How to have more valuable conversations with your supporters ​

Virtual Coffee

Listening and talking to your supporters is more important than ever. Award-winning trainer Rob Woods from Bright Spot Fundraising recently joined our colleagues at Blackbaud to record a webinar ‘How to have more valuable conversations with your supporters‘. It’s available now to watch on demand and explains the importance of having more meaningful conversations with supporters. We’ve listened (and listened again, because the webinar contains so many great pieces of practical information) and summarised some of the key takeaways for you below.

Focus on the experience

You might think that the key to being a highly successful fundraiser is to always put the ask first. Whilst it’s important to keep the end goal in mind, fundraisers should actually focus more on the experience that they’re providing for the supporter. To explain this the webinar uses the analogy of a car dealership. The salesman who focuses on booking test drives and letting the customer experience the car for themselves will always sell more than the salesman who can recite the brochure word for word.

One of the simplest ways that you can provide a positive experience for your supporters is through picking up the phone and calling them just for a chat. Rather than cold calling or ringing with the intent of asking for a donation, treat the call as though you are having virtual cup of coffee and catch up with them.

Why opt for a virtual coffee chat?

  • A chat will help to strengthen your relationship with supporters. Taking the time to reach out for a catch up, rather than a direct ask, helps your supporters to feel appreciated by your charity and lets them know that they’re more than just donorX.
  • They show the human side of your charity. Lots of people choose a cause based on their own personal experiences, so let them know that there are caring individuals behind the scenes.
  • You can still provide stats and facts on the call. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your charity’s latest updates, but you should do it as part of the conversation rather than just reeling off fact after fact. This allows your supporters to engage and respond to what you’re saying, making them feel in control of what they decide to do with the information.
  • Coffee chats help to build up fundraiser confidence. It can seem intimidating to pick up the phone, especially if your only goal is to get a donation. Shift the attitude, make the aim getting on the phone and just having as many conversations as possible. Relaxed chats are a great way for fundraisers to get to know supporters and what they respond well to.

Is it alright to call supporters during coronavirus?

You want your phone call to leave your supporters feeling good and right now, with so many of us isolated due to COVID-19, a thoughtful conversation is more important than ever. Also, if you look at it from a practical perspective people are currently more likely to be available to pick up the phone and have a longer chat. The charity Centrepoint has shared that during the pandemic their virtual coffee chats have seen nearly 1 in 3 conversations lead to a donation and the average donation value has increased by over £30 per person.

So long as you remember to be respectful, be flexible and to be kind then there’s no reason to let the current climate stop your coffee chats. You can read more examples about engaging with major donors, corporates and trusts in Rob’s eBook ‘Power through the Pandemic‘.

The 4 M’s

Experience will have taught you that even the best ideas don’t always work perfectly the first time. Once you’ve started your virtual coffees, remember to pause and evaluate how they’re working for you. If there’s room for improvement, and let’s be honest there normally is, then Bright Spot have created a 4 M’s model.

  1. Change the messenger (ie who is doing the contacting?) – you / your chief exec/ trustee / services colleague
  2. Change the medium – call/WhatsApp/live video chat
  3. Understand / speak to a different motivation – what feeling or identity to they want?
  4. Change the message

Getting started

If you feel ready to delve further into the details of how to get started then the webinar will guide you through choosing which supporters to call, your approach and examples of how other charities are successfully organising their virtual coffees. The webinar is free and available now on demand here, so you can watch it at a time that suits you best.


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Toni Gregory is a Content Marketing Specialist and B2B copywriter.