Susan Black, CFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she helped us determine where ideal donors congregate, create effective donor communication strategies and collect key data for donor cultivation.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: Well, Susan, my watch just struck 1:00. Do you want to go ahead and get started for real?

Susan: Sounds good.

Steven: Okay. Let’s do it then. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s webinar, “Creating Constituencies: A Prospecting Road Trip.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Before we begin, I want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation, so if you have to leave early or you perhaps want to watch the content a little later on again, you’ll be able to do that. Just look for an email from me later on this afternoon. I’ll send out the recording as well as the slides once again just in case you didn’t get them earlier this morning.

As you’re listening today, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments right there on the webinar screen. I’ll see those questions and comments, so will Susan, our guest, and we’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy at all. Susan also has a fun poll coming up early in her presentation. So we’d love for you to chat in your answer to that as well. So don’t be shy, don’t feel like you need to sit on your hands.

And just in case this is your first webinar with us, welcome. We do do these webinars just about every Thursday. We love to put on educational webinars and lots of education resources here at Bloomerang.

In addition to that, our main service is some donor management software. So if you’re in the market for that or if you’re perhaps going to be looking at switching some time down the road, I’d love for you to check us out. You can learn more about Bloomerang right on our website. You can even get a video tour of the product. So we’d love for you to do that and keep the conversation going later on.

So I want to go ahead and introduce today’s guest. She is Susan Black, CFRE. Hey, Susan. How’s it going?

Susan: Very well. Thanks, Steven.

Steven: It’s good to have you here. We had you on last year. It was a great presentation. So we’ve had this on the calendar for a little while. I’m really excited for you to be here to give us another great presentation. Before you start, I just want to brag on you a little bit.

Just in case you folks don’t know Susan, she’s definitely someone you should know. She’s got 21 years of fundraising nonprofit leadership and public relations and volunteer management experience. She’s the principal of her own consultancy. It’s Allene Professional Fundraising. Susan has her bachelor and master’s degree in political science from Mary Baldwin College and the University of Richmond.

She’s had a long career as a frontline fundraiser. She’s not just a consultant. She’s actually done the things that she’s going to talk about here today. She’s worked as a prospect researcher. She was the Development Director at Easter Seals of Central Ohio as well as the Development Director at Epilepsy Foundation of Central Ohio.

She’s also been the Vice President for Advancement for five years over at St. Vincent Family Centers in Columbus, Ohio and she founded her own consultancy back in 2008 and published a really great book last year in 2014 called, “Help! They Want Me to Fundraise!” It’s sitting here on my bookshelf right above me, really great book. You should check it out. I’m sure she’s going to talk about that a little bit more later on.

So Susan, I’m going to pipe down. I’m going to hand things over to you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started, my friend?

Susan: Great. Thank you so much, Steven. Welcome everyone. I’m greeting you today from sunny Central Ohio. As you can see, we’re here for “Creating Constituencies: A Prospecting Road Trip.”

I want you to know that you will have a chance to ask questions and you can also tweet your questions or comments as they go along today. You can find me @SusanBlackCRFE on Twitter. I’d also love it if you’d tweet about what you’re learning today. You can use my Twitter handle and also the two hashtags you see here as well as the #Bloomerang hashtag.

To get us started, I’d like to see who is on the line today. So here’s my question. I’d like to know if we have anyone with us today who works for either a university or hospital. So if you do, if you work for a university or hospital, please answer yes. If you don’t work for a university or hospital, you can answer no. It’s just a simple yes or no. We want our hospital and university folks to say yes and our other folks to say no.

Okay. We’ve got lots coming in, lots of no’s, a handful of yes’s so far. I’m going to claim it for the no’s. That’s actually who I thought would be on the line today.

So the reason that I wanted to know where you were is because organizations like universities and hospitals have built in constituencies of grateful patients and alumni. In other words, they have an automatic base of support. All other organizations, no matter what they are have to create the constituency.

In other words, they have to build a base of support by convincing the general public of the importance of their programs and services.

In fact, a lot of the time we really feel like this. It says, in case you can’t read it, “So we’re agreed. Whoever picks the short straw has to cold call potential donors and try to raise enough money for some food.” I know those of us who spend time fundraising in human services would often feel like this. I noticed we had somebody from a hospice on the line and I know that you probably feel like this quite often.

Okay. I talk a lot in my book about the basic building blocks of successful fundraising. I encourage you, if you’re just starting out with fundraising, be sure to take a look. Let’s face it. It’s hard to fundraise if you don’t have any donors. Building that donor base requires that you begin by looking at what I like to call your inner circle. If you think of it as a set of concentric circles with those closest to your organization in the middle and those with the least connection to your organization on the outside, you’ll see that you do have a constituency that you can begin to build on.

Today, we’re mostly going to focus on those outer rings. Those people who should care, but who possibly don’t know about you. So again, this slide really represents those concentric circles starting with staff, which is your inner-most circle, all the way out to people who should care about what you do or who are impacted by it. But I promised you a road trip. So let’s get started. Just in case you’re wondering, that is the Grand Canyon, where I got to go last spring with my family.

