Bright Spot Fundraising

Tried and tested fundraising techniques
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Handling objections and difficult questions – here’s The Key

‘We like the work your charity does, but we don’t think we can give to you because… you are too small and local OR too big and not local enough OR we have a problem with your charity’s position on XYZ issue…’


Whatever organisation you work for, you have probably found there are a handful of objections which act as the major sticking point and so prevent otherwise interested donors and partners from giving.


In over 16 years of working as a major donor fundraiser and training more than 8000 fundraisers, I have found the challenge of handling donor objections is absolutely solvable. This does not mean that you’ll be able to help every donor to give every time, but it does mean that if you prepare in the right way, the vast majority of difficult questions and objections can be confidently handled.


And this means you can increase the number of times you help a donor give. It also means you can look forward to and enjoy such meetings, knowing you have a system.


The first and main reason for receiving lots of scepticism is a lack of understanding about what we should have said to the donor in the first place. This happens either because the fundraiser has not found out enough about the donor’s point of view because they talked too much, too early; or because the fundraiser spoke as if human beings make decisions based on logic alone… whereas in fact they make decisions based on what they feel (which is usually then justified with logic).


Today I want to focus on the second big reason why fundraisers often struggle to handle donor’s objections. It is this:


When objections arise, the fundraiser reacts. In reacting emotionally both parties feel that the fundraiser is defending what they have said against the objection.


Though this is entirely understandable, the key distinction made by really successful fundraisers is to not react against, but to align with the other person.


Align with them


In defending, you send the signal that you oppose the other person, that in some way they are wrong. Opposition hinders persuasion.


Your job is to align with the person who has the objection, and solve it with them.


As Blair Warren says in One Sentence Persuasion, ineffective influencers seek to correct and convince…instead, the very best influencers seek to validate and intrigue.


How do you help them feel validated? You don’t need to agree with what they’ve said, but you do need to empathise with why they might have said it, and at the very least find something in their intention that you could respect and build on.


This comes down to the decision you make about how you interact with other people, especially those who seem to be different to yourself. (If you think it sounds easy, remember how you felt about those who voted differently to you in any recent election, or for instance in the referendum over Britain’s membership of the European Union.)


Precisely because it is often not easy to align with those who say things contrary to our own beliefs, I have found that will power on its own is often not enough. To help succeed, I have found nothing is as powerful as the following technique:


Not ‘yes….but’


In his book Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins offers the strategy of ‘Yes…and…’ to help you find common ground and align with others with whom you disagree. Too often we pretend to listen to what someone is saying, then go on to re-state our position anyway: ‘yes….yes…yes.. but…’ as soon as we say ‘but…’ the other person feels like we think they’re wrong, or just as bad, we were only pretending to listen to what they had to say.


To help fundraisers discover the power of this shift during the Confidently Handling Objections module of the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, I set up a debate on a divisive topic. The first time, most people find the discussion stressful and their partners aggressive or arrogant. Then we repeat the exercise with just one change – they are only allowed to start their turn to speak with either ‘yes…and…’ or ‘I agree with….and… ’/ ‘I respect…and… ’ ‘I appreciate…and… ’


At the demonstration session I did on the recent Major Donor SIG, participants discovered that though this activity at first appears both simplistic (and difficult!) it had a dramatic effect on the level of stress and conflict they experienced.


And most powerful of all, they reported that the techniques forced them to work much harder at listening to what the other person had to say. As a result, they were able to find common ground / the building blocks of agreement and influence, where before there had appeared to be only lack of respect and intense difference.


There is more to growing your skill in handling objections – Align is only the ‘A’ in my AURA model – but it is the most important. This is because even if you are far from perfect in the other steps, such as how to craft ‘re-frames’ for your most common objections, if the other person feels that you are truly on their side, and are doing your best to understand their point of view, your chances of helping them solve the sticking point, and so reaching agreement on a gift or partnership, will be greatly improved.


Are you / do you know a Director of Fundraising? There are ONLY 3 PLACES LEFT for the next Breakfast Club for Fundraising Directors on 19th September. The outstanding Joe Jenkins, Director of Fundraising at Children’s Society will be the special guest speaker.

Do you need to increase major donor income this year? There are now ONLY 2 PLACES LEFT on the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, starting on October 10th, running to March 2017.


On September 13, 2016 / Uncategorized

Client Testimonials 
‘What I love about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is it’s so practical. I’ve seen loads of monetary value come from what we learned, including a gift of £200,000 from a trust that came about because of the learnings in the course. If you want to raise more money, I’d urge you to do the Programme.’

Paul McKenzie, Head of Major Giving and Corporate Partnerships, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Rob's outstanding pitch training helped me secure a partnership worth £380,000 over three years. One of the crucial things he helped me do was to better understand the psychology of who I needed to convince, and use this to craft my influencing strategies, structure and stories to help them say YES. If you need to win more partnerships, I would absolutely recommend you get on Rob's training.

Karen Arkell, Senior Officer, Corporate Partnerships, Teach First

'We recently had a pitch we just had to win. I'm absolutely clear that what we learned from Rob helped us get the deal, which is a partnership that's going to raise £1 million. Rob is better at helping you influence your donor to get the gift than anyone I've met.

Ben Swart, Head of Corporate New Business, NSPCC

Rob's exceptional training has taken our programme to the next level. One example was a colleague re-connecting with a lapsed donor on the phone, resulting in a £100k+ gift; his first in four years. I would absolutely recommend Rob's training programme as an invaluable investment for any fundraising team.

Victoria Stephenson, Head of Major Donors, UNICEF UK

Following the course, Major Gift Fundraisers at the NSPCC increased gift income by 29%

Citation by UK Skills National Training Award

We're currently involved in our largest ever Campaign, with a target of £500 million, so we've invested in the best training available. Rob's courses have been an essential part of our annual King's Knowledge learning programme for the last five years, because he continues to help us get outstanding results.

Gemma Peters, Director of Development, King's College London

I’ve found the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme hugely helpful already. It’s helped me in so many ways, but as an example, I applied one of Rob’s pitching techniques and it completely wowed the panel, and has resulted in a partnership worth over £100,000.

Kieran Cornwall, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

I was on the pitch team to win a partnership worth £1,000,000. I was determined to pitch to the best of my ability. Rob helped me present with confidence, persuasiveness and enthusiasm, enabling me to connect with the pitch panel – and we won the partnership.

Kirsty Lawson, Corporate Account Team Manager, (Head of) at Alzheimer’s Society

Rob showed my corporate fundraising team lots of excellent new business strategies. The techniques made a made a MASSIVE difference to our financial results, including helping to win a partnership worth £2 million

Jess Coombs, Head of Corporate Fundraising, Teenage Cancer Trust and formerly at Action for Children