Turning Donors and Customers into your Fundraisers and Salespeople

By: Ilan Mann

March 1, 2020

Every fundraiser or salesperson knows that the easiest people to turn into donors and customers are already part of their network. A lot of the reasons why prospects are hesitant to buy or donare, or why they stop donating and buying, are mitigated by them knowing you personally. Your passion is contagious, they hear from you often, and they trust you – so they trust that their money is in good hands or that they’re getting a good product.

But the sad truth is that even the most social butterfly runs out of friends, family, and associates eventually, and if you want to build a sustainable donor or client base, you’re going to need to reach beyond your own network.

That doesn’t mean that you need to lose the power of network effects, though; it just means that your network can’t be the only one that is activated for your cause.

To illustrate what I mean, I’ll tell you a story about a chain of restaurants in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario: Oliver & Bonacini (O&B). You can check out their instagram here. I don’t work from them, and they don’t pay me, but I’m happy to give them some serious love on my blog, on my social, and in person. You’ll soon see why.

An associate of mine once asked me to meet her at one of O&B’s restaurants. We sat down to eat, and the food was good – as was the service – so I casually mentioned that I was glad she had picked the place, and that I was enjoying myself.

Unexpectedly, this led to an passionate outburst from across the table. She didn’t just like the restaurant, but loved it. The service wasn’t just good, but it was great! She had a half-dozen anecdotes to back up her claims, told me that she always has her meetings at O&B restaurants, and encouraged me to try Canoe, O&B’s fancy restaurant with a view in the heart of downtown.

I had a special occasion coming up, so I took her up on her recommendation, and made a reservation at Canoe. At the time, I didn’t think much about the hostess asking me if it was my first time eating at Canoe, what occasion I was celebrating, and whether or not we had any allergies.

When we arrived, we were informed that we would be given the best table in the house – right by the window with a breathtaking view of the city skyline – since we were celebrating a special occasion. We were escorted to our table, where a personal card with well wishes was waiting for us on the table. Finally, we were given free dessert (which I know a lot of restaurants do for birthday and anniversaries, but with the card and the view it seemed somehow totally unique and special).

I did what I always do when I receive exceptional service, or a kind gesture: I sent the restaurant a thank-you note.

Something totally unprecedented happened: The manager, Masa, mailed me a card back.

I was totally blown away by this incredible gesture of customer service. I had just spent a fairly significant amount of money at a quite expensive restaurant, and not only did I feel that I had gotten my money’s worth, but I felt immensely valued as a customer. Instead of feeling the pain of the expensive purchase, I was left with only good feelings about the restaurant, the manager, and the entire experience.

You can probably guess what happened next: I posted on my social channels, I began singing their praises to friends, and I started taking my guests – especially business associates, clients, and prospects – to O&B restaurants.

Now I am the person on the other side of the table, chatting passionately about how great this restaurant chain is. I have introduced dozens of people to their restaurants, in addition to all of the love that I have given them on social channels like this one. I am now not just a customer, but an activist customer.

Those small little gestures cost the company no more than a few dollars, and earned them a customer for life, who not only spends an inordinate amount of money at their restaurants (to the exclusion of lots of other restaurants), but is also an activist customer, introducing his entire network to the chain regularly and passionately.

I have extremely positive associations with the O&B brand, and have gone from first time customer to evangelist for their business due solely to a few small, well-placed, intentional but inexpensive gestures.

My network is now at their disposal. Your donors and customers’ networks can be at your disposal if you put in the small, personal touches that turn them into referral machines.

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