Do You Like Pina Coladas? Part One.

by Kerry Burke on August 26, 2011


Why yes, yes I do like pina coladas. Don't mind if I do...

Blind Dating for Today’s Fundraiser.

Before you can be ready to go on a blind date with a donor,  you have to be prepared. You have to, first and foremost, believe that you  deserve to go on this date and that you have something to offer to your date. This  means that you truly are interested in what they have to say and who they are. Because this is specifically geared toward fundraiser/donor relationship, I will use the word “donor” instead of “date.” But this advice is solid for either situation, work donor visit or personal blind date.

One word: grooming. I do not condone measuring yourself against a Cosmo cover model,  (who is air-brushed btw.) I mean do you have a clean shirt? How about a stain-free tie or scarf? Do you believe in showering and grooming to the best of your ability? Now practice smiling in the mirror. Beautiful! You’re ready.

Are you interesting? Do you read newspapers? Do you have a hobby? Own a dog? Stay. Away. From Politics.

More importantly, are you interested? What does this mean? It means do you know how to listen. Really listen. Not just nod your head and look around but really comprehend what your donor is telling you. We’ve all been there, chatting with someone and they’re like, “uh huh, uh huh, ooooh, interesting… mmmm…” but all the while they look like a swarm of butterflies is about to burst forth from their mouth, they are so jonesing for their turn. Tip: they don’t hear a flipping word you are saying. Don’t be that person. The most charming quality one can possess is good listening skills.

Do you have something in common with your donor? I guess you’ll find out on your first meeting, when you listen intently to what they tell you. Ask questions. “What made you decide to do that?” “What do you think about this?” I was just eavesdropping on a donor solicitation at this coffee shop I’m sitting at, and the staffer asked “what was it that made you decide to get involved with us?” Beautiful. Ask for advice if you can. This makes a donor feel really good. But don’t do it if you don”t plan to at least take it back to your boss and pitch it.

Do you own reliable, clean transportation? This is a must. Doesn’t have to be fancy, doesn’t have to be new, just in good working order and CLEAN. Can’t be driving your donor around with a muffler hanging off your car. Just sayin’.

Do you have an exit strategy? Whether your meeting is going well or not so well, be gracious about your exit. “I have so enjoyed meeting you. Thank you so much for your time. And thank you so much for your interest in and support of our organization.” Do not say you’ll call if you have no plans to call. If they’re not a viable prospect? Put it on them. “Here is my card, please call if you have any questions or want to talk again.”

Always pay. No exceptions. I once had to stop and run my change through a Coin Star machine in order to cover the cost of my donor’s coffee. Now, this was a low-point, I don’t mind saying, and I highly recommend you figure out how to avoid this situation.

What NOT to discuss on your first date:

• Specific campaigns

• Money

• Problems with organization

• Issues you have at work

• Personal issues

• No personal facts unless specifically asked

Well, all this pontificating is exhausting. I need an Arnie Palmer. I hope this primer on blind-dating for the fundraiser has been enlightening. Stay tuned for my subsequent weekly pieces, expounding on this very interesting topic.

Next week’s topic: Walking the Delicate Line Between Staffer and Friend


Who, me? I think you mean the other Big Buck.

Did I pique your curiosity? Good, that’s what that headline was meant to do. Hopefully you are reading this because you saw this title and thought to yourself “wow, I sure could use a fool-proof way to raise big bucks.”

But before I get to the *secret,* I want to ask you a question. How many times have you seen a title of an article or blog post that has promised a BIG! REVOLUTIONARY! 100% GUARANTEED! TRANSFORMATIONAL!  solution to raising big bucks?

And you quickly abort whatever task you were doing and immediately click on said title, only to read the article/post/newsletter, eagerly awaiting the BIG REVOLUNTIONARY 100% GUARANTEED TRANSFORMATIONAL WAY TO RAISE BIG BUCKS, only to find that the article doesn’t give you what you thought you were going to get.

You, the busy person that you are, take time to learn from this article exactly what you need to do to raise big bucks, because let’s face it – we need money, we need it now. We need big money, we need it now. We need transformational money, we need it now. I know.

Bummer that you just wasted 7 minutes reading this slop that doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, or haven’t already thought of, or haven’t tried. Bummer that you aborted the task you were doing to read this, and now – dammit – you can’t remember what you were doing before.

