Seeking $$ Support? Listen to your Prospect!

More about creating win-win relationships

Once you have a well crafted message about your organization and the specific marketing opportunity you’re promoting, the real fun begins: As you pitch the opportunity to your prospects, you will have a chance to learn about their business, including their strategic marketing goals.

Your message must be appropriate for its intended audience: fund supporters. And only they know what they want. Together, listening to each other, the two of you mutually determine whether this opportunity is a good fit for this particular prospect.

So what do they want to know? (This is the exciting part where the “win-win” begins to play out.) Your prospects want to know, very simply, whether they’ll find their target audience in your milieu and, if so, what level of exposure to that audience you can give them. Tell them who is likely to attend your event, where that audience will see the supporter’s brand and take an interest in its products or services. Tell them, based on past experience, how many people are likely to attend, from what backgrounds, filling what job roles or positions. They want to know how likely they are to benefit from the investment they might make in your project. And, as enthusiastic as you might be to pitch the sponsorship or exhibit booth or print ad you’re promoting, your best bet is to listen to their marketing needs.

Prospective supporters want to make smart marketing decisions; it’s just good business. An intelligent business professional will not commit money that won’t be working to make money. Just accept that the corporate mission is bottom-line oriented. If this company didn’t make smart decisions, they wouldn’t have any money to invest in your nonprofit. So think seriously about the characteristics of your event or program that can bring benefit to this particular prospect – and that’s what you communicate.

The message will not be exactly the same for every prospect. Oh, the inherent value, goals and accomplishments of your organization will remain pretty much the same for all. The question you must be ready to answer is this: “If our company gives you X-dollars to support this event or project or program, what value can you bring us in return?” A fair question, and a smart one – and one you must be prepared to answer.

And after that, you have to be willing to accept the possibility that your opportunity really isn’t a good fit for this prospect at this time. So what? It has to be a win-win situation or it won’t develop into a mutually supportive relationship, and that’s where you’re really headed. I’ve said it before: Good fund development is always looking to the future. Don’t be too disappointed if you can’t convert every prospect into a donor or sponsor this time. Listen respectfully, and know that you are cultivating a prospective supporter for the future. You don’t ever want to take advantage of anyone.

Now, will you share your tips for fund raising success?