DickersonBakker Blog

Making the Case: Driving Lessons for Your Major Gift Officers

When presenting a case to a donor, it is both easy and common to approach it from our own perspective.  Our personal passions and interests tend to infuse our work.  In many ways this is a good thing.  The energy we bring to the table — whether in person or in writing — can be infectious to donors.

However, leaning on our own perspective can also get out of balance.  Borrowing from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the fundraiser who has a strong “thinking” profile will tend to focus heavily on facts and figures to make their case, leaving softer emotional aspects on the wayside.  Likewise, the fundraiser with a strong “feeling” profile can lean heavily on emotional stories that capture the heat, but leave legitimate questions about the effectiveness and impact unanswered.

The truth is both “thinking” and “feeling” aspects are necessary in a good case.  The analogy of a brake pedal and gas pedal can be helpful in better understanding this balance.

Gas Pedal – In a car, you won’t move forward without stepping on the gas.  You need to send fuel to the engine to proceed.  A donor’s fuel is their emotions.  When you think of it, there is no logical reason to give your money away.  You might need it tomorrow.  You don’t know if you will become bankrupt, be diagnosed with cancer, or have a natural disaster that destroys your home (God forbid).  While saving money on taxes is often cited as a reason to give, financially most are better off just paying the taxes.  Thus we need something to move a donor off emotional center.  That is where stories and passion that touch the heart come in.  Your ability to tell stories and present pictures that capture the heart, help the donor to decide to give and specifically help in giving to your organization.

Brake Pedal – Despite how effective you are at touching the heart, your progress will be limited if you don’t help the donor release the brake in their head.  The head serves as a counterbalance to our heart.  The head is frequently the skeptic that analyzes the situation and develops a host of objections.  Without addressing objections related to the quality of your program, outcomes achieved, efficiency, and other impact measures, the donor can be excited about your mission yet stuck in park.

When you make your case, do you step on the gas without releasing the brake?  Conversely, is your case so detailed that you neglect to step on the gas?  Great cases help the donor both release the brake with facts and figures that address objections AND step on the gas with stories that capture the heart.  Next time you are writing a donor letter, a donor proposal, or meeting with a donor, take a moment to step back, look at the balance, and make adjustments as necessary.  This simple exercise will accelerate your fundraising effectiveness.

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