Blind Dating and Cultivating Donors: I Just Had an Aha Moment

Published on August 9, 2021

Brian Saber

President of Asking Matters
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Blind dating and cultivating donors. I’ve been doing both for as long as I can remember.

In the old days, I’d read an ad in Chicago’s The Reader, send a note with a headshot to a P.O. Box, and hope for a call or a return note with photo, after which we’d meet. Now, I swipe right, we text a bit, and then have a video chat or meet over coffee or food.

It was only last night, as yet another guy ended the conversation by saying he’d had a really great time that I had an “aha” moment. It came because, yet again, I had a mediocre time and could tell pretty early on I should have swiped left.

Why? Because for an hour (and sometimes over dinner for 2+ hours — painful!) the guy asked virtually no questions. I asked about his work, his interests, and his family. I shared things about myself I thought might be interesting in the context of our conversation, and things I thought would help this guy understand me better. I made witty (I think!) comments. And he asked me virtually nothing! Crazy, right?

I certainly got off our video chat uninspired and uninterested. Next!

The “Aha” Moment

After the chat I had the “aha” moment. . . dating is just like cultivating donors.

We say in fundraising the goal is to get your donor to do more than 50% of the talking. Sixty-percent or better is great. Why?

First of all, if we talk too much we create a wall of words where the donor might not be listening any longer or can’t possibly retain what we tell them. Who knows in that context whether they will remember what was most important?

Second, people remember more of what they say in a conversation than what they hear. The more they talk, the more they’ll remember.

Third, and most important, people often don’t remember what was said in a conversation, but they always remember how they felt about it. They will feel so much better if we engage them and they do the talking. If we ask them questions and show an interest in getting to know them. If they’re active participants in the conversation.

So, fundraisers – be curious and ask those questions. Get your donors talking. You don’t want them leaving conversations with you thinking… next!

Guys, the same thing goes for you. If you want a second date show an interest in me on the first one by asking me questions. Otherwise… next!


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