Generally here’s how I leave messages that get returned:

  1. APPRECIATION: I say ‘thank you’ (and I get sort of ’emotional and gracious’ in my tone…. without going overboard). It’s important to convey emotion so you sound relatable… human! But it must come from your heart. You can’t fake it!
  2. FLATTERY: I say ‘you are awesome’ (or some other statement basically letting them know how amazing they are).
  3. DONOR-CENTRICITY: I focus on them. I recount what they wrote in a survey response or bring up some other pertinent connection point. Relevance and personalization is essential. It shows you really care about them and you did your research. Just make sure you don’t focus on their money in any way whatsoever. Focus on the intersection of their life story and your cause.
  4. INVITATION OFFER: I ask them to talk about themselves or give advice to us. I give them an opportunity to gain value by engaging with me via a return phone call. For instance, I might say, “I wonder if you’d be so kind as to elaborate/provide feedback on that. I’m so curious about…. ___________.” OR, I might say, “It would be great to hear why you care…. more about your mom…..  details about that story you mentioned with Professor so and so…..  _________.” In other words, I ask them to call back so they can give more feedback, tell me more about them, get involved, etc. This invitation IS an offer! People want to engage and tell an organization what they think, how they got involved, or how they feel.
  5. VALUE OFFER: I might instead or additionally offer something with no expectation for them to give at all. In some cases I might offer to deliver some other more tangible value by saying something like this: “I’d really like to send you this video, ebook, report, podcast, etc.” Or, I might say that I have all these things available and I’d love to know which they’d want.
  6. WRAP-UP: I ask them to call me back. I say something like: “I know you must be very busy but I’d love to hear back from you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you for money or anything like that. I just want to” …….(recount what you said above).
  7. DETAILS: I give them two ways to respond. I speak clearly and give them my telephone number (usually my cell number… and I let them know they are important and that’s why I gave them my cell) AND I give them my email address since some people would rather communicate that way.

Bottom line: It’s all about them! I show that I care about them and that calling me back will be good for them, not me. I provide value in line with their consideration stage and their interests. I act like a concierge and partner, not a fundraiser.


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