Our conversation with Janice Meighan about the Empowerment Dialogue approach

In our work, we’ve noticed that while there are a lot of resources out there for non-profit organizations, it isn’t always easy to find out who is doing what.

In the rest of the pond series, we feature people and companies who have solutions for small shop non-profits.

In our first installment, we connected with Janice Meighan who, alongside Ken Ramsay, leads the Empowerment Dialogue approach. This includes a book and training methodology for better fundraising conversations.

Image credit: Janice Meighan

Tell us about your area of expertise:

We empower others who will go on to empower those around them. Specifically, this is in the non-profit and charitable sector. We empower fundraisers at different stages in their career, from the seasoned professional who would like a few new tips or those brand new to the industry. We also work with board members and other volunteers to be in real, authentic dialogue with donors and prospects.

What problem do you solve for non-profit organizations? What kinds of worries and concerns do your smallest clients bring to you?

One of the greatest fears and hidden secrets in fundraising is that fundraisers don’t often ask for gifts, especially the legacy gift.

Everyone, regardless of the size of charity they work for, is worried and concerned around actually having conversations with donors and prospects. This is especially true where there is a high probability of touching on any of three big societal taboos: 1) death; 2) money/assets/wills and 3) religion, spirituality and/or deeply held values.

We are helping non-profits empower their fundraisers with the confidence to engage with donors and prospects wherever they are at. We help fundraisers ask for gifts, anything from a current gift to the legacy gift.

By giving front-line fundraisers the confidence, the actual language to use, and the support to ask, we hope that three outcomes will take place:

  1. Fundraisers will find they actually CAN ask for gifts, enjoy having conversations with their supporters, and enjoy their jobs.
  2. Donors and prospects that support these causes will also feel empowered, heard, respected, and enjoy talking to fundraisers rather than being feeling defensive and bamboozled into making donations.
  3. More money will be raised for worthy causes.

We also help organizations by training their board members, committee members and executives to engage with donors and prospects where they meet them, for example, at events.

Often, board members set fundraising goals but they don’t participate in helping achieve those goals. This even happens for the smallest of clients. In these situations, the board members are not asking for gifts, but they can using various Empowerment Dialogue techniques, including the mission dialogue, to make them well-equipped ambassadors for the non-profits they serve.

What are the results that you are the most proud to have achieved with your clients?

We’ve heard back from several people that after our training, our coaching, and giving them the language to use for their real-life fundraising situations, they have truly felt empowered. Many have let us know that not only have they ASKED for gits, but they also ENJOYED doing so.

Another thing that we hear is that our clients have used the Empowerment Dialogue approach outside of work, like with family and friends, and they are amazed how it has truly helped their relationships. Some have even said that this training and approach has changed their lives! For those that practice and put in the hard work, they see results and this is very satisfying.

What are three things that people should know about working with you?

Hmm. Well, I’d say the first thing is that people can’t hide if they are to work with us. They will be challenged, but also very much supported. We always want people to feel safe with us and we will empower them fully along the way.

Second, the Empowerment Dialogue approach really does work. But you have to be willing to put in the work. If people come to the Empowerment Dialogue approach with an open mind and a willingness to push past their fears (mostly about being rejected), then it will work for them. We hear this from clients in all sizes of shops and with all kinds of responsibilities. And our approach can be beneficial in all areas, not just when asking for the gift, but also in talking with donors or prospects at events or at other times.

The third thing people should know is that this approach really isn’t for everyone. If someone really doesn’t want to ask for gifts, is too fearful, or doesn’t want to engage with donors and prospects in meaningful dialogues, then this isn’t for him or her.

Some people will discover that they either don’t want to put in the work, make time to practice or be vulnerable by trying new things, and that’s okay. This is about the individual person’s career, not ours. Some are suited for different careers than they are in right now. Some people take the training or coaching because they are mandated by someone else and come into the training with pre-formed blocks to doing the work.

These blocks include thoughts like:

  • I’m too busy for this,
  • Asking for gifts is not my job,
  • I can’t talk to anyone about their will or assets/money,
  • I can’t handle talking about death, what if the donor brings it up?

We know these thoughts arise, and we work believe our approach moves past these difficult situations. But not everyone is willing to do the work to learn a way through. Whether the individual realizes it or not, this is telling him/her something about their job or chosen career path.

Anything else?

I know from experience how challenging it can be as the only fundraiser. There is just so much to do in a day and not enough hours. My suggestion for using the Empowerment Dialogue approach is to access it in small bite sizes. Not try to do or learn everything all at once.

Where can people find out more about you?

People can find a copy of the book, Empowerment Dialogue: A New Approach to Fundraising, by my partner, Ken Ramsay here or here The book contains the theory behind this approach and the dialogues themselves. People can also visit our website and check out our blog for the latest thoughts on this approach. We are also on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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