A true story.
I was talking to one of our customers two weeks ago. She had been working for an organization for almost two and a half years and she said, “You know, I think over time I must have met with about 100 people. But I don’t think even 2 or 3 were really, really, really highly qualified.”
She continued saying, “Most of them love us. They adore our staff. They understand and support our mission. They wanted to talk and I wanted to listen. Our meetings were great. We cried, we laughed—but later I asked myself, ‘Were they really the type of people who could make a tremendous impact for future generations?’ Not really.”
Let’s examine this.
So, she spent a lot of time—A LOT OF TIME—with people that she adored and who adored her and her organization. But most of them were not qualified. They weren’t worthy of her time investment. And other donors, the ones with means, the ones who already gave A LOT OF THEIR MONEY to her organization, funded all of that.
Those donors (funders) make up only 12% of her database and their gifts amount to 83% of her organization’s revenue. In fact, just 4% account for almost 50% of all donor dollars. I know because I analyzed the data.
So she used their money — money that pays her salary and covers her travel expenses — to cultivate relationships and steward wonderful people who cannot really support the mission in an immensely impactful way.
I think what she did was wrong.
And I told her so!
Remember I got into this because I was giving to an organization but later felt they were mishandling my donation dollars. That experience lays at the core of everything we do here at MarketSmart.
So, for all those reading this, let me be clear: What she did was NOT an effective and efficient use of donor dollars and it wasn’t fair to the philanthropic investors who footed the bill. Everyone doesn’t deserve a VIP experience.
Sorry but fundraising is not mostly about making friends.
Of course, those supporters deserved stewardship and cultivation. All donors deserve that. But some donors deserve the VIP experience because of what they gave and what they are capable of giving.
Sound crass? I don’t think so. I think it’s common sense and smart. But most of all, it’s fair. After all, this IS a business.
Airlines have first class seats for a reason. Stadiums have boxes. And last time I checked, I didn’t get invited to the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards just because I like movies.
Sure, you want to make friends but you have to be very judicious about your time because other donors are paying your salary to make sure that you bring in BIG dollars. That’s your job. And you need to be a good steward of their dollars by making sure that you spend your time wisely, meeting with the right people.
In other words, you want to make friends but you want to make the right friends, people who can really help the cause. Never forget that your time is money.
Put a picture of your number one donor next to your phone. Then when you are about to make a call or arrange a visit, look at her. Think to yourself, would she want me spending my time (her money) on this person?
Do that first. Then make the call. Or, find another donor to visit.
Qualification is essential. Don’t ever forget it.
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