We’ve all been there…made the phone call, secured the visit, prepared the strategy and information to share, and waited in the lobby to be called into the office for that first visit with a potential donor… So many questions racing through your head…How do you break the ice? How do you make your donor feel comfortable and get them to open- up? When do you make the ask? How do you leave an impression?
Recently, I decided to try my hand at Uber driving! For the past month, when I have a couple of hours, I’ll hop in my car, turn on my app, and help people get to where they are going. I’ve found the experience exhilarating! I’ve also come to recognize the striking parallels between engaging riders and engaging donors!
Here are five takeaways from my adventures in Uber driving that will help you have consistently effective donor visits:
1. Like your donors, Uber riders share a common interest. They are part of trendy, convenient digital community of ride-sharers just as donors are connected to your organization (alumni, volunteers, board members, supporters, etc.). Acknowledging the riders’ importance to this community is a great way to break the ice. Making your donor feel special as a part of your community is an important initial step in successful engagement.
2. Trust + expertise = engagement. As an Uber driver, I am “on the inside” of this community. There is a basic level of trust the minute someone enters my car. I will often share stories and answer questions about my driving experience. By doing so, it helps to cement that trust and make passengers feel comfortable during the ride. So often, this leads to great conversation! Use this same implicit trust and expertise as a representative of your institution to ease your donors into productive conversations.
3. Use information available to shape your approach. Although limited, I know a few things about every rider when they enter my car. I know their first name, how they’ve been rated by other drivers, where they are going, and what their demeanor is when they first get in. The approach I will take is ultimately shaped in the first minute of engagement. For example, I will take a different approach to someone who greets me heartily, wearing a sports jersey going to a local pub to watch their team play than someone who quietly enters my vehicle to go to the doctor’s office. As a development officer, you have so much more information about your donor before you even start your visit…use it wisely to create your winning approach.
4. Every rider is unique, just like every donor. Whether Uber driving or donor-visiting, know that every single engagement is different. Be a good listener, take your cues from your donor, shape your conversation around their interests, and be prepared to adjust on the fly. Some of my riders want to enjoy a nice quiet ride to their destination, some want to share their life story. Respect and admire the qualities that make your donor special and they will return this respect in-tow!
5. Make the ask! What do I want to accomplish with every ride? Besides getting my customers safely to their destination (insert development metaphor here!), I want every passenger to give me a five-star rating and perhaps, leave me a tip. Before a customer leaves my vehicle, I will present them with the following; “It was great meeting you! I hope you’ll take a moment to rate this ride with 5 stars and consider leaving me a tip, I donate half of all of the tips I receive to the Galisano Children’s Hospital NICU.” As the old adage goes, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for."
As advancement professionals, we all must strive to hone our craft wherever the opportunity presents itself. Uber may not be your ultimate answer, but, if you’re inclined, the experience can be rewarding and, heck, it’s paid training!