Okay. Today, we’re going to consider five key steps to creating constituencies. I’ve given the steps names in keeping with our road trip theme. The first is know before you go, which means that we want to determine your ideal donor, who is going to be the most likely audience for your message.

The second is become a tourist, which means discover where your donors congregate. Where are these ideal donors located? Where do they live, work and play? The third is learn the language, which means develop tailored messages and communication techniques. What do these donors want to hear that will speak to their self-interest in getting involved?

The fourth is record your journey. Collect data through collection processes. How can we collect the vital information we need to start building relationships with these donors? And the last return often. It means build relationships through a cultivation plan. When can we build relationships to make strangers into friends? So that was a just a quick overview of what we’re going to do today.

To help us understand the concepts I’ve introduced, I’m going to use a case study throughout the class today to illustrate these points. You will want to think about your own organization as we go along today and how these concepts apply to you. Specifically you need to think about your inner circle, what you know about them, how you are currently communicating with them, and how you are currently collecting data on them.

So I want you to just be thinking about that as we go along, keeping your own organization in mind, possibly comparing it to this case study as we go along. Let me show you what I mean by introducing our case study organization.

So Netcare Access is a local mental health organization here in Central Ohio. As you can see, it has a $14 million budget and has been around for quite some time, 41 years. It has a somewhat long mission statement, in my opinion, but that’s for another training for another day. But over here you can see that they have their main program. They are the safety net. They’re the 24/7, 365 mental and substance abuse, crisis intervention, stabilization, suicide prevention assessment organization for Central Ohio. So they have a very important role that they play here in Central Ohio.

They do some fundraising activities already. They have an annual golf outing. They’ve been doing that forever in a year. Annual dinner, been doing that for a little while. They have some program, a Givathon. Kroger is a local grocery store, but they do community rewards and they have some mailings.

So these are just some very basic data about this organization. You might want to stop and think about this for yourself as well, having that mission statement in front of you, maybe who your primary constituency is, your main program and so forth. So just keep this kind of organization in mind as we go along.

Okay. So let’s get started. Our first step is know before you go. Before we go on a trip, we have to decide where we’re going and focus our planning on those places that are right for our vacation needs. The same is true when creating constituencies.

Now, for organizations that don’t have natural constituencies or for those that just need to create new prospects, which is really everybody, right, we fundraisers either focus on the people who know our organization from the past or our board members’ contacts. That’s where we usually start. After all, it is less expensive to renew an existing donor than to find a new one. But we also need to drill down those people in the community who truly care about our work and have the willingness and inclination to give.

So we need to start by creating an ideal donor profile to clarify the target of our solicitation effort. We need to ask who is interested in our work or should be interested in our work? Who is impacted by what we do? Who cares about the outcome of our work? Once we’ve decided that, we need to ask what other attributes can you identify group characters of these folks? Finally, what is their primary motivation for becoming involved in our organization? What do they get out of it?

So you can see those three main points here on the slide. Who is interested in our work? You really do have to get creative. One way to do this might be to have a brainstorming session with your development committee or your whole board or maybe just start with your key staff who should be interested with what’s going on with your organization. How are they connected with one another? Really get creative on that one.

Then we’ve got to think about what are their attributes in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic status, connection to the cause or other attributes that you can think of. This is tricky. You may find that you really don’t know the answer to these questions. But try to come up with as much information as you can for this ideal donor.

And then finally, maybe most importantly, what is their primary motivation for becoming involved with your organization? What are they going to be getting out of it? What’s their paycheck for getting involved? Is it giving back or maybe they’ve benefitted from your services? What are some ways that they would be motivated to get involved?

So although we don’t have a lot of time to spend on this today, I’d like for you to consider these three main questions for your organization on a very surface level for now. And then I suggest you do these exercises or do this particular exercise with your key staff, board members or development committee and see if you can create an ideal donor profile.

Okay. Let’s take a look again at our case study, at Netcare Access. So who is interested in their work? Well, they have quite a lot of people here. Key leaders are interested. Key leaders are elected representatives in the community, other major organization leadership, people who really need to make sure that there’s a safety net out there for folks in Central Ohio. If there’s a safety net, than they aren’t going to get what’s going to trickle down to everybody else. So they want to make sure that they are interested.

Funders that want to ensure your safety net is there, individuals with mental illness, family members and so forth. I’m not going to read all of this to you, but the basic idea here is they have a pretty broad group of folks that are interested in the work.

So what are their attributes? Well, their age is varied. That would be obvious. Gender, all genders, obviously. Socioeconomic status, now, here’s something interesting for them. Mental illness affects everyone, but those with severe mental illness that are their frequent callers are usually poor. Those two things go hand in hand. So we need to remember that if we want to reach out to the folks we’re serving, we may be talking about folks who are living in poverty.

They also have an additional attribute. They may be afraid to speak up due to stigma. So there is a stumbling block that they have around this attribute. But fortunately, younger people are less stigmatized about the problem. So they have a real opportunity to connect with young people who may want to get involved with this particular cause.

