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Skagit Valley Hospital

Overcoming Objections: From Obstacle to Opportunity



We all know the scenario.

You’ve designed a compelling and concise case for support that explains the needs your organization is meeting in the community, why you are the right organization to meet those needs, and the role donors play in helping you do so.

You’ve created a list of “top prospects”: those donors or prospects that are known to have an affinity with your mission and relationships with board members or other volunteers.

You’ve trained key staff and volunteers to meet with donors and prospects – either to ask for a gift or to cultivate a future one.

A phone call is made to secure an appointment. And then: KERPLUNK.

“I already know the needs – use your time to talk with others who don’t.”

“We already know what we are going to give. We’ll give at the breakfast/luncheon/gala.”

“With the economy in flux, I don’t want to take on any new causes right now.”

“Just send us some information…we’ll get back to you.”

“Have you already met with the So-and-So’s? They could do more.”

Objections to a personal meeting will make already-hesitant development volunteers even more anxious. However, armed with managed expectations and thoughtful responses, these same ambassadors can turn almost every objection into an opportunity.

Remind your partners-in-fundraising of the one of their most important roles: to listen.

  • Learn about the prospect’s needs
  • Infuse every conversation with enthusiasm
  • Sense the prospect’s level of interest
  • Tell about your organization’s plans clearly and with passion
  • Engage each prospect in “next steps”
  • Not be defensive – they represent the organization, not themselves

Viewed as an opportunity for deep listening, any of the above objections becomes an opportunity: to share new information about community needs, to let prospects know you value their support enough to personally meet with them, to deepen volunteer involvement in addition to financial support, to gather new information about a prospect’s personal circumstances or shifting priorities, or to discover access to new prospects.

  • “I’m glad to hear you’ve been thinking about your commitment, but I’d like to share some updates about the work we’re doing.  Also, I know I was surprised to learn about all the options for making a gift – and I’d like to talk with you more about these options. I really think it would be worth an hour of your time. I’d be happy to meet wherever is most convenient for you.”

  • “You are important to us. Before we talk about money, I’d really like to sit with you and get your thoughts and feedback about our new program/greater impact/recent challenges.”

  • “I’m not surprised to hear that you are generous with other organizations. I’d love the opportunity to learn more about what matters most to you, and to share with you why the work we’re doing matters to me and to the community. May I buy you a cup of coffee in the next few weeks?”

And remember, while sometimes “no” means “no,” more frequently, it means “not now,” “not that, but this,” or “not yet.” Each and every objection provides meaningful clues about how to deepen a relationship, or how to refocus attention on other prospects whose values align with your mission.


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About the Author

Barb Maduell

Barb Maduell CFRE

Senior Consultant

With pithy advice and sensible solutions, Barb guides her clients through the cycle of best fundraising practices, coaching them to greater heights.


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