Congratulations!  Now what do you do?

First, let’s consider what constitutes engagement.  When working with organizations that rely heavily on direct mail programs, I often get asked what engagement means.  There are dozens of “right” answers to this, but I define engagement as a multi-leveled strategy designed to foster personal relationships.  “Multi-leveled” because engagement can be both “high touch” and “low touch”.  And, “personal” because the goal is to “reach out and touch” your prospect in some direct fashion.   If you have these strategies in place, congratulations are, indeed, in order:  You are engaged!

However, if these are not in place, the engagement celebration may need to be put on hold while you get a few things in order.  With year-end approaching, advice abounds as to how to maximize the time left before December 31.  All too often, though, the hallmark of year-end efforts is “process”.  In other words, the question raised is usually, “What is our “process” for ensuring that all LYBUNTS are solicited by year end?”  I would like to suggest that your organization shift the focus from process to people—and consider how your “engagement” can enhance year-end giving.

Next step:  How do you plan the perfect wedding… uh, I mean, long lasting donor relationship (the nonprofit equivalent of a marriage).  That’s easy.  Simply make sure the engagement planning is effective and comprehensive.   Determine not only who you want to engage, but how you can make this happen.

Start with a list of various “high” and “low” touch engagement opportunities.  Identify 3 to 5 things you could do between now and the end of the year.  Have a list of “top” prospects from a recent screening?  Commit to engaging at least 25 of them. Consider these options:

1. Holiday cheer:  Take advantage of the season and invite new prospects our for some holiday cheer.  It’s a great time to learn more about their interest in your organization.

2.  Share some news:  Ann Sitrick, executive Director of the Beloit Health System Foundation, Beloit, WI, started a great program a few years ago.  She identified modest donors with higher potential and invited them to their afternoon “Pie with the President” get togethers.  They serve tasty treats while their CEO shares current initiatives.  It’s been a great way to engage prospects who previously were simply “hiding out” in their annual fund.

3. Extend a volunteer invitation:  How can a prospect could turn their interest in your organization info a meaningful experience?  A Humane Society might invite a donor to walk a dog twice a month. A school or university can ask for help with recruitment or career events.  Be proactive!  Don’t wait for a prospect to self identify through giving.  Whatever works for your organization, invite prospects personally to get involved.

For more insights on ways to enhance engagement at your organization—and ensure that you are being proactive rather than reactive with your strategies–check out Rules of Engagement: The Chicken or the Egg (http://www.npengage.com/fundraising/rules-engagement-the-chicken-the-egg/).  And, as always, I would love to hear your stories or insights.  Comment on this blog or email me at laura.worcester@blackbaud.com.  Here’s to a great engagement!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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