So what’s their primary motivation? To make sure people know about the organization so that help is available when it’s needed. So that’s just a brief overview of how Netcare Access can take a look and determine some characteristics of their ideal donors.

Okay. So now we have some idea of who we want to target as prospects. Now we have to determine where these donors are likely to be found. Consider all the attributes you’ve identified and your donors can be translated into real life. In other words, what life choices do your ideal donors make that could be tracked to determine where they can be found?

For instance, can they be found attending certain local events or participating in local service groups, maybe attending local houses of worship or working in certain sectors of the economy, perhaps living in certain neighborhoods? What other ideas do you have? I want you to go ahead today because I know your time is tight and you’re learning a lot right now and these ideas may just fly right out of your head later. So go ahead and make a couple of notes now about where you think your ideal donors can be found.

Okay. Let’s move on and we’ll take a look again at our case study. You can continue to think about where some of these folks might be found.

So in the case of Netcare Access, this wasn’t an easy task because we need to segment our donors first. You might notice that you need to do that as well. When we talked about our ideal donor with this case study, we found that it was quite an eclectic group. We need to break those folks down. So let’s take a look first at the wealthy donors.

Wealthy donors who care about mental illness, they can probably be found attending local cultural events and giving to other organizations. So maybe I’m going to want to make sure I can get the list of donors from other organizations, especially ones who are maybe the larger cultural organizations in town, things of that nature.

Then we have this other group, family members and people who have been affected by mental illness. We may already have their information. They may have self-selected to receive communication from us. So we need to go collect that information. Maybe that’s found on the program side of your organization. You’re going to have to go look into a different kind of a database to get that kind of information. So that might apply to your organization as well.

Then finally we have people who have received services. We have their names and information, but it’s confidential. So what do we do about that? Maybe you’re going to have to sit down and have a conversation around the policies about using information like that for solicitation purposes. You frankly may not be able to use it at all.

All right. So step three, step three is learn the language. So now you’ve determined where your ideal donors live, work and play. But how are you going to turn them into donors? The answer is with targeted communication strategies and opportunities to give. We must accomplish two key tasks on this step of learning the language. The first is reach them with the message of your work, and second, provide opportunities to give.

What do I mean by this? First you must get the message about the good work you were doing in the community to these prospective donors. This requires effective communication strategies specifically designed for these prospects. So although we may have only one mission, we may have different ways of appealing to donors.

So again, if you think about those stratifications that we made a moment ago, those different groupings, we’re going to have a different communication strategy for each of those groups and a different message that we want to give to them. Once that message has been received, a call to action, otherwise known as the opportunity to give must be provided as well. We want to tailor the opportunity to give with the message. Let’s think again about the last slide that we just saw and go back to that for just a moment.

So with our wealthy donors, we’re going to tailor messages that are specific to them about the things that they care about and we’re going to make sure that we ask them in a way they’re comfortable with and ask them to get involved in ways that make them comfortable. Some of the folks who have been affected by mental illnesses or family members or perhaps could have even received services over time, we’re going to need to engage them in a different way.

We’re going to need to make sure they’re receiving messages that are tailored to them but also that they have an ask that is appropriate for them, that allows them to utilize their particular strength and their particular connections to the community.

Okay. So I also want to make sure finally on step three that the message and the opportunity are both made clear and work in tandem. We want to make sure those two things are always together, that they’re working well together and they’re not at odds. What do I mean by that? Let me give an example.

So sometimes in some organizations, the development part of the organization, the fundraising part, is separate from your marketing or communications part. Now, personally, I don’t think that’s the way it ought to work, but that happens a lot.

So we want to make sure that we’re on the same page, that the marketing folks know what you want to do and vice versa and that you can utilize the communications strategies that the marketing department is using to get your messages across, helping them understand it’s important to tailor messages and to create opportunities to give that are appropriate for each segment. That’s an example of how we need to make sure the message and the opportunity are both made clear and that they work in tandem.

Okay. Now it’s time to think about your organization again. So what is your message? Based on where your prospects congregate, what communication strategies will you use to share your message? And then what opportunities can you create for giving?

So hopefully so far you’ve thought a little bit about your organization and where you stand right now. You’ve thought a little bit about your ideal donor and maybe it’s groups of ideal donors that are associated with your organization.

Now I want to stop for just a moment. Now that we’ve thought about where those groups live, work and play, to think about what is the message that we want them to receive? What are we doing that impacts them that they need to know about and how are we going to reach them with that message? What’s the most appropriate conduit for reaching them where they live, work and play?

And then the third thing, of course, would be, “Okay. How do we get them involved in giving? What’s the opportunity give that makes the most sense for them?” This may be fairly straightforward for your organization. Others may struggle with this. Take just a moment now and think about what your message is and how you’re going to get it to these different groups.

