Engagement calling, not cold calling!
About 1 1/2 years ago I introduced the concept of Engagement Calling as the best way to land appointments with preliminarily qualified, outreach-ready major gift donor prospects (much better than cold calling). But back then I failed to provide metrics for managing the process. So, today, I’ll lay them out for you.
But before we dive into that, it’s important to remember that most supporters will not be ready to make a gift right away. And many might not even be ready to engage with you on a personal, 1-to-1 basis. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to be empathetic to them. You’ve got to pay attention to where they reside along the consideration continuum.
You’ve got to remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Trust is the cornerstone in the foundation of all relationships. Without trust, nothing happens! So, the goal is to first and foremost build trust.
If you have not yet read the article about Engagement Calling, I recommend you click that link above and check it out.
Now, having said that, I’ll remind you that it is essential for you or your outbound Engagement Caller to first consider where each supporter resides in THEIR consideration process. As you consider where they are, you’ll probably find that you’ll categorize folks something like this:
- Identified supporters– Perhaps they have donated in the past or signed up for communications. Or maybe they volunteer or follow your organization’s social media posts. However, they are usually not yet leads and probably not ready for outreach.
- Preliminarily qualified supporters– These folks have leaned in by taking your MarketSmart survey and have answered questions in a way that leads you to believe they are likely to want to build a deeper relationship with a representative of the organization. That’s because they told you they are passionate about the mission and they have potential to make impactful gifts with their assets (not cash!). Plus they said they’d like to give and expressed where they are in the consideration process. Of course MarketSmart’s system delivers a score based on our algorithm (which has 10+ years of data supporting its conclusions). So, they have given you great clues about their passion, interest, affinity and capacity via verbatims provided in surveys (Note: We have found that kind of self-provided information to be exponentially more reliable than wealth screening data).
- Preliminarily qualified supporters in cultivation– This category includes the supporters that were preliminarily qualified (see above) AND also opted-in for a deeper relationship, meaning they opted-in for cultivation. Or they stated that they’d be likely to talk to you. Both essentially grant permission for you to engage them more deeply. Again, the best way to capture this information is through the use of a donor survey but you can use our other lead generation offers too. It’s just that the survey works the best and generates the most leads.
- Preliminarily qualified ‘outreach-ready’ leads– These supporters have met the criteria outlined above AND have engaged recently. The timing is right for them. Never forget that recency of engagement among preliminarily qualified supporters is the best indicator of likelihood that they will accept your outreach. Why? Because your cause is top-of-mind! Plus, you know why they care. Therefore, you know they have a powerful emotional reason to give—a motivation! They said they’d be somewhat likely or likely to talk to a gift officer. And, they said they’d consider giving assets, which signals capacity. After all, only people with wealth show interest in giving away assets. Call ’em right away and your likelihood of having a meaningful conversation will increase.
NOTE: You can, indeed, make outreach to all of these categories. However, your success rate will increase exponentially if you start at the bottom of this list (capacity) and work your way up from there. At MarketSmart, we eschew most wealth screening data and, instead, pay close attention to what prospects say in surveys. Those who say they are interested in giving assets, already give assets, are likely to give assets, or are somewhat likely to give assets…are signaling that they have capacity. This works because having assets (according to wealth screening data) and expressing willingness to give away assets are two completely different things.
And now the calling metrics.
Having covered those categories, let’s look at the metrics you should measure as your outbound Lead Outreach Associates begin their outbound Engagement Calling activities:
- # of outbound non-solicitous emails sent including links to value-oriented content – First, it’s essential that you always aim for quality over quantity in your messages. They must be highly personalized and relevant. Plus, they should be heartfelt and inquisitive. You should find yourself thinking about your prospect’s needs and spending a lot of time crafting your messages to ensure that they resonate. After counting the number you send (and remember, less is more), you’re looking to calculate conversion rates. For instance, how many amazing, high quality, personal emails have you sent that got a response? The answer to that calculation is your email-to-response conversion rate. If that conversion rate is low, then you need to increase the quality of your email subject lines and content offers. The must convey value in line with the recipient’s interests and life story connection to your cause. You should refer to their survey responses in your MarketSmart dashboard to pick out the right information so you can make sure your emails echo their desires and interests! The key to success here involves doing your research before you hit SEND. Think carefully about them and their needs. Show ’em that you listened and that you truly care about and are interested in THEM. Lastly, never, ever, ever ask about money or giving in these early relationship-building communications. Trust hasn’t been built yet. That’s why those kinds of questions don’t work. Alternatively, if you always, always, always, ask about THEM, including their story, passions and interests, you’ll be likely to increase your email-to-response conversion rates. Here’s what you should track.
- # of opens
- # of clicks (If you cannot track your individual email clicks you should consider employing an application such as Yesware)
- # of replies
Note that you might consider mixing digital communications channels. For instance, you might try email, then a text message (SMS), and finally a message through LinkedIn Messenger (or use any other social media messaging tool).
- # of appointments set between a possible donor and a gift officer This is the ultimate outcome. It may be last on the list. But it’s a Lead Outreach Associate’s most important metric. It doesn’t matter how many emails are sent and calls are made if the efforts fail to inspire meaningful conversations that result in high quality meetings.
Help from sales operations
Of course fundraising is not selling. But it IS very similar.
So you might want to check out this article on the metrics used to measure outbound sales development representatives (SDRs). You’ll see that there are more similarities than differences between sales outreach and fundraising outreach. Again, trust is key and the goal is a set appointment.
Here’s a graphic from the article you might find useful.
Don’t forget to collect gift officer feedback AFTER an initial ‘meeting’ (call or visit)
Of course setting a meeting for relationship-building that will lead to a solicitation and a gift is important. But it’s essential that each meeting is worthwhile — an efficient use of the gift officer’s time. Remember, time is money and gift officer salaries tend to be high. So, in order to be good stewards of donor dollars, fundraising staff should spend their time wisely, with the most highly qualified supporters who are passionate, wealthy and interested in learning how they can support the mission.
The best way to ensure that the meetings arranged by a Lead Outreach Associate are highly qualified is to have the gift officers provide feedback after their calls/visits. In other words, after a gift officer spends time with the supporter, they should score the event to further qualify the supporter or to disqualify them.
Remember, it’s ok to throw a fish back in the water now and again. This feedback will help the Lead Outreach Associate connect the dots between their initial conversations and the final results, eventually helping them fine-tune their outreach efforts and conversation skills.
MarketSmart recommends scoring on a scale of 1 to 10 as follows:
- Level of passion for the mission (Highly passionate to no passion at all)
- Capacity to support the cause with impactful gifts (very wealthy, moderately wealthy, average, or not able to make an impact)
- Consideration stage (ready to take action now, later or never)
I hope that helps all of you out there making calls each day.
Make no mistake, if you don’t measure what you’re doing, you’ll never be able to improve upon your efforts.