The Hunter and the Woodman

A hunter was searching in the forest for the tracks of a lion. He spotted a forester felling a tree and asked him if he had seen a lion’s footprint or knew where the den was. The forester replied that if he followed him he would show him the lion himself. The hunter turned pale and with his teeth chattering said ‘Oh I’m not looking for the lion, only looking for his tracks’.

So often as major donor fundraisers we want to hunt the big prize but when it comes down to it we can be fearful of making the actual approach because we are afraid of blowing it and saying the wrong thing. This fear can paralyse our activity. It is common to have fear. Usually, it is in the form of a lack of preparation. This could include not having your elevator pitch ready to go, not having the latest statistics for the project or not having recent heart-warming stories at your finger tips.

Sometimes fear can be a good thing and helps to release adrenalin, however, you don’t want the other extreme either of coming across arrogant and cocky. Arrogance can be avoided by directing your pride in your organisation towards others. For example speaking highly about a head of programme, a beneficiary and how their life has been changed or even the CEO.

Preparation is the answer to supreme confidence. Also repetition can help, saying ideas over and over again until you own them. Then you are free to talk naturally.

Two other helpful hints to overcome fear are – knowing your selling points inside out and being ready to listen to your donor. The moment the donor asks a question be ready to immediately go off plan and fully answer their question, also adding ‘Did that answer your question?’ to make sure that clear communication actually happened. Your donor’s interest is your main focus. Give your donor plenty of opportunity to speak as they will mostly remember what they said to you NOT what you said to them.

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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