You’ve heard it from a multitude of sources: fundraising success depends on contact with donors. Picking up the phone, scheduling the appointment, then having a meaningful visit all matter.
But what about after the contact has been made? What information did we learn that matters with regard to moving the relationship forward, either in the near term or over coming years? Are fundraisers fully focused on ensuring that contact reports are being written and entered into databases?
More important, will the information contained in those reports prove useful to our successors or a new executive director or university dean who is reading those reports prior to a first-time meeting with a prospect?
What are a few key elements of a visit with a prospect that a fundraiser focus on in a contact report? Here are my favorite five:
1. Any triggering events taking place in the life of a donor that might impact a gifting decision. For example, a 67 year-old long-time annual giving donor has decided to retire within the next year and sell her closely-held company.
2. Changes in family circumstances that might impact the percentage of income that the donor can direct to philanthropy, e.g., are they now helping to pay nursing home fees for an elderly parent or for the college education of a grandchild?
3. A change in the donor’s capacity to give, such as receiving an inheritance, selling a home and moving into a continuing care retirement community, or losing a job.
4. Information that a donor shares about plans to make a gift to your nonprofit in the future, e.g., I’ve placed you in my will, but don’t want to discuss the details at this time.
5. Learning what causes or issues the donor is passionate about. It may take several or more visits to build a trusting enough relationship with a donor for them to reveal their true passions, e.g., supporting research into schizophrenia because their mother lived with that disease.
There are many more such items. What is critical is that fundraisers sensitively, but clearly provide enough information in a report that person reading it two, three, or more years from now will understand the information contained therein.
If you have not written many call reports consider having a trusted person on your fundraising team or in your nonprofit read and offer feedback about a few reports. Ask whether the reader would find what you have written to be informative and instructive, particularly if you were not available to answer questions about the report. You may even find yourself benefiting from reviewing your own report if you are only able to be in touch with certain donors once or twice a year.
So remember contacts matter, but so do those contact reports!
What other items do you record following a donor visit? Let me know in the comments below!