The Dreaded “Botched” Call

In our last blog, The Art of Bold Asking,” I focused on the six elements of a successful fundraising call: 

1.     Passion—love and commitment to the cause or organization

2.     Focus—focus on what it takes to get to “Yes”

3.     Practice—rehearsal with all involved on the call

4.     Style—developing language such as, “consider” and “participating” that each solicitor feels comfortable with,

5.     Homework—prospect research by the development team and the volunteer behind the scenes, and

6.     Advance work —getting the donor ready for the ask.

The philanthropists we interviewed cited each these elements as being essential to a truly successful solicitation call.

So, why do some fundraising “asks” not go as well as we would like?  We asked this of our philanthropist fundraisers as well.  And, well, we got an earful. 

Not surprisingly, if donors are going to take the time to meet with the leaders of institutions, the campaign committee volunteers or development officers, they want their time to be well spent.  For some, you may only have one opportunity to get in the door to present your case, and to leave a strong or negative impression. 

Sadly, several of those we interviewed were able to identify more “botched calls”, than those that had gone well.  This gave us pause for thought.  As a profession, we have a lot of room for improvement to raise the bar across the industry.

What were the most commonly cited botched calls?

1.     Obtaining the meeting under false pretenses, saying that the meeting was not to ask for money, and then asked.

2.     Poor presentation of the information

3.     Poor stewardship; simply assuming the donor will make the next gift

4.     Poor follow up after the meeting

5.     Simply, not asking for “the order”

6.     Asking too little; leaving money on the table.

All of the successful philanthropist-fundraisers we interviewed worked in teams and depended on the expert advice, guidance, and research of a well-honed development enterprise.  They valued the role each team member played and depended upon the support and counsel of the development professional.  Whether that was in research, gift strategy or accompaniment on the call to provide technical background.

Many of the “botched calls” described above are the responsibility of the development professionals.  The proactive work of the development professional can avoid many of these botched calls by:

1.     Assuring clean and accurate research,

2.     Vetting the prospect with other Board or development committee members,

3.     Developing a gift strategy with the volunteer that is donor centric while true to the institutional priorities,

4.     Preparing the prospect through cultivation and pre-solicitation meetings for the solicitation and

5.     Prepping the solicitation team on the agreed upon roles and outline for the call, with fall back contingencies.


Our next blog will focus on “Dealing with ‘No’”.