If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be? What kind of dog would make the best fundraiser?
I was once described by a donor as being like ‘a delightful terrier’. By this he meant that I never gave up and always seemed pleased to see him!
The yes/no game
I was pleased with that description. One of the most common failings in a fundraiser is that they are easily discouraged and give up too soon. It may take many months or even years to build a relationship with a potential donor which leads to a major gift. It takes persistence and resilience. You have to be able to hear the word ‘no’ and not feel defeated. If I hear ‘no’, I always think this is a positive step – it’s a chance to learn what we have got wrong. There are so many possibilities – maybe we asked for the wrong amount or for the wrong project. Maybe it was simply the wrong time for that person, or maybe they will never prioritise us in their giving. Whatever the answer is, we are one step closer to knowing how to get to ‘yes’.
I have worked with alumni who have said, ‘I will never give money, but I will give my time’. And then over the course of helping them to give their time in positive ways, they have volunteered a financial gift and asked, ‘How do I make my gift?’ If I had been less of a terrier, I might have scrubbed their name off the prospect list.
Another aspect of my terrier-like persistence is to always follow up a lead. I have a golden rule that if one prospect suggests the name of someone you should meet, you must always follow that lead – you never know what it will bring and how it will help you to build the relationship with your prospect. You are then respecting and valuing their gift of a connection. And I always let them know where their lead has led me and thank them for making the introduction.
Pleased to meet you
I was also really pleased that a reason for my being a terrier in this donor’s eyes was that ‘you always seem pleased to see me’. To be successful in fundraising, you have to have a genuine interest in those you are building relationships with. You might not like everything about them, but you must find them fascinating. I have met extraordinary people in the course of my work, and it’s a genuine privilege to get to know them, to find out what inspires them, and to help them to give in ways that bring them genuine pleasure. It’s also a pleasure to exceed their expectations. How many of us are disappointed by the way we are treated when we give our time or money? My desire was always to delight and please them – to show how pleased I was to have their support.
So, I’m a proud terrier. What sort of dog are you?!
-Susie Hills, Managing Director