Developing Donors

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Communication with your prospects is a vital part of the gift-giving process. Set goals around how often, and in what ways, you’d like to be in touch. Is once a month too much, or not enough? Would a newsletter be of interest, or would an email blast catch their attention? Communication will be even more effective when it targets people with the greatest potential for donating. Positioning your cause in ways that feel relevant and meaningful to prospects is a key step in asking for their support. Who are these people, what’s important to them, and how can your cause address their needs?

Set goals for developing and engaging donors.

You want donors to give money or other resources that will support your program. They’re a lot more likely to do that if they are invested and engaged in the organization. How can you make that happen? Think about personal goals you can set concerning communication with supporters. How frequently should you be in touch? Once a month? Maybe you want all supporters to visit your website because you have found that being able to see the work increases the size and/or likelihood of a donor’s gift. Set specific goals that fit with your organization and its abilities.

Target the right people so it isn’t hard to "develop" them.

Let’s look more deeply at the “ABC” (ability, belief, contact) approach for identifying prospects. Remember that “CBA” is the actual order of importance. You can determine what makes a prospect “right” by working an existing connection. Perhaps you have something in common: maybe you both donate to your cause already, you both know another donor, or the prospect knows someone in your organization socially or professionally.

It’s key that prospects believe in your cause—and a big part of that is being able to see how a gift might affect them, their community, or those they care about. Many people profess to care about most humanitarian causes. However, most people are more personally affected by what happens in their community, to people with whom they interact on a regular basis. Consider how you can bring your cause closer to the prospect’s personal experience.

In terms of ability, keep in mind that assets like a big house or fancy car could just as easily be indications of debt as indications of wealth. A better indicator is how much the person gives to other groups. Do they attend fundraising dinners and pay a high per-plate cost? What do you know about their discretionary spending? Are they season ticket holders to sports games or theaters? Do they participate in other expensive hobbies?

Remember the principles of value-driven donor development.

Value-driven donor development focuses on aligning what funders want with what you have to offer.  Here’s a brief review of the principles of value-driven donor development:

  • Research which individuals are aligned with your program’s expertise, see if you can find information on their past giving or areas of interest.
  • Organize your findings by making a chart with funders’ names, priorities, regions, areas of alignment, and your questions.
  • Determine how to position your services as a value-add.
  • Communicate your value to the donor (e.g., through a concept paper).

These forms can help you organize your contacts with prospective donors.

Click here to download the template Prospect Record.    Click here to download the template Master Prospect List

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