Why Prospects Don’t Respond

Recently, I served as a faculty member during a Gonser Gerber Institute webinar entitled, “Five Effective Strategies to Secure Visits.”  This was a webinar I had long wanted to present as the issue of securing visits can, in many instances, be the most challenging facet of prospect engagement.  I know many advancement officers – beginning and seasoned alike – who struggle with “getting visits.”

As the webinar was focused on effective strategies, we bypassed robust discussion on the reasons why prospects don’t respond to us in the first place.  And while at first blush the reasons for non-response may seem as varied and unique as the prospects themselves, there are really only three fundamental reasons why a prospect goes to “radio silence:”

  1.  The prospect is not interested;
  2. The prospect is indifferent and has yet to make up her mind;
  3. The prospect is interested but finding the time to visit is an issue.

Really, that’s the sum of all the parts.

The prospect has proactively made up his mind that he is not interested and, thus, he is not responding.  Or, the prospect has not made up her mind and she isn’t yet sure how to respond to you.  Or, the prospect wants to meet with you but life is getting in the way.  For this last group, perhaps the prospect has different priorities at the moment, or he is going through a busy season, or maybe he is just a poor time manager.  But, in the end, he can’t seem to find the time to set up a visit with you.

If you look at these three broad reasons, you will note that only one is wholly negative (the prospect is not interested).  The other two options skew positive or have the promise of a positive outcome.

And yet, when I visit with gift officers and listen to their assumptions as to why prospects aren’t responding, the take is almost always negative.   “Jason, she just isn’t interested in us,” is the complaint.  Or, “I’ve tried and he just doesn’t want to be visited.”  Or, even, “It’s clear she isn’t interested or she would have responded by now.”  And, as a byproduct of these, perhaps, faulty assumptions, the creative energy and positive attitude needed to get the visit becomes dulled.

But think with me on this.  The odds are in our favor – by a 2 to 1 margin.  I’ll take those odds over the long haul – and you should too!  The key to getting visits, as we discussed in the webinar, is to be an artist of multiple mediums of engagement.  To carefully and artfully utilize existing relationships, creative invitations, and thoughtful messages.   I call it the “multiple chances, multiple choices” strategy.  We want to give prospects multiple chances and multiple choices to say “yes” to a visit with you.  And when you approach this work knowing that the odds are in your favor you will find that, over time, most prospects will accept the visit.  The visits will come.

Similarly, I have heard from a number of you – the readers of “Jason’s Blog” – over the last few months.  Thank you for reaching out to me, offering kind words about the blog, and asking when it would return.  Just like many of the prospects with whom you are trying to secure visits, I can tell you that my “radio silence” was not due to a lack of interest.  I care deeply about you, our craft, our calling in this work, and writing this blog.  But like many of your prospects, this spring and summer brought with it a work season in which my consulting schedule engaged all of my creative energies.  And while professionally that has been satisfying, I am excited about having the space, once again, to write about our craft.  Thank you for continuing to reach out to me through this unusually busy spell.

Yes, I will always be interested!  Life and work sometimes just cause the very best prospects to not respond.


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