A Four-Stage Plan for Major Donor Cultivation for the Annual Fund – Part 2

Follow Up and Involve: The Second Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving

David A. Mersky imageWhenever I travel to meet clients—as I am doing on a flight to Dallas as I write this piece, I often engage with the person sitting next to me. The conversation invariably turns to the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?” I answer that our firm is the “one to call when a nonprofit organization needs to raise more money.”

More often than not, my seatmate begins to talk about a benefit or a gala as if that were the only way they knew how to raise funds. Now, I like a good party as much as the next person, but, I explain, that the real job of development—not just a euphemism for fundraising—is in “developing” and nurturing relationships through a disciplined process of follow-up and involvement that ultimately leads to a face-to-face solicitation.  This is major donor cultivation.

In fact, I say, passionately, as I warm to my subject, disciplined follow-up is the single most important step to creating lifelong donors. It is process that never ends—from the very first contact to a stewardship event long after a gift has been made.

Every follow-up call is essentially a personal contact asking for feedback. You might even view such a contact as a systematic market research call. The questions for which you are seeking answers are, “What will it take to have this prospective donor feel that she or he has made a real contribution?” and “To what extent does he or she want to become involved?”

When you engage a prospective donor through a follow-up call—as you would after they have attended a Gateway event—it enables you to create a customized plan for each prospective donor. And the sooner you can connect and ask for feedback with a follow-up call, then the sooner you can give the prospective donor what she or he wants so that he or she keeps coming back for more—and ultimately make the gift that begins or continues the process of becoming a life-long donor.

I believe in preparation. And, for a follow-up call, that means a script.

Here is a sample that you might use with a prospective donor to learn how she or he might want to become involved. And, as important as the script—knowing what you plan to say—is, even more important you ability to listen actively for cues that the prospect will provide.

After you have reached the person with who you wish to speak, identified yourself and asked permission to speak for a moment or two, you might begin by saying

Thank you for coming to our Gateway Event last Thursday. What did you think?

Be quiet and listen

Is there any way you could see yourself becoming more involved with our organization?

Be quiet and listen

(When you ask someone about becoming more involved with the organization, you should be prepared with two or three options, if they ask you what “involvement” might look like.)

Is there anyone else you would suggest we invite to another Gateway event like the one you attended?

Be quiet and listen

If you have listened well, you will have learned how to plan a “campaign of one” to engage, interest and involve this prospect so that it leads to a philanthropic investment that begins the journey toward life-long support.

NEXT MONTH: Making the “Ask”: Third Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving


Missed last month’s post? Read Gateway Events: First Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving by clicking here