You’ve got leads (identified major donor prospects) but are they ‘outreach-ready’?

People and vendors in our sector talk a lot about identifying donors, but getting them ready to meet with you is a different story.

The problem is that most donors simply aren’t ready to talk to you yet.

This post was inspired by a horrible meeting.

Last week, I met with the Vice President of University Relations at one of the biggest schools in the country. During our chat, I told her I believed that most major gifts fundraising operational leaders tell their gift officers to move their relationships with potential donors forward too quickly. They are supplied with with ‘identified’ major and planned gift prospect leads and essentially told, ‘Go get ’em!”

Instead, I recommended a warming up period. I explained that these folks need to be cultivated (warmed-up) before outreach because, while they might trust your institution or organization, their trust in an individual gift officer will be almost entirely absent at first. Trust in an individual fundraiser must be earned and built over time.

I continued saying, “Just because a gift officer works for a particular cause doesn’t mean that they’ve earned the right to engage with a prospect more deeply. And earning that right takes time and is based on what the prospect feels the gift officer can do for them. It’s all about what value the prospect perceives the gift officer can provide to them.”

My statements were met with a grimace and the following response: “That’s not what we train fundraisers to do. We train them to reach out to prospects as soon as they’re identified.”

“This meeting isn’t gonna’ go well,” I thought to myself silently.

Then she said, “You know… I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”

“Hmm. Just because you’ve been doing things for decades doesn’t mean you’re doing them correctly,” I mused (again silently).

I wondered if she had ever donated a significant amount of money because, in my experience, as a donor, when fundraisers move too fast they make supporters very uncomfortable. No one likes receiving cold calls (and no one enjoys making them).

You can avoid discomfort on both sides if you segment your data as follows:

  • Identified supporters – These folks have been found to meet certain (mostly quantitative) requirements according to basic engagement and giving metrics (or wealth screening and predictive modeling)
  • Preliminarily qualified supporters – If you don’t have budget for wealth screening or other forms of prospect identification, you can easily skip that expense and pre-qualify your major and planned giving prospects/donors using a donor survey (of course, I built the only donor survey platform that really gets the job done for people like you). Using that tool you’ll capture each donor’s interests, passions and a lot more. Then you can use that information in the next stage below.
  • Preliminarily qualified supporters in cultivation – Once you have pre-qualified your leads and collected great information about them, their interests and their desires, next you’ll need to prioritize them for outreach (unless you have the staff and free time to call all of your pre-qualified leads). But even if you have that kind of free time, we have found that interrupting them with cold calls (as the Vice President in my story demands of her ‘well-trained’ staff) is challenging. Gaining a warm referral from a solid mutual connection works better. But if you don’t have one of those, you might want to let most of them self-navigate the early stages of the relationship by leveraging technology to deliver highly relevant, personalized email ‘touches’ that never ask for money but, instead, provide value and deliver meaningful content. This builds trust. Technology also helps you manage the very tedious and time-consuming cultivation and prioritization process. It’s not easy for a Gift Officer to do it right. Staying on top of cultivation efforts for dozens, hundreds or thousands of pre-qualified major gift or legacy supporters is just too complex. Artificial intelligence can do it for you at very low cost.
  • Preliminarily qualified ‘outreach-ready’ supporters – As their trust and desire grow over time thanks to your high-value, highly-personalized, meaningful and highly relevant cultivation, they’ll eventually be ready for you to reach out to them. Also, at this stage they’ll be exponentially more likely to accept your outreach, meet with you and give. Your call won’t be cold. It will be warm or even hot. Some supporters will even thank you for your attentiveness and concern. (NOTE: You’ll know when that time arrives if you monitor their digital body language using our platform.)

Voila! Highly-qualified outreach-ready leads.

In the private sector they are called ‘sales-ready leads‘. Of course, fundraisers are not salespeople. So for our sector I like to call them ‘outreach-ready leads’. These are preliminarily qualified ‘outreach-ready’ leads that have been nurtured and cultivated properly over time so, when you reach out to them, they don’t feel like they’re being attacked. In other words, they’re ‘ready’ to accept your outreach.

Plus, in most cases they even welcome it and thank you for finally contacting them.

If you don’t have preliminarily qualified, outreach-ready major and legacy giving leads, maybe it’s time for you to talk to us. It’s easy to do so. Just go here.

Related Posts:

>>How to structure and staff your planned gift shop for the 21st century
>>The Ultimate How-To Guide for Conducting Nonprofit Donor Surveys

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Get smarter with the SmartIdeas blog

Subscribe to our blog today and get actionable fundraising ideas delivered straight to your inbox!