Donors work hard for their money. They want assurance that investing in your ministry, your project, your leadership and even in you is a wise decision. It’s not your job to become their new best friend. It’s your job to provide the confidence they’re looking for in making this stewardship move. One move that, even in hindsight, they’d happily make again.
Setting up in-person meetings with major gift donors is unquestionably hard work, often fraught with rejection and frustration. However, your success depends on it! In fact, an in-person meeting results in a gift 70% of the time. But, how do you secure a meeting when the donor feels so adamant about not needing to meet?
Today let’s look at just two common objections that donors give when we try to set up an in-person meeting. We will get down to the possible real issues and give you a couple of responses to get around the objection. Then, we’ll talk about how we might have avoided the objection in the first place.
Objection #1: I wish I could, but this is a very busy time for me.
Real Issues: They really are too busy. You happened to catch them at a bad time. They think you’re using this as an excuse to ask for money. There’s no benefit to them, so they’re not interested.
Comeback 1: Of course, Mr. Johnson. Do you think your schedule might slow down in two or three weeks? If so, would you like to pencil that in now, or would you prefer that I call you back?
Comeback 2: I certainly understand, Mrs. Jenkins. I’m not surprised to hear that. Your day likely pulls you in many different directions. However, we deeply value you and the ideas and insight you have to share. That’s all I’m asking for, just a small amount of your time—say, 20-30 minutes—to discuss (your project, effort, etc.). It would truly help me if you could fit me into your schedule sometime in the next week or two. I promise to be brief. How does that sound?
Avoid Objection: Include a benefit to them in your initial request for a meeting. Ask their executive assistant when they’re likely available.
Objection #2: I’m not sure I have any wisdom to share about your ministry.
Real Issues: They really might not feel like they have anything worth sharing. (Maybe because they don’t really understand the mission, or an introverted personality). Or, it could just be a stall. They don’t know what you’re talking about and we haven’t given any reason to care. There’s no trust yet, we don’t really have a relationship yet and they don’t want to get sucked into some long conversation with you.
Comeback 1: Mrs. Carruthers, what you do have is a unique perspective and set of experiences that we need to hear. Your business and professional viewpoint, coupled with a passion for the ministry will give us a fresh take on a number of issues we need to make some important decisions about. May I just have a half hour of your time in the next few weeks? I promise you, I find your input very valuable.
Comeback 2: On the contrary, Mr. Davidson. Your wisdom in giving to our ministry has transformed and changed a number of lives. I'd like to get your input on a few critical decisions we’re facing regarding how we can continue to succeed in the future. I would also like to share a couple of stories with you about what’s been most effective so far. Could you possibly give me just 20 or 30 minutes of your time in the next week or two? Does that sound fair?
Avoid Objection: Make it clear from the start that you value their information and input, and that’s the real reason you want to get together. Reference their past interaction or experience with your ministry and how it was of value to you. Directly link how their specific job or trade specifically applies to your need.
Should I Push Back?
Is it right to push back on a donor when they just wanted to get off the phone? I don’t think asking another question or two pushes them too hard. If you allow them to put you off for a month or more then you’re in worse shape after the call than before you ever made it. Before you hang up, at least get their email address, express why you’re so thankful for their support, find out what they love about the ministry, or get permission to provide them with details/updates on some project or effort.
Part 2 of this series tackles two more common objections to an in-person meeting.
Want more insight for Major Gift impact? Check out these short Major Gift videos highlighting our decades of experience fundraising for Christian ministries and nonprofits.