Silence is Golden

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 | 0 comments

Fundraisers are typically warm outgoing people, and they are trained to be social, to converse, to network, to engage…but there is a moment (or more) when silence is not only appropriate for a fundraiser, but literally “golden”.

Think back to your last personal ask. Right after your polished presentation, made while sitting across a table or desk from your potential donor, or in a phone conversation, did you take a moment to be still and SILENT? Chances are you didn’t.

All too often we ramble on with unnecessary information, additional data, even quasi-apologies,  as if chatter will dull or ease the reality of what we just did – which was ask for support. But isn’t that our job? And doesn’t the person you’re meeting with know that? Yes, and yes.

Silence after a personal in-person request for support is critical. It allows the donor to think. This is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. After all, you’re sitting there because you have a relationship with the person sitting across from you, and he or she has an interest (maybe a passion, maybe even an investment) in your organization’s work. It’s important to respect their right to ponder what you’ve just asked for.

I’ve had donors look up after a minute and restate my original idea (ask) in a way that more greatly benefits the organization I’m representing than I had hoped for. Or they restructure it to meet their financial and philosophical position. Donors may have additional questions, or an alternate method of offering their support – today matching grants are a popular suggestion with philanthropists. Give your donors a chance to think through what you’ve just asked them to do before moving the conversation past your greatest opportunity to gain their support, or worse yet, before closing your portfolio, shaking hands and leaving with a “I’ll give you call about what we talked about.”

Stop. Take a breath. Give them time to think. Take time to listen.

Today’s post from Katya shares great information on this topic from Andy Robinson’s new book, How to Raise $500 to $5000 From Almost Anyone, and then offers her own commentary.

“Novice solicitors tend to stammer out of the number and then immediately backpedal before the prospect has a chance to consider the request.  If you’re not careful, your mouth will open against your will, and all sorts of inappropriate comments will come out, like ‘I know that’s a lot, you really don’t have to give that much.’  Or ‘You don’t have to decide right now.’ … The prospect has a lot to think about.  Give him or her the gift of silence to figure it out.  Ask for the gift and wait with your mouth shut.”

Be sure to check out Katya’s blog, she’s an amazing resource for nonprofit professionals! And rethink your donor presentations and resist the urge to talk through the entire meeting; add some moments of silence. I think it will pay off for your organization!

And just for fun, check out this You Tube video: Silence is Golden, Tremeloes.



  1. Do You Believe You Are An Effective Listener? | The Resource Tank - [...] isn’t the first T|R|T post about the value of listening. Earlier this year I posted Silence is Golden, and…

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