4 Things you must Do when Talking with a Critic of your Nonprofit

Have you ever been awkward trying to network with people while you’re tabling, or after a nonprofit speaking gig, or just networking in general for your nonprofit?

Have you ever been interrupted during a speaking gig and not known how to deal with the interruption?

We don’t like to talk about it, but this is part of speaking and being out there for your cause.

When I worked in domestic violence, which you would think everyone would be against, there was usually ONE person in the audience saying “What about the men?” when we said we were a women and children only shelter. These days it might be someone asking “What about trans people?”

These are both valid questions. It requires us to think about where the person is coming from, and realize that they don’t know that 80% of police calls after dark are domestic violence calls, and that 99% of the calls we receive are from women.

Of course there is a greater stigma for men coming forward about domestic violence, and that could account for some of the disparity, but that’s not a problem that our nonprofit was set up to deal with.

So somehow we had to get all of this across without alienating the other person. How do you do that? How can you turn a potentially negative situation around into a positive one?

Here are 4 mindset shifts to make, before you even open your mouth, then 4 things to do when talking with a critic.

Recently I was reading a book called The Language of Trust. In this book, the authors suggest that you ask about wants, not about when people will donate.

So for example, if you’re talking with a supporter, volunteer, or potential player, you might be tempted to say, “Are you coming to our gala?” or “Are you concerned about safety for women in our community?” and then lead the conversation to donating to you.

Instead, ask, “What are your biggest concerns?” or “What is one of the biggest problems you see in our community right now?”

  1. First, think, “Who is this person?”

Here’s the deal. Is this person someone who gives to a lot of charities? Have they sat on a lot of boards? Are they stretched thin? Do they already not trust you because they think you’re going to ask them for money? If so, how can you win their trust?

2. Then ask yourself, “What is their truth?”

Maybe they’re skeptical of your nonprofit’s viability long term, or the quality of your leadership, or how many people you REALLY help. Maybe they are still focusing on overhead. So, how can you bridge this gap?

3. Next think, “How do I engage?”

Ask open ended questions, not closed questions that they will see as leading questions. Instead of asking, “Are you looking to make a donation today?” you might ask instead:

“What are the metrics you find the most important in evaluating charities?”

Now that you’ve thought out about how to have a dialogue instead of a monologue with them, first,

1. Acknowledge and validate them.

How? Let’s say they say, “I am not happy with how many nonprofit scandals i hear about these days. Who can you trust?” You listen, looking them in the eye (if culturally appropriate) and nod to show that you’re listening. Turn towards them, not away from them, and keep your cellphone out of your hand. These subtle gestures show that you really acknowledge them, and validate them.

2. Next, you rephrase what they say and then verify it with them.

“It sounds like you see a lot of nonprofits that you are not sure if you can trust because of all the scandals. Is that right?”

3. Agree in the first person.

“Say, I agree, it’s really terrible how some nonprofits don’t have a lot of good oversight.”

4. Add new, unbiased information.

“Sometimes I look at nonprofits in the Book of Lists and look at which nonprofits have the most growth. There’s even a list of best places to work in our city. Have you ever looked at that?”

These tips are from The Language of Trust by Michael Maslansky. I’d highly recommend that you check this book out before going out to your next speaking engagement for your nonprofit.

Never done a speaking engagement before? Here’s an interview with Kenita on how she made her nonprofit grow through speaking engagements.

Tune in tomorrow when we’ll talk about words to use in your writing, not just in speaking, to gain the trust of your readers.

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