Calling an Audible

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One of my capital campaign clients recently met with a newer Board member to discuss their financial commitment to the campaign. We had a solid prep meeting in advance and all signs pointed towards a productive conversation. The Board member understood the purpose of the meeting when the date was scheduled and the team was optimistic that they would make an investment to support the initiative.

What’s the line again, “Man plans and God laughs”?

In advance of talking about any specific commitment, the plan was to ask the Board member if, due to their short tenure with the organization, they were comfortable discussing a multi-year campaign pledge. Turns out, the Board member was in no way ready to make a commitment and, in fact, came into the meeting with a much different agenda.

The Board member made it clear from the start of the meeting that they didn’t feel engaged and that they were only interested in serving if they could contribute in a meaningful way. No questions, this was not meant to be a solicitation meeting.

Because we had thoroughly prepared for the discussion – including covering a range of potential objections – the team admirably shifted gears on the spot. They listened to and acknowledged the Board member’s concerns, discussed how to leverage the individual’s experience and interests, and committed to partnering together to make the relationship work for everyone moving forward. At the end of the meeting, the Board member said they absolutely planned to make an investment in the campaign–they just preferred to take that step when it was coming from a place of enthusiasm and not obligation.

Almost two years ago, I shared a post about how important it is to invest time in the relationships we have with our Board members — Attention Must Be Paid. There’s no question that those ideas are relevant to and validated by this situation as well.

However, the other key take-away in this situation is how important it is to come into donor meetings with an open mind and a nimble attitude. While there are times when we can help to move our donors in a desired direction, we HAVE to commit to listening to their needs and focusing on their agenda. After all, our main objective as fundraisers should always be on helping our donors achieve their goals and, if we aren’t ready to listen and act accordingly, no one wins.

If you’ve had an experience with a donor throwing a big curve at you in a meeting, we’d love to hear about it. We’ll share some of the stories and positive outcomes in a later post.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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