As you may know, there’s an overused expression in fundraising which goes:
Ask for money and you’ll get advice and ask for advice and you’ll get money.
I don’t love the expression, but its underlying message is important.
It reminds us that it’s important to build relationships with donors before they invest, and one great way to do that is by asking for their advice.
However, you may not know what type of advice to ask your donors. And what if they give you bad advice?
What Type of Advice Questions Should You Ask Donors?
So let’s start with the first question, what type of advice to ask your donors. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
- How is our organization perceived in the community? What could we do to improve our reputation?
- If you could make any changes, how would you improve our organization?
- What do you think of our strategic plan or campaign plan? What do you like most and least about it?
There are many other types of advice you could ask for, but let’s get on to the more challenging subject of what to do when a donor gives you bad advice.
What Do You Say When You Get Bad Advice?
Let’s say you ask for marketing suggestions, and your donor tells you to send a rocket to the moon with the name of your organization painted on the side.
It’s probably not anything you’re going to do in the next year or two, but you want to be respectful. After all, this is one of your biggest donors, and they think it’s a great idea.
Acknowledge that you heard their idea.
First, acknowledge that you heard their idea, by saying something like, “That’s a very interesting idea,” (because it is)!
Stall for time.
Second, stall for time. Let them know that you need to take the idea back to your organization and discuss it with other board and staff members. Let them know that you will follow up with them.
Finally, follow up. Get back to your donor and let them know that while you appreciate their idea, unfortunately, it’s not in the budget or the strategic plan this year (or for the next three to five years) to send a rocket to the moon.
Let them know what you will be doing with regard to marketing, and ask them if they would be interested in helping in that area.
Hopefully your donor will understand. Of course, some are more understanding than others, and it may take some time and additional follow up to get them back in the fold.
However, more often than not, donors provide fantastic ideas and advice, and I would not let fear of bad advice stop you from engaging donors in this way.