Book Review: Compelling Conversations For Fundraisers

Compelling Conversations For Fundraisers:  Talk Your Way To Success With Donors And Funders, by Janet Levine and Laurie A. Selik

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Chimayo Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Being somewhat familiar with the Compelling Conversations series [1], I was a bit surprised to see this book, but the more I read it the less surprised I was that one of the publishers of the book thought I would appreciate it.  A considerable amount of my own time is spent in writing and in engaging in difficult conversations, and other aspects of my time deal with the non-profit sector and the needs for institutions in that sector to ask for time and money from others in order to keep their operations going.  While I myself have not (yet) been involved in grantwriting efforts or being the sort of person whose donating is large enough to draw the attention of those looking for increased financial commitments, I am not unfamiliar with the world in which nonprofits operate and so this book was definitely an intriguing one and a thoughtful one that I think would be highly beneficial to anyone who works on development for a non-profit and wants to be better prepared on how to handle the delicate task of asking people for their money.

This book of a bit more than 100 pages is divided into eight chapters along with some additional materials.  After an introduction the authors examine the need of nonprofits in engaging others based on their values and case statements (1) rather than relying on jargon that puts people to sleep.  The authors then spend a bit of time providing some tips and advice on how to acquire new donors (2) as well as handle renewing donors (3).  After this the authors progress in helping the reader gain some advice on how to re-engage with donors who have given in the past but who have not, and who tend to be ignored (4) as well as handling the task of upgrading people in the pyramid of donors by asking for more than they are already giving (5).  Then the conversation turns to one about planned gifts, endowments, and bequests, where nonprofits gain a great deal of their money (6), and the integrated ask that helps donors avoid feeling continually nickled and dimed by the organizations they support (7).  After this the authors discuss conversations with foundations that one would partner with or get grants from (8) before closing with a discussion of additional resources for nonprofits and some information about the writers and publishers.

In reading this book I was particularly struck by the way that compelling conversations often take place in an atmosphere of awkwardness.  When we have a particular subject in mind that we want to talk about with someone, it adds a level of stress and anxiety to that interaction.  Because we want or hope for more, we are often highly critical of our performance in these conversations where we are not when the stakes are lower.  The authors do a good job at honestly recognizing the awkwardness of asking people for money while also helping the reader realize that the most compelling conversations are not ones that happen all at once but are rather conversations that are built out of existing relationships where there is an honest and open realization that the conversations involved are not social ones but have a specific purpose in mind to deal with awkward questions about money and resources.  In encouraging honesty as well as finesse in communications, the authors do an excellent job here in making it easier for those involved in donor development for nonprofits limit attrition while making it easier for them to accomplish the goals of their organizations.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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