Getting Organized Before The Ask

Archivist Folder imageMore than half the success in the engagement and solicitation of a major donor or funder is achieved before you meet with a prospect.  The “ask” should be the culmination of extensive research of and conversations about the donor.  This may be a few days’ work or a several years, but the methodology that you follow to ensure success is the same.  Keeping all the information and discussion organized and retrievable is vital.

Do You Know What You Are Tracking?
Prospect  and donor management fundraising software – with the possible exception of a fully-customizable, flexible solution – has limitations.  It’s the nature of creating one solution for many nonprofits –the one feature that seems incredibly obvious to one development office is irrelevant to others.  But software, even used to its potential, cannot be your only system in place.

What might be too awkward to track consistently in a software program?  Here are some examples:

  • Which prospects are assigned to each solicitor.
  • At what stage is each solicitor with each potential donor.
  • The amount you rated/expected from each donor.
  • The percentage of that potential that was realized
  • Donors who will only make verbal pledges vs. those who have confirmed their commitments in writing..
  • How often each donor has been contacted about his or her pledge.
  • Who, within your organization and office, is responsible for each point of contact with each donor (e.g. calls, thank-you letters, sending pledge reminders, etc.).
  • What should be sent to each pledge whether verbal or written.
  • Participation levels for each constituent group (e.g., Board members, parents, alumni by class, etc.) associated with the organization.

I could go on, but just as no software is one-size-fits-all, my list cannot be all encompassing for everyone reading this article.

The important thing to consider is whether you know what you are tracking and why you are tracking it.  With one client I often joked about the list of lists.  Annoying?  Perhaps.  Essential?  Definitely.

Need another reason to clean up your systems?
By using careful methods for data tracking, you will know exactly how much you will be asking from each potential donor.  But as importantly, you will instill a sense of hands-on control of the information, and, thus, the campaign that will contribute to an extra level of confidence for all. And, simply put, confidence improves solicitations and their results.