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You never know what you’re going to get

I do telefundraising. The job can range from absolute horrific drudgery to actually pretty enjoyable. Kind of depends on a mixture of pure dumb luck and the campaign I’m working on (we have about 70 clients, some of them are of dubious quality, some of them are very well known with great transparency and proven impact. Those are my favorites to work for on and I always excel.)

This week they stuck me on a new campaign where we reach out to people who give to the charity on a monthly basis and ask if they’d like to contribute a few dollars more. New client to me, so I pulled up their profile to see their deal. It’s the biggest cancer research charity in the country, good ratio of admin/fundraising costs, they do great work and have made some impactful discoveries. Okay cool. This should be easy.

Right away I’m killing it and usually I’m an average or below average performer. Calling up all kinds of interesting people. Doctors, scientists, politicians, even a famous author. I’m genuinely connecting with people and just forget about our ‘process’ altogether (stick the script, get to the part where you ask for money as quickly as possible, don’t sympathize with people too much, other ‘rules’) and I’m getting 35-40% sales conversion when the goal is usually 20%. I keep expecting my boss to be like ‘what the hell are you doing?’ but it never comes, which is strange, because I know he listens to my calls.

It seems almost everyone I’m calling has had their lives affected by cancer. Either they or a loved one has suffered because of it. Wow, you’ve been through a lot, I say. I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s a vicious disease. You are so strong. I’m so glad your son/wife/sibling is doing better. The fact that they’re pursuing aggressive treatment is a good sign, but I know it’s scary. What does the doctor say? I’ve heard good things about that drug. 18 years of cancer treatment and now you’re in remission? Wow, that is wonderful! Oh I know, mortality rates are way down, and it’s all because of the support of people like you. You worked in oncology? Thank you so much for the amazing work that you do. You guys will be in my thoughts.

People cry. They thank me. Some of them are terminally ill or are caring for a loved one who is. I wish them well and let them go. When I get a viable prospect I’m turning an astounding amount of no’s into yes’s, without really applying pressure. Just letting them talk. Telling them I care (and to be clear, I do. Please tug on my heartstrings). Then gliding seamlessly back to asking them to add $2-$5 to their monthly contribution. I ditched the closing language, just kept it casual. Can you do that? We hoped you could… would that work for you, so we can find better treatments, or even a cure? Yes, yes, yes. I start to get dizzy. People who initially gave me a strong no to my request to double their contribution go back to ‘okay, on second thought, double it’ when I ask if they’d like to add $2-$5 more. Like multiple times this happened.

This week I talked to roughly 1000 people and got 366 sales. Absolutely unbelievable numbers. But that was far from the best part. The stories I heard, the connections I made. I cried with people. I just got to be 100% myself. My boss left me alone, I think he was probably just happy with the results and didn’t want to compromise the streak I was on. I finished the week feeling like a million bucks. That never happens.

I’m already dreading Monday and going back to that high-pressure sales process. Ah well. Good things never last. But at least for one, beautiful week, I really got to feel like I was making a difference.

What do you think?

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