5 Tips to Being Persistent in Outreach to Major Donors

Far too many gift officers and other fundraisers give up too easily when they don’t get a positive response from their donor prospects. Persistence pays dividends. This is true in the sales world and in the fundraising world. In fact, it’s true in life.

In just about any scenario where someone wants something, it’s the people who persist in continuing to try, push open doors, get noticed, get called back, land a meeting, get interviews, or keep trying in whatever the context who eventually succeed.

Why would fundraising be any different? There are several roadblocks to getting responses from major donor prospects. And, even after getting an initial response, that’s no guarantee of a second one that will extend and deepen the relationship. You have to win the right to become part of their life.

That takes persistence.

Why It’s Hard to Break Through to New Major Donor Prospects

Here are a few reasons why it takes persistent outreach to engage new prospects – even if the person is a good prospect and is interested in giving. If that’s not the case, then reaching out is probably a waste of time. You want to reach out only to good prospects who want to hear from you.

And by the way, this is what MarketSmart’s Engagement Fundraising system delivers – outreach-ready prospects who have already been qualified using automation.

They’re Busy

Even people who want to hear from you are still busy. They may be juggling work with family with other life challenges. And before you’ve succeeded in reaching out to them, you’re not in their life. Adding a new person to your life – even someone you like – takes some amount of time and sacrifice.

Wrong Channel

Not everyone communicates using the same methods. You may be trying to reach them by phone, but they prefer other methods. It’s quite possible they have missed some of your outreach attempts altogether. We’ll talk about this more in a bit.

Unfamiliar with the Process or Concept

For new donor prospects, the very idea of having a personal connection and relationship with someone from a nonprofit is probably very new. They may not know that major gifts fundraising is a ‘thing.’ They may think you talk to lots of donors of all types, and that they are just one of thousands of people on your call list.

So, they may not perceive the importance or uniqueness of your outreach. It takes persistence to break through that.

Lack of Trust

Even for people who want to hear from you, they still don’t know you, and trust will take some time to establish itself. At first, you may seem to them like just another telemarketer. It is only with persistence that you will demonstrate how unique an opportunity you represent.

You Gave Up Too Soon

Fundraising consultant Kevin Fitzpatrick tells a story from his time as a gift officer where he had to contact a particular couple 16 times over a 12-month period just to get his first visit with them. Eventually, they gave over $100,000.

As he puts it:

“I frequently encounter people who think that if they have contacted someone 2-4 times without a response they should take them off the list. Are you kidding me? We’re not selling a $50 product, we’re trying to start relationships with people that could potentially give millions of dollars over the course of their life.”

With that in mind, let’s look at five tips to stay persistent with your outreach to major donors.

How to Sustain Persistent Outreach

A common myth that often gets communicated to gift officers is that to raise more money, you just need to “have more meetings.” Right. And to become a millionaire, you just need to make more money. How does this actually happen? How do you get those meetings?

Here are five tips for being more persistent in your outreach.

1. Use Multiple Channels for Outreach

As mentioned earlier, different people prefer different communication channels. Some prefer email. Others hate email. Some text. Others despise texting or don’t know how to do it.

You should be using multiple channels for outreach until and if you reach a point where the prospect tells you their preferred method of communication. Use email, phone, text, and at least one social media channel. For many major donors, LinkedIn will be your best social channel (see why), [link to blog 62] but for others it could be Facebook, Twitter (or …. X, as it’s now known), or something else.

One big advantage of the multi-channel approach is that, to the recipient, it doesn’t feel like they’re being pestered as much.

For example, suppose in a given month, you call a prospect four times, once a week, but never get through. For the donor, they’re going to have four voicemails, and may start to feel like you’re pressuring them.

But, in the same month, what if you called twice, emailed once, texted once, and sent them an InMail message on LinkedIn? That would be five outreach attempts, but because they have happened on different channels, it doesn’t feel the same to the prospect.

2. Schedule Your Outreach Attempts

Next, put your outreach attempts on your calendar. Plan when to call, including the time of day, and also which channel you will use.

So, on Monday the 8th, you could plan a phone call and be prepared to leave a voicemail if they don’t answer. On Wednesday the 17th the following week, you might plan to send an email. The following week, perhaps a text. And then maybe another call the last week of the month. Again – this is just an example.

The point is, plan it out – time of day and communication channel. If you’re doing this with all the donors and prospects on your caseload, no one gets forgotten or neglected. You are doing your part to engage them.

3. Reference Prior Conversations

In your communications, reference any prior conversations you’ve had. Whatever they talked about last time you talked or traded emails or messages, mention something from that interaction in your next attempt.

This shows them you are listening and that what they say matters to you. It makes your communication feel purposeful, and not random like you’re just calling hundreds of people per day with a phone script.

Plus, when they get reminded of prior interactions, they will also remember that this conversation mattered to them. This was important enough last time, and now we can pick up where we left off. You’re not starting from zero again.

What if it’s the first interaction you’ve had with this prospect and there is no prior communication?

That’s one big advantage of using automation to identify and qualify your major donors before making outreach. With MarketSmart’s system, any donor you’re reaching out to has already interacted with your organization through our fundraising automation software.

And you can go into the dashboard and see what each prospect has said and asked for. You can then use that in your outreach efforts!

With this asset in hand, you are never starting from zero. The prospect already feels known by your organization, and you are simply entering a conversation that was already underway. See how our system works.

4. Communicate Gratitude

This one is simple, but be sure to thank them for any prior interactions or conversation.

They don’t have to talk to you. They don’t have to respond. So, thank them for any prior responses they have given. Show them you appreciate it. People like being thanked sincerely when what you’re thanking them for really is significant. And their time matters.

And again, even if it’s your first conversation with this prospect, you can still thank them if you’re using fundraising automation that they have already engaged with before talking to you.

5. Have the Right Mindset

Last, remember your primary goal. The goal of making persistent outreach isn’t to get money for your organization. That’s the secondary goal. That’s the long-term endgame.

But right now, your goal is to win the relationship. You want to get in their life and become a trusted ally, a person they appreciate hearing from and like talking to. The money will follow.

This matters because, if money is your number one priority, your sincerity in engaging with them will be suspicious. They will probably feel pressured, since you want something from them. For now, you just want to get to know them and understand their situation.

Have the right mindset as you persist in outreach, so your efforts are received well.

Being persistent in your outreach is much easier when you have fundraising automation engaging with donors and prospects for months, if not years, before you ever talk to them.

See how MarketSmart’s system works, and why we can offer a 10:1 ROI Guarantee.

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