Let’s take a look at Netcare Access again to make sure we’re all on the same page here and we understand what we’re talking about. Okay. So I’m just going to take a look at two groups here. Wealthy donors and then we’ve put family members and those who have received services together. So let’s take a look at wealthy donors. What’s the message that we want them to get? Well, the message is that Netcare provides critical services that keep our community safe.

Now, I’ll just mention some key terms there. That was a very specifically chosen message. We don’t want to necessarily talk about mental illness. We want to talk about safety. We want to talk about making sure that everyone is safe and that there’s a safety net. So that would be one of the messages that we want those wealthy donors to receive because that’s something that they care about.

Then the conduit for the message and the call to action. Maybe we put some ads in programs at cultural events. We definitely would want to work through board, peer to peer relationship building. That’s key for everything, right? Let’s hope that board can reach some wealthier folks in the community through peer to peer relationship building, helping folks understand what it really means or what it could mean if that safety net was not there.

And gala special events, although you know they’re a necessary evil. We don’t want to talk about them. We don’t want to rely on them. But gosh, they’re a great way to get that message across to a specific group of people while they’re all there together. So those gala events, make sure if you have one that you are really focusing on getting the message across to your attendees so that when they leave, they know who that organization was serving and what the impact is that you’re making.

Then we have family members and those that receive services. Now, the message here is a little different. “Netcare Services saved the life of you or your family member. Help us be there for others.” This is a natural extension of how folks feel when they’ve been the recipient of services like what Netcare provides. They want to make sure that it’s there for other people.

We want to get that message to them through perhaps newsletters, or regular newsletters, definitely through social media, perhaps tailored mailings that are adjusted for them, lots of volunteer opportunities, and whatever way we can engage folks where they are with the experience that they’ve had. And then I would suggest community special events. Those are those events that are really focused more on building friends than raising funds, but those are the types of fairs and festivals and community picnics and things like that that really engage the wider community and help them learn about what you do.

Okay. Steven, we are almost up to the halfway point and I want to make sure that we have folk’s questions here. So I’m going to be quiet for just a second and see if there are any questions that need to be answered or if Steven has anything to add.

Steven: Susan, this has been great so far. I don’t see any yet, but I would encourage people to ask now if they don’t have anything. I’ll leave it up to you, Susan, if you want to wait or you want to go on.

Susan: Sure. Well, we’ve just given them this opportunity. So hopefully we can get somebody to come forward with a question. It looks Chrissy wants to ask one, but I’m not seeing that question.

Steven: I think she’s typing right now.

Susan: Steven, did you have any
she’s typing. She’s typing. Look away. Steven, did you have anything to add at this point from your experience that would be relevant to what we’ve talked about so far?

Steven: I don’t think so. I’ve agreed with everything you’ve said, honestly. I think this is great information.

Susan: Okay. Great. All right. Well, let’s give her a couple more seconds and then we will move on. We’re going to have some more time at the end for questions. Okay. There it is. I’m seeing it now. Should I just read that, Steven, or no? Oh, look.

Steven: Yeah. Go ahead and read them. We’ve got a lot now. That’s great.

Susan: A lot now. Okay. So Chrissy, you’re saying you’re with a nonprofit organization that serves individuals with Down syndrome. “We serve 3 states and 14 counties. Most of our donors come from our central location county. How can we increase the donors in those other counties?”

Okay. Well, Chrissy, I know that you know that Down syndrome folks and people the DD community are very grassroots. So I would definitely start to make partnerships if you haven’t already with the types of support groups that are in those other counties and through your DD councils or your boards of DDs
it’s a small community with DD.

I think that you can probably identify in each of those counties some leaders who you could sit down with and really talk to them about what is going on in that county as it pertains to DD and specifically to Down syndrome, which of course is its own subset. Really find out what’s going on in those counties, what kinds of services are needed, how you can really connect with them.

So those would be the first things that I would say to you, to really start with the leadership in those counties that are already serving your folks. Some of those leaders just might be parents. Find out what’s going on and how you can get involved.

Joseph asks, “What suggestions do you have for a small nonprofit in a small town rural service area that provides language and advocacy assistance for Latinos, many who are financially challenged and with minimal grade level? Sometimes this population is not welcome and undocumented with largely invisible problems to the public.”

Wow. What a great question. Joseph, I’m assuming that you are talking about just trying to create that constituency. I am going to suggest that you start with folks who do have an open heart for people who are in the community. I actually live in a small community that started to get a large influx of Latinos who were coming through doing a lot of different types of labor. Our community was curious and wanted to know more.

I would start with churches. I would go to churches and houses of worship in your area and reach out to them, find out what’s going on with them and help them understand the population that’s going in and needs services. I would start with them. I would start with organizations like the United Methodist Women and people like that to help get folks who are already open to caring and are concerned about people in need and start there.

Kate is asking, “How can we inspire family members to get involved and give when our programs receive government funding?”

Okay, the way to do that, Kate, is to identify what things you are doing that are not covered by government funding. My guess is that not everything you do is not fully covered 100% by government funding. It could be, but I bet it’s not. So you have a little education gap there that you need to work on. I see down here you say because of the funding your perceived need is low.

