In Messaging Part I we focused on the messaging with donors. It is just as important to ensure we are creating the right message within the organization. It really boils down to making sure we are all on the same page and that hopefully the retention of staff will increase. It is highly unlikely anyone will stay at the same organization for 25 – 50 years. Longevity of the development staff is a great asset. They provide a knowledge history of not only how the organization operates but their constituents. I also believe that longevity also provides a sense of security to the donors. So let’s now take a look at seven factors we should be considering.
- Open Up the Field and Stop “My Donors” – Primarily operating from the premise that they are my donors only puts up walls within the department. We have to remember that the donors first and foremost belong to the non-profit. They are not giving because they are your donors they are giving because they believe in the mission and vision of the organization. We as fundraisers help build and strengthen the relationship of the donor to the organization. Primary focus should not be will I still get credit for the gift but rather what is the best scenario for the donor. Sharing and tag teaming with members of the team help build and solidify the relationship with the donor. Coming from a donor’s point of view, if I am feeling that my best needs and desires are being met then I am more likely to keep coming back.
- Tear Down the Silos – By incorporating item #1 we are already breaking down the silos within the organization. Silos or isolation from other members of the development team is not being strategic. Fundraising goals can no longer be achieved through one annual fund mailing and a “bake sale”. These extraordinary goals we set on ourselves call only be achieved by operating as a whole. Breaking down the silo effect needs to happen throughout the organization and not just within the development team. Keep open communication throughout and involve all key players. Let’s focus on a higher education institution for my example. You are in the midst of cultivation with Mr. Bigbucks and you are going to ask him for a $1M dollar gift in three weeks. You just received communication that the coach was chatting with Mr. Bigbucks after a big game just asked him for $10K for a certain project and he accepted. I like to refer to this as rogue fundraising. Where someone outside of the development team leaps in and makes an ask without permission or authority. By not keeping the lines of communication open with all concerned you have lost a major gift.
- Cultivation and Stewardship — Since we are still recovering from the recession I think it is important to acknowledge that the usual cultivation timeline may have increased. Don’t base goals on how things have always operated. We are in still in difficult times and need to really focus on being creative and thoughtful. Donors and prospects are commodities and we need to mindful of this more than ever. If we don’t take the time to cultivate and actively steward our donors then I guarantee you another organization will be happy to do that and take that donor away from you. Start asking yourself the question, how can we actively steward our donors differently? How can we create vehicles that are not cost prohibitive and engage the donor in ways they have not been before?
- Measuring Affinity Along With Dollars Raised – We all know it is important to be tracking and meeting our fundraising goal. I think it is also important to be tracking and measuring the affinity of our prospects. Why not create an affinity goal as well. Create measurements within your organization that can show the difference and growth of a prospect’s affinity. Use this across the board especially with the annual fund prospects. Increasing their affinity only brings them closer to being major and planned giving donors. By also tracking the affinity of your prospects can help you determine the appropriate fundraising goals in the future.
- Trip Reports and Tracking – Be sure to document all communication no matter how insignificant you may feel it is. One of the worst things that can happen is for a fundraiser to leave your organization with all the knowledge of the prospects only in their head. This leaves the new fundraiser in a lurch and having to start asking questions all over again to get a picture of who the prospect is. This may also lead your donors to believe that you are not very organized. If I am a donor and Tom has asked me all these questions and now that Tom has left I am being asked the same questions all over again by Susan then my assumption is that the organization is not very organized and may even be slightly annoying. Ultimately you want to have a three-dimensional view of your prospects and this can only be achieved if you track all communication and movements with your donors.
- Have I Used all my Resources at Hand? – Essentially I am asking you to always consider, have you done all that you could do. Has your prospect been fully researched prior to the ask? Have you used all fee and non-fee based resources that are currently available to the staff? This can include your colleagues. Have you asked them if they know anything about your prospect? Don’t make assumptions that the development assistant may not have some insight or knowledge on your prospect. Especially if you have members of the staff who have been around a long time. If need be, create a check list to be sure you have covered all your bases.
- Thank You – As I stated in Messaging Part I it is important to thank your donor many times and be sincere. The same goes for your colleagues. Success of a major gift, planned gift or annual fund gift did not happen alone. Acknowledge the individuals who were involved. If need be track all those who helped make the gift a reality. Celebrate success at all levels and be creative. I remember a major gift officer acknowledging me for the research that I completed that helped determine a multi-million dollar ask and successful gift. It is one of my highlights and I know encouraged me even more in my endeavor to provide exemplary research on our prospects.