The surprising secret to a great fundraising conversation

by | Fundraising tips and essentials

At Cornucopia, we understand the power of conversations to change hearts, minds, and the world around us. After all, that’s exactly what our telefundraising and face-to-face fundraising teams do every day!

But the reality is, whether you’re raising money for a local charity, or asking for a major gift to fund a medical research facility, starting a fundraising conversation can feel daunting.

Before we even open our mouths, we can have a lot of questions on our minds…

“What do I need to say to raise the most money? What stories do I need to tell? What impact do I need to promise? How do I sell this opportunity?”

As we’ll see, these are often the wrong questions to ask in fundraising… at least to start with.

Start your conversation by talking about the donor

As your organisation’s ambassador (either as a professional fundraiser or as a member of the organisation yourself), you’re excited to share your story, your mission.

So much so, we can forget to ask the potential donor what their story is.

For many philanthropists, the act of generosity is about their story as much as it is about your organisation’s mission.

Because they’re considering giving a potentially substantial amount of their wealth, it’s important that their motivations and hopes for their donation align with the story of their lives.

And the same applies on a smaller scale. People give regular small donations because the impact of their support aligns with their values, and their vision of what a better world could be.

Which means that the number one goal in a fundraising conversation is to learn about the donor. There’s no need to immediately talk about your organisation (unless the donor asks, of course) before you have a clear sense of who you’re talking to.

Have a conversation about the beneficiaries

We all know that one of the time-tested truths of fundraising is the importance of being donor-centric, not organisation-centric.

But that only captures half the truth.

Being donor-centric means being beneficiary-centric as well. Ask – who are the people being positively impacted by your organisation? Why do they need help – and how can donors help?

It takes a certain humility to realise that while the organisation is important… ultimately, what the donor truly cares about is the impact they can have on another person or the world around them.

With this principal in mind, some helpful questions could include:

  • Who are the kinds of people you’d like to impact through your generosity?
  • How do you see your donation making the world a better place?
  • What problem would you like to help find a solution for?

Keeping the Ben Don Chain in mind

At Cornucopia, we believe in the power of connecting donors to beneficiaries – we call it the Ben Don chain.

The two ends of the Ben Don Chain – of course, the Donor and the Beneficiary – are the most significant, but there are several other stakeholders along the chain.

When you create a win-win scenario in each of these relationships, everyone flourishes, and the donor feels most connected with the beneficiaries of their support.

The Ben Don chain is an important reminder that as fundraisers, it’s our job to help donors feel as close as possible to the beneficiaries of their generosity.

So, next time you’re feeling uncertain about having an important fundraising conversation, remember to start with asking questions about the donor and the beneficiary. As you do, the conversation will naturally turn to fundraising, which will relieve the pressure on you, and help donors create a truly significant impact through their support.