By Melissa Cole
Pensacola State College Foundation
On Thursday, July 20, Dini Spheris Principal, Michelle Buchanan, hosted the full-day Development and Fundraising Nonprofit Center training. During her presentation, she covered the topics of engagement, donor cultivation, major giving, and making the ask.
First-time attendee, Claire Kirchharr of Healthy Start, was excited to see the opportunities to interact with other attendees while soaking up knowledge. “I enjoyed the networking opportunities and of the topics covered so far, one thing that’s really stood out to me has been the importance of leveraging relationships you wouldn’t normally expect to have.”
Michelle stressed the importance of ensuring organizations know their value propositions in their local areas and what sets them apart, mentioning that generational giving must be addressed as well. In her terms, “…we cannot assume children will give as their parents have.” One tip she has to connect with younger generations is to utilize social media and specifically ask them how they would like to be engaged. People are giving bigger gifts than ever before, and to continue this trend, we must inspire donor confidence.
Organizations can start their donor cycle by building defined portfolios specific to target audiences. After prioritizing your top 25 donors, potentially beginning with lifetime and past-year givers, organizations are recommended take at least five minutes and check in with their prospects with an email, text, phone call, etc. and to note that targeted days of the week may prompt better responses. Segmenting time to prioritize outreach, follow-up, and new prospects will support meaningful engagement. Organizations must know why people are giving in order to secure donations. It is significant to note that all gifts are important, but major gifts take more time to secure. There are helpful tools that can be used to organize data such as wealth screenings and software to track donor bases.
Next, she states that organizations must focus on how to keep their donors involved and engaged with the projects for which they need funds. Active listening is a big part of philanthropy, Michelle advises asking questions and waiting for an answer. “Affirm, repeat, confirm, clarify. Transparency is tremendously important. If, after conversations with your prospect, you or they don’t feel you are a good match for each other, help them find their fit!”
Effective engagement begins with asking questions. Stop frequently and thank or reach out to people you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Ask for advice, such as, ‘Who should I talk to? May I use your name? Will you introduce me?’ Tell your story by making it personal in addition to using facts if necessary, but don’t overburden someone else’s time.
She closes with a conversation on organizational development. “Development is a science and an art,” Michelle states. “A goal when meeting with prospects is to make the meeting easy for them, so be honest and clear about what you want the major gift for.” She emphasizes practicing your script before the meeting and ensure your staff is prepared and has practiced follow up responses. Once you make the ask, give time for the prospect to respond. Be prepared for replies of ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘maybe’.
When you tell your organization’s story, reiterate the value proposition of it and talk about your partnerships. Your case for the gift should include how that gift will transform those you serve, what the donor’s support will accomplish in the community, the cost and its impact on the financial future of the organization, and the timeline to implement the program/project. Always keep in mind donor intent and how you talk about the gift.
Registrants of the session were blown away by Michelle’s expertise and knowledge. Victor Andzulis of the Pensacola Opera said he left feeling “excited to implement” what he learned and “grateful for a new connection made through networking”.
Overall, participants who came with burning questions and a desire for their organizations and peers to thrive left feeling prepared to conquer the challenges of building donor bases, meaningful donor relationships, and effective fundraising.
We look forward to our next Nonprofit Center training session coming up on September 7th, learn more and register to attend today!