Being Personal

Today we updated all our I-devices. Or rather, I updated all mine; my husband’s desktop is balking. He is lost, as I felt when I was going through the pain of waiting for Yosemite to finish up. And it made me realize how too dependent on technology we’ve become. Clients who hire me to help them build out a major individual fundraising program get—I don’t know, almost despondent when they realize that this means they will have to interact face-to-face with prospects and donors.

“How about crowd funding?” they ask. “What about an eblast?”

Technology we are comfortable with. People—at least one on one—not so much. That’s clear when you look at people out in public. They are playing with their smartphones and ignoring the person walking next to them or sitting across from them.

What does that mean for fundraisers?

I still think that people who are going to invest in your cause really really want to see you in real time and space. So those fundraisers willing to reach out beyond technology will be more successful than those who aren’t.

But here’s the deal—when you do meet up with a prospect or donor, put your phone on mute and put it out of sight. Nothing is more irritating than to feel that the phone is more important than you are. And no one should be more important than your prospect.

It’s bad enough when my clients take calls, answer emails, or simply seem to be browsing the Internet during our meetings. But, hey—they are paying me and if that’s what they want to pay me for, who am I to carp? With a cultivation call, however, you are hoping to interest and involve your prospect, so keep your focus on them.

Keeping your focus on them means knowing what you want to accomplish by this meeting. Is there something you need to tell them about? Think about how you can turn that into a dialog instead of you talking at them. They will be no more interested in a lecture than you would be.

What do you need to learn about your prospect? What do you know that you could know more about? How can you begin a conversation?

Questions, of course, are always good, especially if they are questions about the other person. But asking a question should not be interrogation. Ask an open-ended question and let your prospect respond. And then ask them to “tell me more.”

As you talk more, and learn more about your prospect while they are learning about your organization (and yes, a bit about you, too—this is a relationship you are building), I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how little you are missing your technology.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity, build stronger boards and be more effective.  Learn how she can help you at  Email her at and ask for a free 30-minute consultation.