If you’ve been in this business for a while, you know that one of the best ways to cultivate prospective donors is to ask them for advice. And on the surface that sounds easy. Most everyone likes to be asked for advice, right?
Well… sort of!
Your Case for Support Provides the Perfect Opportunity to Seek Donor Advice
In reality, people like to give advice about things they know something about — not things they don’t feel equipped to advise on.
If you’re an expert on budgeting, you’ll probably be happy to be asked for advice about building a budget. If you have some expertise about marketing, you’ll probably feel good if someone asks for your advice about that.
But, if you don’t know much about a topic and someone asks for your advice, you’ll wonder why they’ve come to you and it’ll make you question their judgment.
So, when you think about asking your donors for advice, you’ve got to make sure that they’re equipped to give you sound advice.
One of the things that just about everyone can give advice about is their own opinion on something. And that’s why you can always ask your donors for their opinion about your case for support.
Use Drafts of Your Case for Support to Draw Donors Close
The case for support is a simple written document that literally makes the case for why a donor should give to your organization. And while your donors may not be well informed enough to give you advice about whether your organization is well run or not, they will have personal opinions about the case for support.
And that’s why you should always use the drafts of your case for support to draw your donors close.
Why a Draft of Your Case for Support?
When you send them a draft to read and then ask them for their feedback, you’ll accomplish two things:
- First, when they read the case draft, they’ll learn about what you’re planning and why it matters.
- And second, they’ll likely have valuable opinions about your draft.
5 Simple Steps to Gather Advice About Your Case
Here are five simple practices to consider when asking your donors for feedback regarding your case for support.
1. Create a Context
Don’t just ask one person to give you their advice about a case draft. Select 5 or 10 prospective donors, or even more. Then, let each of them know that they are part of a group you are asking for feedback.
By doing that, the collective wisdom of the group will protect you from odd-ball opinions and suggestions.
2. Establish a Timeline
You can ask for feedback in-person or in writing or in a focus group discussion. However you do it, create a schedule so everyone will know what is expected of them. After all, comprehensive timelines are critical for any capital campaign.
3. Develop Questions
It will help people if you develop specific questions you’d like them to answer. You might include questions along the lines of the following examples:
- What most excited you about this project?
- Was the case easy to read and understand?
- What questions do you have that weren’t answered in the case?
- Were you convinced that this project is important?
The key here is to ask questions that will get people thinking about specific aspects of the case. Asking a general question like “What did you think?” is usually less productive (and even frustrating) for the person you are asking.
4. Get Feedback
You can ask for feedback from your donors in a couple different ways:
- Meet with people individually (either in person or virtually).
- Gather a number of donors together for a group discussion.
Either approach will work though the group format often leads to a lively and interesting exchange.
5. Follow Up
Once you’ve gotten feedback from the people you’ve asked to review your case, you should thank them for their help and send them the revised document that takes the feedback into account.
Don’t Miss this Opportunity to Ask Your Donors for Advice
Gathering advice from donors is one of the smartest ways to engage them. When done well, you’ll create a sense of buy-in with your capital campaign well before you begin soliciting your donors.
It may seem to you that just writing the case on your own is far simpler than asking for feedback from a group of potential donors. While you may be right in the simplest sense, asking for feedback on a draft will not only make your draft better, but it will draw your donors closer. And that level of stewardship is at the heart of every good fundraising practice.