Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity.
Today’s question comes from a nonprofit employee who wants advice on whether or not you have to ask for donor feedback in person.
Dear Charity Clairity,
I recently read your advice about how to tactfully ask for donor feedback without making promises, and I appreciate what you had to say. I certainly understand the importance of asking donors for their feedback.
That said, I don’t have a lot of time for calls and visits. Do you have to ask for feedback in person?
— No Time to Engage One to One
Dear No Time to Engage One to One,
I’m going to remind you of some advice I gave recently about the importance of getting out from behind your computer when it comes to donor cultivation. You really do want to prioritize face-to-face (or at least ear-to-voice) visits with major donor prospects. There’s no substitute for this type of engagement if you want to inspire a donor’s most passionate and generous gift.
For example, I was recently asked for a major gift after a year of being cultivated via email. The emails were very personal and very well done. Often the donor engagement officer sent me articles they knew I’d have an interest in. I also received articles in the mail. So far, so good.
I told them they were doing a great job with the cultivation and that they now had my permission to make their ask. I expected a call or even an email setting up a visit. Instead, I got an email appeal—it was for half the amount I was prepared to give!
I then told this person I’d be willing to coach them for free because I don’t want them leaving money on the table with other donors.
Okay—back to your question.
You can lead up to a face-to-face visit or phone or video call by asking for feedback via email or mail.
For example, you can do the following:
- Email a downloadable survey. Ask the prospective donor to complete it and then let them know you’ll be in touch to set up a time to chat about their responses and answer any questions they may have.
- As soon as the survey is returned (electronically or via mail), send an immediate thank you with a suggestion of a few dates and times for a visit. If you can, make it easy for them to choose a convenient time via an online scheduling software or tool.
- In the next day or two, call to make sure they received your invitation. If you reach them, set a date. If you don’t, leave a message reiterating the dates and adding you’re completely open to other times that are most convenient for them. Leave your phone number and email address on the voicemail.
- If they don’t respond within a week, send them a reminder email. People are busy! Sometimes they can’t get back to you right away. You don’t want to put the pressure on them to remember your request, which means you need to be the one reaching out.
- If they still don’t respond, follow up with a personal note thanking them again for completing the survey. Tell them you appreciate all the many ways they support you. Ideally, this will open the door to a conversation about finally setting up that meeting.
Thanks for this question! I hope you’ll add some more in-person donor engagement conversations to your work plan.
To your success,
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