Never Prejudge a Prospect

One of the lessons I learned early on in my career was not to prejudge a prospect.  Honestly, it really is true that the individuals you think can’t possibly be interested in your organisation are and the others who are a ‘natural match’ to your organisation may have no interest at all.

So what do we learn from this?  Not to prejudge who is going to be your most generous philanthropist.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t use a sensible system for ranking individual prospects.  You must put in hard work locating potential philanthropists and ranking their warmth, history, donations, connection to your organisation and most importantly their wealth potential.  But all of these factors do not on their own make the best prospects.

You have to begin to engage them in a logical order – that is the warmest, most engaged and wealthiest first.  But the key point here is do not prejudge who will respond.  You truly don’t know until you begin.

Sometimes you hesitate to phone them because you have prejudged why they won’t be interested.  Be disciplined and don’t do this.  Attack your list of prospects with equal vigour and enthusiasm for each one.

A second point is we often wait too long to make the call with excuses such as – ‘They could be at lunch; they could be in a meeting; it’s too early; it’s too late;  I’ll wait until they have received the newsletter.  There are endless reasons to procrastinate.

The truth is there is never a ‘best time to call’ because what works for one person probably won’t work for the next.  Also we waste too much time prejudging and doubting ourselves and our ability to engage them.  My best advice is don’t think too much as all that ‘prejudging time’ could be spent having great conversations with new prospects.

Of course every prospect needs a prepared script to give you fluency.  Have in front of you brief notes on your opening statements usually couched in thanks for their past or many gifts, brief history and a reason for calling but have these easily available and keep trying people at different times of day.  You might have an ongoing list of 15 – 20 people you are trying to get through to.  Do not prejudge and choose who to contact first just keep trying them all in equal measure.

Often the most difficult part of a Major Gifts Executive’s job is trying to qualify prospects.   I would say try and make light of it, enjoy it, don’t prejudge, be surprised!

Do your homework and don’t specify times when ‘you will now phone all your key prospects’.  Have your lists with you wherever you are – keep trying them when you are travelling on the train, before or after a meeting, first thing in the morning, just before you go home, in the evening, any time you have a gap.

Don’t over think it, definitely don’t waste time prejudging…..and as a final point – always have the next touch point secured before you finish the call.  Just keep going, keep enthusiastic and you will succeed!

What is your experience?…..

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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