What is that tool?

I often get nonprofit clients asking me, why can’t I just talk about the grant we got or the number of people we help? Why do I have to say what we’re doing around the office? What’s the point?

Look at the picture above. Last week I sent it out in my newsletter. It’s all about my trip to the beach in Oregon and how I ate too much omelette and felt sick.

People tell me they open my emails just to see what I’ve been up to.

Imagine if you could create a relationship with your nonprofit supporters where they open your email just to see what you’ve been up to!

What is the tool that helps you build to a major gifts ask?

Telling people about yourself. Real, personal stories. And learning more about your major donor’s lives too.

Here’s the research that backs this up.

In the book, Yes, by Robert Cialdini, he cites research done by Michael Morris (Moeeia, M. NMadler, J. Kurtzberg, T. And Thomphson L. (2002) Schmooze or lose: Social friction and lubrication in email negotiations. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice 6:89-100.).

In this experiment, MBA students negotiated with one another via email and face to face. Those who negotiated through email exchanged far less of the kind of personal information that typically helps people develop better rapport.

Realizing that lack of rapport created through e-negotiation could lead to poorer outcomes for all parties, researcher Don Moore and his colleagues created a simple fix. What if, before the negotiation, the negotiators engaged in some mutual self-disclosure?

In other words, they could get to know a little bit about one another’s background in addition to e-schomoozing for a few minutes on topics unrelated to the negotiation before the negotiation takes place. To test this idea, the researchers paired up students enrolled at two elite US business schools and had them negotiate a deal via email. Whereas half were simply given the instructions to negotiate, the other half were provided with a photograph of the negotiating partner, some brief biographical information about them, and instructions to spend some time gore the negotiation getting to know one another through email.

When the participants were given no additional information, 29 percent failed to make a deal. However, only 6 percent of the more personalized pairs failed to come to a deal.

Using another measure of negotiation success, the researchers also found that when the pairs involved in the experiment were able to come to a mutually agreeable negotiated solution, the joint outcome of the negotiated settlement, the sum of what each participant walked away with, was 18 percent higher in the personalized groups.

The bottom line: It’s okay to use a computer to persuade, just don’t act like one when you do.

How does this relate to your nonprofit?

Sharing a bit of biographical information about yourself, maybe a baby picture, or a bit about your alma mater, or where you grew up, allows people to trust you more, and makes them want to donate to you.

Imagine if you knew a lot about your major donor, but they also knew about you. You’d built up a rapport. And they identified with you. And they liked you. And they understood where you were coming from. And they decided that you wouldn’t ask them for this gift unless it was really important.

How do you build up this rapport with your major donor?

Look them up online. What are they interested in? Do any of their interests overlap with yours? If not, is there any one else on your board who has similar interests?

Use a simple moves management chart on the wall to make those multiple touches that are so important to major donors. Phonecall, Email, Thank you note, Little present, Coffee, Invitation to your open house or friendraiser, personal meeting at their house, and finally, the ask.

You can make these touches over time. But making them allows the donor to feel happier to see you, and helps them say yes to to you when the time comes to make the major gift ask.