From the March 17th Background Report https://www.backgroundalert.com/pa/?paid=6
The note above is a real downer for launching a discussion about identifying prospects. But trust me, it’s relevant. I could have gone all inspirational. Or tough. But this isn’t Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s my follow up to my post “Should Nonprofits Cold Call?”. The original is at: http://www.trainingforgoodinc.com/blog-basic-training/should-nonprofits-cold-call
I’ve worked with many well-intentioned board members, volunteers and professional fundraisers. Nevertheless, no matter how smart and strategic they were, the most common mistake is the tendency to start with outsiders, literally strangers, when putting together prospect lists for cold calls (and any other development activity). We make the Criminal Mistake of ignoring our best suspects also known as our best prospects: individuals and institutions that already know our organization and work.
Conversations like this are clear danger signals that the crime is taking place:
Why don’t we ask (fill in name of community leader with no connection to the nonprofit)? How about (fill in name of philanthropist or corporation that sponsors others)? This is followed up by my all-time favorite: Does anybody know (fill in name)? Silence. Deep sigh throughout the room…
My hunch is that you’ve heard countless conversations like the one above at brainstorming sessions. I don’t know why this happens. What I do know; however, is that it’s the most difficult path to pursue. It’s particularly difficult compared to the easier and far more productive alternative of identifying potential donors and partners with connections to your charity and its work.
If you’re taking the wise approach of developing a list of prospective donors to call, I recommend doing the following:
- Put together a script with the potential to secure first meetings;
- Put together a list that leverages existing connections with prospective donors. I’d prioritize your calls to connect with the following groups:
Your Inner Ring: Start with individuals, companies or foundations with a natural connection to your organization. For example, if you run the local food bank, you probably have a relationship with local supermarkets. If you do work related to health and wellness, you could go local i.e. pharmacies, doctors or reach out on a broader scale i.e. regional pharmaceuticals.
Your Middle Ring: Move onto those that with an indirect or less frequent but identifiable connection. From a corporate or institutional perspective, these may be entities you deal with once or twice a year. Or perhaps they have a tangential relationship with your charity. An easy way to think of it putting it into terms with individual donors; these are folks you see on one or two occasions a year (i.e. a holiday party).
Your Outer Ring: Round it out with those with a historical relationship. Perhaps it’s a company that sponsored you a few years ago but contact was broken. Or it’s one you asked last year, turned you down but no one continued the conversation. Again, framing it around individuals, it might be the people whose emails you’ve had since AOL asked subscribers to pay $11.95 monthly – but you never deleted them. I’m aging myself here but you get the picture.
By the way, notice something? These aren’t cold calls! They’re new – or renewed attempts – at engaging you best potential donors.
Try it and if I can help, let me know. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org