Relationship building is the foundational work needed for successful financial development. The key to relationship building with a donor is to know the donor’s story. You’ll want to find out who they are, what motivates them, why they give to your organization and what their philanthropic goals are.
In the early stages of your relationship with the donor, you should craft open-ended questions that allow donors to share their story – and then actively listen as they respond.
Active listening is the practice of preparing to listen, observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent and then giving appropriate feedback to show you were paying attention.
In the early stages of the relationship, focus on listening – not on telling your organization’s story. The ratio of donor speaking vs. development officer speaking should be 75 percent to 25 percent. That will allow for an understanding of the donor that will enable you in the future to craft a message about your organization that resonates with the donor.
Do current research on your donor, and don’t ask questions for which information is readily available on LinkedIn, Facebook or via a Google search. If the donor has had a recent accomplishment or milestone event, that’s a good starting point for the conversation. Remember: You’re having a conversation with the donor to build a relationship; it’s not an interrogation.
Here are some questions, or variations of, that you might consider using to help develop your understanding of the donor:
As you get deeper into a conversation, it might be appropriate to ask permission to ask other questions, such as, “May I ask if you have ever considered making a gift directly from a tax-deferred retirement account to save on taxes?”
Remember to respect the donor’s time and express gratitude for the opportunity to meet. Follow up the meeting with a handwritten thank-you note and follow up on any issues that arose in the conversation that couldn’t be resolved at the time.
Finally, be sure to record your newly gained information in your database’s donor profile.