I was working with a client the other day and I was reminded once again that perception plays such a large role in fundraising. We all carry perceptions of how non-profits work. If our perception of a non-profit stops at which sector they are in then we are not doing due justice to our donors. For instance, let’s say we are fundraising for a hospital. We all know that fundraising for healthcare/hospitals is very different than say higher education. I can still have that warm fuzzy feeling for my alma mater 25 years ago but do I have that same feeling for a hospital that I had great healthcare at 25 years ago. The answer in most cases is no. That is unless you start the cultivation immediately for patients. Let’s take it a next step further and think about the hospital itself. Where is it located? What are the demographics of our patients? What is the hospital known for? All these questions come into play with perception on our part as fundraisers in order to be as strategic as possible. If your hospital is located in highly known retirement community then this can impact on what are the best approaches for working with donors. For example, building relationships with donors over the phone may not be to your advantage. One reason could be that a large percentage of donors have a hard time hearing over the phone. This can create frustration for not only the donor but for the gift officer. Another reason can be that based on age they don’t see phone calls or emails as signs of really meaningful connection.
Another perception is how our donors view the organization. If you are known for your telethons or extraordinary annual fund giving then this can be a hindrance in getting donors to transition over to being major gift donors. It is a delicate balance of ensuring you keep your notoriety in these areas but also communicating and educating donors that major gifts is essential in ensuring that the incredible work that you are doing continues. If this is the case then you need to be mindful that your ratio of calls to appointments can be a 5 to 1 ratio. It is essential that you not only educate the donors but that you are realistic when it comes to budgeting of what percent of the goal is truly coming from major gifts. I believe if this is the case for you that you don’t reduce the number of major gift officers but keep them there and if possible increase. The more you can communicate and reach out to these individuals will ensure you receive that major gift instead of another non-profit. These are times when you need to test, “color outside of the lines” and be creative in order to change the perception of your institution’s needs and goals. This can be a great time to collaborate with your marketing team in helping you achieve your goal.
*Michael Quevli is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.