We all want the BIG! REVOLUNTIONARY!… (blah blah, you get it). And I’m here to tell you the secret:

To raise B!R!100%G!T! bucks, you need to meet your donors. Face to face, in person, mano a mano. For breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner. There is no way around it. You need to meet them, and I know that sounds entirely simple: Kerry. You just duped me. I just wasted 7 minutes reading this slop and you didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know/thought of/tried.

But when was the last time you met with a donor? Just you and them, to thank them for their support? If the answer is “yesterday, the day before, all the tiiiiiiime, Kerry…” then you are free to stop reading and get back to your task at hand. But if you haven’t met with a donor in the last two weeks, you are lagging. And I would feel okay with telling you that you have lost your focus.


It’s a bold statement. But this is the one and only way to raise the B!R!100%G!T! bucks. And if you have anything at all to do with raising money for an organization, then buck up, get on the horn, and set a meeting with a donor, dammit.

But… but… I’m afraid! I’m nervous! I’m no good at stuff like this! What will we talk about? They’ll resent me for calling. I’ll embarrass myself. They’ll say no. They’ll think I’m weird. They’ll think I’m crazy. They’ll tell all their friends that I called and they will all laugh at me! It will end up on Facebook! ARGH!!

Deep breath. Answer a few questions for me:

Do you net $10,000 from your annual event? $25,000? $50,000? $100,000???

*You can net that in one visit with a donor, over lunch. On your first try.

Do you net $150,000? $200,000? $250,000 from your annual fund?

*You can net that over dinner, before dessert.

I will repeat my mantra: fundraising is a HUMAN endeavor. So, let’s inject some humanity into our efforts, shall we?

Okayokayokayokay I’ll visit with my donors. But what do I say when I call? When should I call? Should I call them at the office, or at home? What if said donor is 109 years old and can’t hear on the phone? Should I leave a message if I get voicemail? What do I say if they say NO???? GASP!

Be still, grasshopper. You will soon have all the answers to these questions, now go paint the fence.

Introducing “Do You Like Piña Coladas? Blind Dating for Today’s Fundraiser.” This is a multi-part series that I will be posting on our blog, chock-full of ideas, truisms, examples and heart-felt stories from the front lines of donor-centered fundraising. Be sure to tune in, it promises to be wildly entertaining, shedding an entirely different light on our beloved, age-old profession.


What Bogey Said.

by Kerry Burke on June 8, 2011

Here's Looking at You, Donor.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has confirmed 225 donations of $1M or more since January 1st of this year. This is up from 145 $1M donations during the same time span in 2010. Makes sense to me. The first two quarters of 2011 have performed much better than 2010, and that leads to a sense of security. Home values are back up a little, stock market is up, people are getting jobs again and this collectively leads to the proverbial sigh of relief from investors and wealthy people.

Understand that the majority of these gifts have been in the works for years.  It’s most likely not that the donors didn’t have the capacity last year and so waited until this year to pledge it; no, it’s more like they feel more secure this year and the timing is right to make that commitment. Some of these gifts were solicited in past years and the donor said “not now.”

Interestingly, these 225 donors didn’t decide on the spot to give $1M to their favorite cause. Gifts this thoughtful involve relationships with leadership, an emotional connection to a cause, and lots and lots of stewardship and assurance that the gift will be used in the way it is intended. Now, you may be reading this and thinking “our organization will never get a $1M gift, so this is not relevant to us.”

Not true at all. It takes the same amount of effort and involvement to get a $10,000 gift as it does to get a $1,000,000 gift. Don’t believe me? Ask the $10,000 donor what made them decide to invest in an organization. Ask the same of the $1M donor. Their answers will be remarkably similar: they believe in the cause.

This is why it is so important to call your donors and thank them. Ask them to lunch so you can listen. This is your best shot at engaging that donor in a more remarkable way. Ask questions, and really hear how the donor answers, what they say.

I met a donor couple that gave a small amount to my organization. I asked them to lunch, they accepted. We got together and I listened. I learned that they had a grandson with shaken baby syndrome who was severely cognitively impaired, and he absolutely loved a particular program on our station. Now, would that have come to light in a letter? In a phone call? At a gala event? No. It comes from breaking bread with someone and being in their presence, seeing their face and asking questions.

I said that I believe that children with special needs teach compassion and that their other grandchildren are very fortunate to have such a profound teacher. They heartily agreed. We all sat silent for a moment, reflecting on this idea.

The next week, I received a check from them, 5 times the amount they normally give. The accompanying note said “we want to support this program for all the other ‘teachers’ out there. The world needs more compassion.”

The moral of the story? It couldn’t be simpler. Meet your donors. As Humphrey Bogart said, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.