You Have to Connect to Convince

Q: Dear Ms. Schwartz,

I work for Jobs for Maine's Graduates (JMG), a terrific nonprofit with powerful documented outcomes. We help at-risk youth graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce. 

I have been “courting” a multi-multi-multi-millionaire whom is an acquaintance. I want to speak with him on investing (read that, funding) in our organization. He says he will take me out to lunch, “but maybe nothing else”.

He’s gruff but seems to like me. Even so, I am stuck at this “ call me in 2 weeks and I’ll take you out”     plateau. He could make an amazing difference to our organization, especially as we are expanding to serve more youth and would like to start an endowment.

Clearly, I have to change my strategy. Any ideas?

Lisa Gardner, Communications Manager

A: Dear Lisa,

Thanks so much for raising this vital question. Believe me, it's one shared by many fundraisers and  communicators with all kinds of goals.

The real issue here is connection (or lack of connection, in this case). It's totally out of your power, Lisa, to improve this gentleman's manners or stop his game playing. But what you can do is learn everything about him, because you need to connect before you convince. (Hat tip to Sam Horn for this powerful concept).

Once you know what his passions are, where he volunteers and/or gives, what his family members do for a living, where he went to school and college, you'll have much more to work with. Your next step is to figure out the connections between his passions and preferences and JMG's work. Perhaps some of your program's graduates work in the field in which your prospect made his living. Or attended his alma mater.

After you've pinpointed a few strong connections, invite him out for a site visit or lunch with a graduate that reinforces that connection. Far more effective to let him make and feel that connection, rather than trying to convince him of it.

Lastly, Lisa, if he refuses a few invites, move on!

P.P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations, and a key to convincing (when you get there). Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on March 9, 2010 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 4 comments
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  • Bob Ratcliff

    Excellent truth and valuable information! You can only help those that want help. You demonstrate that you want to help and listen first with those that need your help. Yet if they are not serious about moving forward, you must cut loose and move on!

  • Nancy, thank you for the advice about getting the attention of my multi-millionaire. I have been gathering information about this gentleman and will look for the common demoninators between him and our organization..then I’ll strike! I mean, then I will invite him to learn more about what we do.
    Thanks again,

  • Good points made here about connecting before you ask.
    I would add that
    Think about it. You can court this millionaire, but you can also continue your other strategies and make sure you treat your $100/donors like $1,000/donors. Thank them with a phonecall as soon as you get their donation. You will create your own major donors.

  • Love this post! So true and so insightful! You have to understand your audience in order to communicate your message as effectively as possible. Understanding potential donors and being authentic are key in building strong long-term relationships. Do your research and try to relate in a relevant way but don’t force it!

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