A silence seeps through the room, only to be pierced by a deliberate but anxious exhale from Rebecca as she tries to regain her calm and composure. The words slowly settled on the shoulders of her friends, and now they begin to feel their weight. Rebecca knows all too well what he meant. She had lived it and survived. She has the scars, but she will continue to fight. She fights because no one else should ever have to experience what she went through. No one.
We know that passionate people can make outstanding fundraisers, and it is no surprise that someone who has experienced the very issues your charity rallies against is more likely to express their feelings to a new donor better than a person with no ‘real’ connection. This is because the decision to give to your cause is often made with the heart rather than the head.
It is also true that the fundraiser needs to know the basics of rapport building to get the initial conversation and closing so that they get the signature, but without the honest interaction in the middle the donor will not be moved.
Knowing this, we still insist on reciting the same charity training session to our F2F and TM partners every few months, with the same case studies and the same stories.
Unless you have found the winning formula that cannot be improved upon, you need to think about the specific audience you are speaking with, the medium you are using, and the messages you are delivering.
Rebecca (above) may have been inspired to fight because the message you delivered rang true in her mind. She had experienced what you were talking about first hand, but the remaining nine fundraisers merely understand the cause rather than being moved by it. With a new training presentation every six to eight weeks you can make iterations that speak to more people in the room, and before you know it, you have ten people who will commit heart and soul to your cause because they are now ‘we’.
So, how is this done? There are a few simple steps you can take to improve these sessions.
Invite beneficiaries. Use them as guest speakers to tell their story. Importantly, you must have a dummy run before you go live as a poor speaker will harm your cause even if their story is, on paper, beautiful.
Survey your audience. Ask in advance of the number of fundraisers attending, their age, background, fundraising experience levels, and connection to the cause. Sometime their connection might be indirect, so it is up to you to join the dots and take them where you need them to go.
Be prepared. You can only use varied media if the space allows. Check that you’ll have adequate room, the correct technology and enough time.
Leave a lasting impression. A gift that will remind them of the training is a very powerful tool. The best I’ve seen came from a colleague with no face-to-face background. At the end of her training session, she gave each fundraiser a journal to record everything they are thankful for each day. This mirrored the case study where the beneficiary kept one to remind her to keep going. Inspired.
The final bugbear of mine is the line “you do such a hard/tough job. I couldn’t do it”. Please banish this from your vocabulary immediately. You have just undermined your entire presentation with this one sentence. Instead, why not say “you do such an important job. Thank you”.