Two of the most seemingly-impenetrable barriers to giving are connected to the broader human conditions of pride and trusting others.
Specifically, if an assigned solicitor isn’t willing to humble herself enough to ask with conviction on behalf of her deserving institution, a gift won’t be made (or, if a gift is made, it won’t be the largest possible gift in most instances). How many times have you listened as CEOs, Presidents, volunteers, even development staff members offered excuse after excuse as to why the circumstances weren’t quite right to ask a donor prospect? Are the circumstances really wrong? Or does the solicitor have a deep-rooted pride issue and asking is uncomfortable? In some, you can sense the internal fretting well before they offer excuses. Ultimately, you might hear, “I am not very good at asking for money!” Which can be code for, “I’m too proud to beg!”
On the other side of the coin, if the prospective donor does not have the requisite level of trust that the solicitor will do what he says he will do, or that the institution can get the results they are promising, a gift may not be made (or, again, if a gift is made, it almost certainly won’t be the largest possible gift). At some important level, the donor has to trust in order to give.
The question quickly becomes: How can we simultaneously increase humility among solicitors and increase trust among donor prospects? Beyond training and role-playing practice for solicitors (which is a good idea, by the way), and having data to show your institution adds value and gets results (also a good idea), the simplest, most powerful response to these concerns is to build relationship.
Think about it – enhancing your relationship with donor prospects allows you to move beyond “asking” them for something and moves you closer to “inviting” them to participate in something they care about. And you know they care about it because you know them and their interests. The donor, on the other hand, finds it much easier to trust because she knows you and your institution better.
If we want to dismantle the pride and trust hurdles to giving, strategically build relationships. Grab lunch with your donors. Invite them to your home. Attend a play or sporting event with them. Celebrate life’s blessings and be present to mourn with them. Most importantly, develop deeper relationships with your donors. Because in the end, donors don’t give meaningfully to strangers. They save that for their friends.