6 Tips for Virtual Major Donor Calls

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Given that most of us are working virtually, honing our skills on cultivating and soliciting donors virtually is essential. These six tips will help you in that work.

The context for these six tips is that the video calls last from 20 to 45 minutes; we schedule upwards of six to 10 a day. If video is not possible, we fall back to a phone call. We secure the time for the call by sending a short email.

The calls are both cultivation time and solicitation, but we generally follow the donor’s lead. We follow up on call with a thank-you email. We record our handwritten notes of what transpired on the call in the donor database.

We always define the next action step to take at the end of each call, either with the donor or just to ourselves.

Overall, we are listening for what the donor is “up for” in terms of more engagement and more giving. We seek multi-year pledges when that makes sense.

Tip No. 1: Talk to Your Current Donors First, Then Close in Prospects

Now is the time to deepen your relationship with your closest donors and prospects. Initially, avoid cold calls to new prospects. Instead, ask for an introduction if you want to engage a new prospect. Without being introduced, you may turn off a new prospect if you reach out during the pandemic.

Tip No. 2: The Very First Question

“How are you doing during this time?” Authenticity matters. Be real and be curious about how your donors are handling quarantine. (If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that, too.)

This one question will allow you to deepen your connection with your donor through shared experience. We’re all experiencing the same hardship at the same time. That’s a powerful point of connection.

Tip No. 3: Take Interest In What They’re Doing During Quarantine

“How have you been filling your time during quarantine?” What you’re really listening for is, “How does the donor cope with stress, and what are their real interests?”

Tip No. 4: Explore Going Deeper

Zoom calls with donors have an extra layer of intimacy because donors feel more comfortable sharing deep motivations and their true hopes for your organization.

They’ve had time to reflect, and many are thinking about what really matters to them.

Tip No. 5: Update (Inform and Educate) Your Donors

Come prepared with three pieces of good news about your work. Share what your organization is doing during the pandemic. Share client success stories. Share hopes your agency has for the near future.

Be genuine and listen closely to their responses.

We are all being bombarded with so much bad news that a sprinkling of good news may brighten your donor’s week. Most importantly, they will know that they helped.

Which brings us to our final tip…

Tip No. 6: State Your Need and Listen…Your Donors Will Probably Volunteer to Give More

Your donors will probably say: “How can I help?”

Donors give to your cause, not to your organization, so speak to the urgency of your mission. More often than not, donors themselves suggest a way they would like to help. Good things come when you are authentic, curious, state your need and wait.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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