When I worked at St. Vincent we had that same problem. I had to try to help folks understand that yes, we were a Medicaid agency, but there were a lot of things that we couldn’t do and that Medicaid wouldn’t pay for. So identifying those things, getting the statistics around them, that would be ammunition for why this is important. I would start and collect on some of that.

Let’s see
“A late question,” says Michael, “Health related charities have a hard time identifying prospects who are not impacted by that particular health issue. How can these charities break out?”

I would suggest that
and Michael saying it’s especially obscure and rare diseases. Okay. Michael, I just talked to an organization the other day and actually Chrissy might be interested in this organization because they are working with Down syndrome and they’re trying to create the first ever biobank for Down syndrome. Their whole approach is going to be the connection of that research opportunity to other diseases and disorders, specifically Alzheimer’s and heart disease, which both affect the Down syndrome population at a high level.

I would suggest that you take their lead. Figure out how you can connect that, what you’re doing with your obscure disease, and see if there is a way to connect it to other things that are going on as well. Usually there’s a connection there. It just all starts with education, making sure you’re really focusing on educating people about what this is and the impact that it has before you go and ask for money. You’ve just got to start there.

Leah has a question here. She had a problem making contact with pastors of churches. “Do you have a solution?”

I’m just going to totally go from my own experience, Leah, and not from anything else and this may not be anybody else’s experience. Here’s my experience. Protestant churches tend to have committees that are focused on mission and that are also focused on giving. I would suggest that you try to reach out through those, calling the churches individually. You can try to talk to the pastor, but they may pass you on to the committee anyway.

Catholic churches, you definitely need to start with the priest. But most of them have a specific committee as well that is focused on mission. A lot of these organizations, especially
no, 100% of these organizations have women’s groups that are focused on mission and men’s groups. I would suggest that you really hone in on connecting with the particular groups that can make the difference.

Last one and then I’m going to move on. Chrissy is asking about the organization I mentioned. I believe it’s called DS Action, Chrissy. They’re working to get an NIH grant.

Last one is, “How big is the benefit of engaging donors who aren’t wealthy and can’t give big amounts. For example, donors who make $25,000 a year or less.”

Okay. Let’s not overlook the people who don’t have very much money because I’ll tell you what, they give a greater percentage of their income than the wealthy. So I am big on making sure that people who don’t have very much, they have an opportunity to get involved in a way that makes sense for them. It may not be something that you spend all your time on and certainly it’s going to take more of your time to work with them. But make sure that they have a conduit, that they have an opportunity to give. That may have to be tailored for them.

Okay. We have more to add. I’m going to move on at this point. Okay Thanks. Great questions.

Okay. Step four is record your journey. This is the part where Steven is going, “Yay, I’m so glad there’s a webinar for us,” because it’s about data. Just like you would record your thoughts about how your vacation is going and what you like and dislike, when you record the information we’re collecting when we share our message and provide opportunities to give.

So how do we make sure we doing these important things that are listed on the slide? How can we gather the data that we’ll need to further cultivate these donors once we’ve interacted with them or once they’ve interacted with us? What needs to happen to that data in order for cultivation to occur? So just collecting it is not enough. Something has to happen in order for cultivation to occur, which is the way we actually get them to become donors. And third, how can we determine who is truly interested and who is not?

So during your call to action or your opportunity to give, you want to be sure to build in ways to collect information for further cultivation of prospects. It’s also important to collect additional information that will help you determine who is truly interested and who is not. The key here is to build your data collection before you create your fundraising program so you ensure that you have the information you need for further cultivation, which shouldn’t be left as an afterthought.

So let’s take a look at the case study on this so that you can see what I mean. If we take a look at this as a case study, you can see here along the left column, the vehicles we said we want to use for finding new constituents that we talked about earlier, the ads and the e-newsletter and so forth. On the right you see what information we want to try to collect through those processes.

So for instance, if we send out some kind of a mailing or we do an ad, we want to code those things. Maybe we have a special web address to track the response. So if people are responding to an ad, they are clicking on a specific link versus just your generic link. We want to make sure that if we have folks in the field, if any of you out there who do have major gift officers or your CEO or your ED is out making calls, you want to get those reports and then move management information back into your system. You want to make sure we’re collecting that. That they even know they’re supposed to be doing that in that in the first place. That’s the crucial issue.

If you’re doing a raffle, make sure the ticket purchase requires certain information. We want to request email addresses online in all ways and all communications. You want to try to collect those email addresses. Tracking friends and coding them in the database so you can connect folks in your database. Coding mailings, we talked about that.

Put your volunteers in your database. Don’t keep them on a spreadsheet or another database someplace else. Make sure they’re being asked to give and that you have that information. Collect information at entry point and at other opportunities during an event. So any event that you have before you create the design for that event, figure out how to collect information and when and where you’re going to do that.

Okay. So let’s go on to step five, return often. So once you’ve collected names through the variety of methods you’ve utilized, don’t forget to follow-up. Plugin these new prospective donors into a ready-made or personalized cultivation plan is the key to building your base of support. Make this plan as hands on as possible and ask your new prospects how they want to be involved and how they want to be solicited.

