Engaging Donor Conversations in Congregations

Preparing for & Engaging Donor Conversations

 Key Points to Remember

  • Generosity flows from strong and positive relationships—we must engage and nurture relationships with our constituents and donors.
  • Best skills to use in donor relationships: The ability to ask engaging questions, listening, observation, accuracy in reporting back, and timely follow up.

Motivations for Giving

  • Belief in the mission and vision
  • Gratitude for life, the cause, and the organization
  • The time is right for making a gift
  • Want to give back
  • Philanthropic giving and generosity are core values
  • Desire to emulate others who give generously
  • Tax reduction
  • Recognition
  • Trust in organizational leadership
  • They were asked to give

People give to mission and vision….and…..People give to people.

 Steps in Setting Up the Donor Conversation

  • Scheduling the meeting–this can be more challenging than engaging the conversation. Be forthcoming in saying this is a request to talk about the church and its annual funding or stewardship. Often this is done in person, or via telephone or email. Depending on the person and their preferred means of communication (as well as your own), preliminary contacts could be made through social media, such as Facebook or Linked In.
  • Take time to mentally prepare yourself for the conversation—what matters most to me about <this congregation> now and its future? What energizes me most about our congregation is…
  • Write a short “case for funding support” that includes your personal experience of the benefits of being a part of this congregation and why you actively support it with time and money.
  • Practice with someone else.

Engaging The Money Conversation:

  • Chit chat  (+/- 5 minutes)–Take time to engage the person–career, family, interests & involvements in the congregation or other activities, attitudes, values, and reactions.
  • The conversation should be donor (other)-centered, in that the giving to the congregation will be based on their interests and capacity to give.
  • First—say Thank You for donor’s past support and involvement!
  • Next, you may want to share a very short commentary about what the congregation means to you and how it’s made a difference in your life. Here are a couple of icebreaking prompts to help draw out the individual’s direct positive experience of the congregation:
  • I am interested in hearing about your most meaningful experiences here at <congregation>.
  • What interests (or excites) you most about our congregation, its ministries and programs?”
  • Provide an overview of the Annual Stewardship campaign & key points outlined in the brochure, fair share giving guide, and pledging materials. (10 minutes)
  • Invite the donor’s feedback and questions they may have about the congregation and the annual appeal, getting a feel for their primary interests and/or concerns. Listen carefully and/or observe non-verbal reactions.
  • Say something like this:

 “It has been good to hear you describe how much being a part of this congregation matters to you. Can we count on you to make a generous pledge to our church this year (or, again this year)”

  • Then stop speaking. Listen. Be open to the donor’s responses.

If they say “Yes,” invite them to complete the pledge card and give to you.

If they say “No,” it could mean several things, which you should be alert to and listen for:

  • Donor is not ready to give at this time
  • There is more information needed
  • Donor hasn’t been in relationship long enough for making this kind of commitment
  • Donor doesn’t have the money to give
  • There are other concerns about giving to <congregation> that would be helpful to hear.

If they are tentative or unsure, ask “This may be too important to make a quick decision. Let’s schedule another time in the next week or so for a follow up conversation to give you time to consider.”

  • One way or another—smile and say Thank You! Thank the donor(s) for making time for the conversation, for sharing their stories and what is important to them about the church, and/or for their contributions and support.
  • Promptly provide information gleaned from your conversation as needed. Report back, follow up, or whatever is appropriate to the conversation and any questions, concerns, or interests expressed.