As any face-to-face fundraiser will tell you, one of the most challenging aspects of our work is starting the conversation. When we approach potential donors, we have to be engaging, funny, earnest, and intriguing, in a three-to-five second window, with a total stranger trying to make their way down a busy street.
Piece of cake! If you follow a few guidelines.
Frame Your Audience
Framing is a powerful conversational tool, based on a leap of faith: that the person you approach is open to conversation, and in our case, passionate about the cause we represent. Believing that the person in front of us will donate is often all it takes for that person to believe it, too. Pairing this with an assumptive question or statement will increase your success. Framing examples from top notch fundraisers below:
“You look like someone who cares!” –Ramana, Team Leader, DC
“Oh hey, do you know who you look like? A humanitarian!” –Marlowe, Team Leader, San Francisco
“You’re a libra, aren’t you?” Statistically, it works 8.34 percent of the time.
–Jonah, Team Leader, Boston
Nothing will shut down a potential conversation faster than a canned icebreaker. Avoid sounding rehearsed and unnatural by picking out specific details about the person. This is a quick and easy way to personalize your icebreaker, and to let your donor know you see them as an individual.
“Did you plan to coordinate your outfit with mine, or was it fate?”
–Sarah, Team Leader, DC
“I’m the official coffee inspector, I need to inspect your coffee.”
–Ammarah, Team Leader, SFO
And another great one from Ammarah: “Do you have tips on growing out a beard? I’ve been trying to grow mine, it’s not working.” Keep trying Ammarah, you'll get there!
Most importantly: have fun! If you focus on having fun with your donor, you’ll relax naturally, and the donor will feel more relaxed in response. More importantly, bringing a heartfelt or funny moment to a person grinding through their day can often be just the perk up that person needed, starting your conversation off on a high note.
“Hello, welcome to my office. The heat is broken, but we’ll fix that with some warm conversation!” –Maja, Team Leader, NYC
“I’m reeling you in, are you hooked?” –Helen, Site Representative, NYC
“Your secretary told me to meet you here.” –Mark, Site Representative, DC
Be confident, have fun, and recognize that the person is front of you is an individual. Follow these rules and you’ll be fearlessly kicking off conversations in no time!
If you want to step up your icebreaker game, start a conversation with us! You can follow our career opportunities on our careers page.