So you can see here the main reminders that I’ve mentioned, finding the prospect and soliciting them, not enough, now the real work begins with growing the relationship, assuring that your new prospects are plugged in to the cultivation prospects.

So be sure to ask donors how they want to be involved and how they want to be solicited. Let me just make a comment about this thing about how they want to be involved. Sometimes you hear the term donor-centric. There are all kinds of wonderful books and information out about being donor-centric.

What that really means is not going to the community and saying, “This is what we do. We have three volunteer opportunities and two ways you can give and that is it.” You need to find a way to fit in there if you’re going to be involved with us. That is very organization-centric. You’re thinking about yourself. You’re not thinking about the donor. You want to be as open as you can be to what it is folks want to do.

This is especially true for millennials. They want to do things. They want to roll up their sleeves, get involved and they want you to follow-up on their idea. So if they’re calling you up and saying, “I want to do X and Y, whatever that is.” You say, “Let me see what we can do about that.” And that is always your answer. Then you figure out if that’s something that makes sense to do or not.

But don’t just pigeonhole folks and make them only fit into your idea about what a donor should be or what a volunteer should be. Try to be as open and as flexible as possible and you will engage people in a way that is meaningful for them and that’s how they become donors, because they had a meaningful experience with you.

Okay. Let’s look at one thing before we go on. I want to make sure that everyone understands what I mean when I say a cultivation process. So ultimately our goal is for donors to have a deeper relationship with us. Here’s the cycle of how that relationship works. You may have heard it said that fundraising is all about relationships, relationships, relationships.

Well, this is how we build them. We start with acquire. So in the cultivation process, you want to build in ways to acquire new donors. That’s really what we’re talking about today. How do we find them? How do we reach them with our message? How do we get them engaged with our organization?

Once you’ve done that, then you can cultivate them. You can allow them to participate in ways that are meaningful for them. You can give them information that helps them understand impact. You can put them in front of the actual recipients of your organization so that they have a chance to see what the difference you’re making.

Then you’ve got to make sure that you ask. You want to ask all the groups that are associated with you, even your volunteers, your staff, of course your board and all of those other folks, everybody that was part of that inner circle needs to be asked in some way.

Then of course you’re going to thank them every which way but Sunday. You can think of all the different ways that you want to thank them. Once they’ve given, you want to steward them. You want to make sure they stay engaged, they stay involved, that you keep on top of what’s important to them and you keep on engaging them. That’s what we mean by cultivation process just so that everybody is on the same page.

Okay. So one thing that I encourage my clients to do is to create a grid. It doesn’t look like this. It’s bigger than this, but this is what I could fit on the slide. You might want to make a grid like this one for your prospect groups. First, you want to think of all the ways that you can cultivate and solicit your group.

So across the top of your table, you’re going to put all those different things. Here I have some examples: social media, newsletter, email. Maybe it’s a print newsletter and it’s an e-newsletter. Special invitations, tours. If you can deal with tours in your facilities, if you have something to show, I absolutely encourage you to do that. It’s really a great idea. Phone calls, face to face visitation. Those are just a few suggestions.

Then on the left column of your table, you’re going to list all the different groups that you’ve identified that you want to cultivate. Here we’re going back to our two groups from our case study, the wealthy donors and their families/client. I’m going to go through and I’m going to think about how do I want to cultivate these wealthy donors? I want to make sure that I’m engaging them through social media because that’s everybody. Maybe I’m not going to send them a newsletter or talk to them through email, not very likely.

But let’s say we’re not going to do that. But I definitely want to make sure they are invited to specific special events. We want them in here, in person for tours. We’re going to follow up with the phone call. We’re going to go ask for a face to face meeting. Those are some ways we’re going to cultivate them.

Families and friends, we are going to do things a little differently. We want them engaged on social media. We want them getting our newsletter. There’s going to be information for them. We want to engage them through email. We’re going to have a special event that’s just for them potentially. And we’re going to maybe to a phone-a-thon or a board thank-a-thon or something like that that really engages those folks that feel involved.

So think of all the things that you can do to cultivate and then put your groups on the left hand side as I mentioned. So this grid becomes the basis for your fundraising program. Basically what you’ve done now is you’ve figured out here are all the groups that you want to try to engage. Here are all the ways that you want to try to engage them. Now how are we going to do that? How much is that going to cost? Who’s going to be involved? When are we going to do those things? Who’s going to stay on top of it? How are we going to collect the data?

So all of this is really very foundational to creating the fundraising program or taking a look at what you’re already doing and saying, “Gosh, we were missing two or three groups,” or we haven’t been cultivating these folks in any way that we know of. So it really is also a good way to just
a check and balance on what you’re already doing.

Okay. So we are almost to another chance to ask some questions. So go ahead and be thinking of that. But in the meantime, let’s look over our summary.

