I love the show “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.” The host spends his time crossing the US and Canada searching for unique, special and the oftentimes overlooked restaurants. It might be a non-descript cafe in a shopping center or a mom and pop diner in a small town, each with its own flavor. When I think of these restaurants and how they are sometimes overlooked it reminds me of the prospects, friends and fans that are waiting just around the corner in your database.

Today, I want you to come with me on a journey off the beaten path.

For the past couple of years there has been this heightened focus on donor stewardship and retention, from blogs to webinars and everything in between; everyone is talking about it.

Why is this focus so important?

Because year after year retention rates haven’t much improved. At best, they’ve stayed flat (some would consider that an improvement!). Hopefully this renewed focus will pay off and we will finally see the tide shift. Retention rates will improve, nonprofits ‘profits’ will increase and fundraisers and staff will develop stronger, deeper relationships. And fundraisers will develop less gray hairs!

That being said, I am concerned about the lack of focus on prospects.

Let me explain..

I’m not talking about the people that don’t know your organization (the general public that your board is convinced should love you if they only knew about you). I’m referring to the people already in your database. They might have attended an event, taken a tour of your center, subscribed to your enews or they’re fans on social media, but what they are not is part of your network of loyal donors.

These folks are some of your best prospects! The trouble is that there isn’t usually a path to support. Beyond sending them the occasional newsletter, event invitation or volunteer opportunity, not much is done to harness their potential.

Just like those dives in strip shopping centers, these potential donors are often overlooked.

I would even wager that because these constituents have never given a gift, they won’t receive your annual report infographic, probably won’t get invited to a stewardship event, and will never receive a mission moment email series. Why? Because in our world, they’ve never given and that means they’re not included.

I would challenge you that in fact they have given—they’ve given their time by signing up to hear from you. The question is what are you saying to them?

Stay tuned and next month I’ll share advice on how you can create a path to giving for these very valuable constituents.


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant at Blackbaud and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and find her blogging on npENGAGE.

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