I just finished reading Trust-Based Selling, which was recommended by my friend and nonprofit marketing blogger Jocelyn Harmon. Here's how author Charles Green's reflections on trust apply to the world of nonprofit marketing.
Green lists the six toughest questions customers ask salespeople:
- Why should we choose you?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What experience have you had in doing XYZ?
- We don’t need what you’re selling right now, so why should we spend time with you?
- We’re happy with our present supplier, so why should we change?
- Why are you so much more expensive?
It occurs to me that five of these are the toughest questions donors can ask your cause. Here are those questions - and my answers, based on what I learned from this book, as well as my own experience.
Photo source: Big Stock Photo
1. Why should we choose to donate to your organization?
You can only answer this question if you’ve listened to your audiences and understand their priorities. Then you can answer this question by explaining why your organization is relevant to the values of your audience and what wonderful change will happen when they give. Do that with one very good story.
2. What makes your organization different?
With 1.8 million nonprofits in the US alone, this is a question we MUST answer. But don’t answer it by denigrating competitors. Picture a Venn diagram with an overlap between three circles: what you’re great at, what no one else does, and what your audience cares about MOST. Your answer is the intersection between the three circles.
3. What experience do you have?
The answer to this question is through great storytelling. Talk about the amazing changes you’ve made in the world - and then get a third party offering ringing endorsement. Better to get others - not just you - pointing to your track record of transformed lives.
4. We aren’t interested, why should we pay attention to you?
If I were with a major donor and they said that, I’d thank them for managing my expectations and ask them about what they do care about. It never hurts to listen to someone. Then you know if you ever have a program they might want to support.
5. Why is your overhead so high?
The most critical aspect of any organization is its people and what they make possible. Nothing wonderful happens without a creative, committed team. Don’t be afraid of talking about your people. They aren’t overhead - they are change agents. If they do great work, put them front and center in your stories of transformation. To use a theater term, they deserve center stage.