So hopefully today you’ve thought about your organization. You’ve thought about those groups of people who are your ideal donors. You’ve thought about where they lived, worked and played, what kind of message each group needs and how you’re going to engage them, how you’re going to solicit them and then you really thought about how you’re going to cultivate them and hopefully you’re going to figure out, “Okay, how do I collect this data?”

I’ve got to have the data to be able to reach out to them. Where I’m going to put it? I’m going to put it on Bloomerang. That’s where I’m going to put it or I’m going to put it on my own spreadsheets,” whatever you’re using. Index cards. I don’t care. Whatever it is, just get that information and collect it and use it.

So here’s a summary. Know before you go, determine your ideal donor. We’ve done that today. Who’s the most likely audience for your message? Become a tourist, discover where your donors congregate. Learn the language means develop those targeted messages and communication techniques.

What do these donors want to hear that will speak to their self-interest in getting involved? This is really, really crucial. You know what, I want to just emphasize this for just a moment because we didn’t talk about it much earlier. Don’t give people the type of information that you think they need. In other words, don’t talk about yourself in terms of your needs.

Talk about yourself in terms of the solutions that you have to community programs. You don’t have any needs. You have solutions to community problems. You have ways that you can talk about what you’re doing that will engage people to become involved. We need to figure out what those messages are and, “We need money to keep the doors open,” isn’t one of them. So what do these donors need to hear that will speak to their self-interest in getting involved? Why do they care? Create a message that speaks to them.

Then we need to make sure we are recording the journey, collecting the data through built in collection processes. How can we collect that vital information we need to start building relationships with these ideal donors? We may even have a moment for Steven to chime in about that in just a second.

And then we have return often, build relationships to cultivation. When can we build relationships to make strangers into friends? That’s really what it’s all about, is making strangers into friends.

Okay. We have just gone through lots of information. I want to give us some time for reflection, not only your questions, but any thoughts, ideas or comments that you have. There was a comment earlier that pertained to what we were talking about at the earlier question and answer time from Michael. He mentioned about church giving. He’s saying the Catholics, they mostly focus on Catholic-related charities. That is true. And then he’s also saying that Protestant congregations have an outreach committee that makes local contributions especially for social services. Yes. That’s what we were saying earlier. That takes a lot of leg work.

Another great group of folks to reach out to are your local Kiwanis Clubs. As an active Kiwanian, I can tell you my Kiwanis Club gives away $80,000 a year in grants. So Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary clubs, Lions, Sertoma, Soroptimists, on and on and on, those organizations are always looking for speakers and they often have money to give away. That’s another great group. But it takes a lot of legwork to do that and to find that information to reach out to them. That is certainly true.

So I am waiting for your questions. I also want to give Steven a chance to maybe add anything, especially about that data collection piece.

Steven: Absolutely. That was great, Susan. Thanks for the information. I want to encourage everyone to ask some questions. We’ve got probably about seven minutes left for questions. So don’t be shy at all.

Susan, one thing I was wondering just as I was kind of sitting here listening is I’m wondering if you could reflect on the experience or maybe if you’ve worked for an organization or worked with one where they maybe went through this process and they did all the things you suggest, but maybe they drew some bad conclusions and ended up creating an ideal donor profile that didn’t end up being exactly accurate. Is that something you’ve ever run into? What did they do? How did they recover from that or maybe pivot and go ahead and redefine that constituency?

Susan: Well, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve had that particular experience. I do think that what does happen sometimes is that some organizations, especially those who have boards of trustees who are well meaning people with little influence or affluence, they can get kind of stuck in a rut and they may not be able to see beyond themselves and folks that are like themselves to potential groups of people in the community who might have a stake in what the organization is doing.

You really have to get them to think more broadly. I think that can be a stumbling block sometimes. I think also people make the assumption that just because people are wealthy that they want to hear from you and they want to give you their money. You really have to be very careful.

You want to build on existing relationships. You want to build on that donor-centric idea of let’s go to folks in our community that are often touched by this and who care about this or have shown that they care about this because of something else they’ve given to or been involved in. So it takes some leg work in that way. I don’t know if that really answers your question, Steven, and I apologize for that.

Steven: No. That’s kind of what I was looking for. Yeah.

Susan: Okay.

Steven: Yeah. Absolutely.

Susan: Good. So I think that’s really crucial. I want to give an example. There’s an organization here in town that works with teenage moms, reaching out to teenage moms. It was started by one of the wealthiest women in Central Ohio who was herself a teenage mom. Most people probably would never have known that. She is among the elite of the wealthy and powerful and actually not just in Central Ohio but nationally. She chose to make that her thing because it was her personal passion. So it’s one of those things where you have to find those individuals who have been impacted.

I’ve not seen any other questions so far. Hopefully people are typing away and ready to ask those questions. But Michael had a further comment. He said, “My previous employer raised money primarily for special events. My current employer philosophically is opposed to doing any special event. Is there a type of special event–golf outing, dinner, etc.–that is particularly effective at identifying new prospects.”

