanges where I am being talked at, or where it feels like the other person has an agenda and cannot be steered from it.  Rather than sticking to a script to try to make a donor, be flexible and try to make a friend.

Notes from the Field, Part 2

When I posted about my 2013 professional resolution to attend 12 fundraising events this year, I didn’t realize exactly how busy I am!  Halfway through the year I am feeling the pressure. Today’s reflections are about an event I attended a few months ago. Unfortunately, there were several negative things that stood out about the evening. As such, I am going to be intentionally vague about the details, but I think the following three blunders can speak for themselves.

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Maybe social media is worth it after all?

Lately I have been wrestling with the question of whether social media channels are worth the effort for my organization.  It seems like a natural fit – founded in the settlement house tradition, we are community builders, so online communities are just an extension of that work.  My eyes kinda glazed over a little just typing that.  I am a social media cynic.  There! I said it.

It is easy for me to be a doubter because my office doesn’t do it well. And so the question is, is it worth the time and effort to figure it out, make a plan, and commit the resources for upkeep? Just as I was about to say no (see my previous post about my affinity for “no”), I came across this study from the Stanford Social innovation Review:  The Permanent Disruption of Social Media.

I’m not going to go too far into it because obviously you are not someone who shies away from online reading, but the following tidbits gave me a lot to consider:

  • The pyramid model of donor engagement is old school, we are now operating in a vortex (cool graphic provided!) of continual opportunities for interaction.
  • 39% of survey respondents are motivated to get involved in causes that impacted someone they know, and 36% are motivated by a cause that is important to someone they know.
  • Slacktivists are actually just as likely to give as non-soap boxers, but they are much more likely to participate in an event, volunteer, or solicit.

By the way, I found out about this article through a 3 for Thursday bulletin from K Weill Consulting Group.  These bulletins are much more digestible and relevant for me than the average weekly newsletter so I recommend checking them out.