Last week, I wrote asked, and answered, What Makes a Successful Fundraising Campaign? In the list of essential tasks for volunteers and staff, I included, “follow up after each appointment.” I didn’t want this to get lost because follow up from volunteers will, literally, make or break a campaign. We can teach someone how to solicit and explain the steps and importance of following up. But, it seems no amount of training, tracking, or even business-level stalking (not to be confused with real stalking) will help a solicitor follow up unless they make it a priority.
What does it mean to “follow up after each appointment?”
- Understand that following up is an essential part of a solicitation, not the after-thought. If you have a meeting or event and wait a month before connecting with the prospects, you will lose the momentum, and, often, part of the gift. They may have asked for time to think but that does not mean unlimited time.
- Calendar a follow up in the same way you would calendar solicitations. Even the most well-meaning volunteers get busy with the rest of their lives.
- Let me repeat that. Put follow up in your calendar before you leave the solicitation. Know how, when, and the goal of your follow up, and on what specific date it will occur. Ideally, that date will be no more than a week away.
- Consider how you will follow up. Is it:
- a phone call to complete the solicitation?
- finding someone else to call to answer additional questions (and ensuring they follow up)?
- a personal thank you note to the donor?
- a note to a staff person that sets off a chain of organizational acknowledgements?
- an additional meeting with a board or staff member? If so, how and when will you schedule that?
- a snail mail package you can send that will answer questions (and if so, how and when will you follow up the package)?
- more than one of the above?
- If you are not sure how to follow up, ask before you leave the meeting. The solicitation is about the donor, the follow up should be too.
- If they are not ready to make a decision, consider what they need. Do they want more information, to speak with a spouse, or simply time to think about it? Acknowledge what they are asking for and offer to follow up with them the following week – don’t leave it open ended.
- Respecting the system. Fundraising is about a long term relationship between a prospect/donor and a nonprofit. Your job may be this one ask, but you hope this will be one of many gifts. If you consider that you are one to keep this relationship intact, you will understand why following up is so important.
This is all to say that following up is not optional. Every person who is invited to join the development committee should be expected to understand that and do what they say they will do. Without that commitment, it’s probably not worth starting a new fundraising campaign.