Yes. There is, Michael. It is a thing called an asking event. It is the cornerstone of the Benevon model. B-E-N-E-V-O-N, Benevon. It used to be called raising more money, Terry Axelrod. It’s her thing. But you can do it without spending as much money as she wants you to spend to learn it. It is a really great model. The key is follow up.

But basically, it’s a free breakfast or lunch where you have table captains. Those people have all invited people to come fill their table. You spend the time at the event engaging people and inspiring them to give through visionary leader speech, testimonial, and so forth. And they actually fill out flash

[SP] cards before they leave. So that is a great way to do it but you can make any existing event into an asking event by making sure people leave with both information about your organization and an opportunity to give.

Susan asks, “Is there a spot to find additional guiding questions to help as you’re defining your ideal donor?”

Susan, I do not actually cover creating an ideal donor in my book. That’s a really good question. I don’t know. I have to find that out for you. I apologize. Maybe I can look into that for you and I’ll let Steven know. Okay. You know what? Ideal donor, though, Susan, is basically taken off of ideal client or ideal customer. So it’s really more of a marketing approach. You might find some along those lines.

Cynthia asks, “What are the ways to reel in creating more programs when gaps are found in other organizations’ offerings?”

Okay. That’s a little different topic there, Cynthia. But you’re saying that your organization is chasing money, is chasing programs because they feel like there are gaps in other organizations’ programs? I’m going to need you to add a little bit more there so I can understand how to answer your questions.

Okay. I’m going to move on until I hear back from Cynthia. Heidi, “If you have a limited time to follow-up, what message should you focus on?”

Gosh, always, always keeping people informed about impact, whatever that means, newsletters, e-blasts, e-newsletters, anything that you can do that helps people feel engaged. One other way is to have a quarterly letter that goes out to your CEO to your inner circle that gives them information that’s a little more than the general public knows and a little less than the board knows. That’s another way to do it too. But nothing really deep to follow up. You’re never going to get past a certain point if you don’t do the follow up.

Lisa asks, “Do you have any ideas about converting event participants such as walk participants as a regular donor?”

Oh, Lisa, if I had the answer to that question I would be so wealthy. I know that there are other folks out there in the fundraising universe that focus on that. But the best thing to do is to make sure you have the information. Don’t let it leave with the person that recruited the walker. Make sure that you are connecting directly with the walker.

I think some of those online types of things where people are doing the online, using the social media to raise money for the cause is another great way to engage people individually. I would encourage you to look at Pelotonia, which is done here in Central Ohio. It’s a bicycle race for cancer.

Cynthia, I’m going to come back to you, yes, taking others’ money. Cynthia, I’m going to ask you to email me offline so we can talk about that. You’re going to get that information at the end because I think that’s a little bit different question. But I’m happy to talk about it with you.

Leah, “What are some tips to determine if a donor is interested?”

Well, they’re going to tell you. They’re going to get involved. They’re going to respond. They’re going to give to you and you have to ask them questions about what made them get involved. What really speaks to them? What’s the thing that moves them the most? Find out also what else they’re giving to that maybe connects with what you do.

Marianne asks, “Will this model work for a small, new nonprofit organization, 10 people or less in the organization when you do not have any donors identified yet?”

Marianne I’m hoping that this is what this is good for. Yes. Start from the ground up and build it as best as you can. So yeah, okay.

Steven, I think that’s it. We’re good.

Steven: Yeah. We better cut it off there. I know we’re about out of time. But Susan, I want to give you the last word to talk about your book and let people know how they can get in touch with you.

Susan: Oh yeah, absolutely. Here is my information on the slide, my email and the link to my website. You can also order the book there or though Charity Channel Press or through Amazon. It’s especially good for those of you who are in smaller nonprofits or who have all volunteer boards, don’t have any staff, things like that. That would really be perfect for you.

Steven: Absolutely. Please do check that out. Send Susan an email. Follow her on Twitter. I’d love for you to stay in touch with her. Buy that book. It’s really good too. I just want to highlight some of the resources we’ve got at Bloomerang. We of course do these webinars once a week. We’ve got our blog. We’ve got our downloadables. We’ve got our Bloomies, which is our award for donor communications. Definitely check those out, some of our resources as well.

We’ve got another webinar coming up. It’s six days from today, not seven. So we’re going to have a special Wednesday edition. I know some people, Thursdays are hard for them. So I heard those people. We scheduled one on Wednesday just for you. Ellen Bristol and Linda Lysakowski are going to join us and they’re going to talk about donor retention and I love donor retention. It’s a great topic. So join us for that presentation.

There are also a few scheduled out throughout the year that you can check out. You may find a topic you’re interested in there. We’d love to see you again next week or sometime again later. Susan, I’ll say a final thanks to you again. It was really awesome having you. We’ll have to have you back again next year for sure.

Susan: Thank you.

Steven: Thanks to all of you.

Susan: Thank you so much, Steven.

Steven: Yeah. And thank you so much to all of you for taking an hour out of your day to join us. Have a great rest of your afternoon. Have a good weekend. Hope we’ll see you next week. Take care now.


Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.