Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What do you say to identify a major donor prospect?

I am at the AFP conference in Chicago, listening to Eli Jordfald from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Carolina.

Amazingly 85% of the major donor portfolio was developed from existing donors - smaller gift donors. The majority of these were ex patients. 

In the US, major donor fundraisers talk about 'The Discovery Call'. These are calls that connect people with what the organisation does. Physical, or by phone they are not really cold calls. Yet fundraisers still dread them.

Her first angle is to look at people who are already grateful. Ex-0atients are obvious choices, but other 'alumni' should be considered.  But you have to be quick. People are not grateful forever.

Her list for prioritizing targets is remarkably similar to the Pareto major donors next week program. 
- past donors
- first time donors (everyone!)
- alumni
- board
- donors to similar causes
- screened grateful patient lists

The screening is wealth screening - similar to the service that Charlotte Grimshaw offers through Fundraising Research.  

So you have a list. So what do you do next?

Discovery calls.  Whatever you do, at some point you have to call the prospect.  And listen. These are not sales pitch calls (unless the donor is not a major donor prospect), they are question sessions.

The purpose of the first call is not to get a visit but to asses whether a visit is appropriate. Be prudent - is it worth it? Visits are expensive.  And in that first call, be upfront about title.  Also, she says not to worry about avoiding discussing diagnosis. Ie ask them about their diagnosis and treatment.

If you do determine that the prospect is not a major gifts prospect, it is fine to ask during the call. Unless they give you a reason not to ask - ie the person says they are broke, just lost their house, gone bankrupt etc.

So, you get to speak to them, what do you say?

- Opening
- Assess interest
- Validate capacity
- Determine next steps

Examples of openers.... Introduce self, thank for previous gifts and ask something like 'I understand that you were recently at my hospital and I would be interested to hear about your experience there'

Examples of questions assessing interest.... Tell me about your personal experience
How do you see your involvement
Would you be interested in learning more about our research and clinical programs?
What areas interest you most in the field of cancer?

Basically, ask why they believe in your cause.

Examples of validating capacity questions....
- did you work while in treatment?
- now that treatment is over, do you plan to travel?
- do you have favorite organisations you like to support? .... Tell me about your involvement.

Examples of questions to determine next steps...
- I'm planning a trip to (your town) next week, would it be convenient to meet in person?
- I would like to invite you to a unique tour of the new cancer hospital
- would you like to tour ... Something else
For lower level people
- would you like to be a member of the .(donor club)

Now and then you will here people say you are in my will - make sure it is documented and they have the wording right.  

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