I love being able to write about what’s happening right now with over 200 mid, major and planned giving officers that we’re working with on a daily basis. I love it when Richard, our team, and I can relay to you in real time some strategy and information we’re discovering.

Touch Points

This frontline report is all about touch points. Whenever we hear about challenges or issues related to creating a 12-month communication plan for every donor in your major gift caseload, or for each tier in your mid-level caseload, there are usually two potential problems:

  1. A lack of available touch points and/or poor communication about what is available to cultivate and steward your donor with.
  2. An overabundance of touch points – so much so, that the fundraiser finds it difficult to personalize, and you start feeling more like a marketer than a fundraiser.

I first want to take a moment to share our perspective around personalization and the 12-month communication plan. For Major Gifts and Planned Giving, you should create individual plans for every donor, ultimately oriented around the donor’s passions and interests. For Mid-Level, you want to create communications plans by tier A-C (typically 6-8 on top of the direct-response plan), personalized by tier. As you learn more about your donor, you sprinkle in personal touch points around your donor’s passions and interests.

Why do you want to do this?

  1. It keeps you focused on a clear path of what to do next.
  2. It ensures you stay on track for moving the donor forward by deepening your relationship and moving toward a personal solicitation.
  3. The plan is flexible, so you can adjust as you learn more about your donor.

Common Mistakes

Now, there are some common mistakes we see often (you may be experiencing this as well), that can make the communication plan feel rigid or like there isn’t space for personalization.

  1. You know that a certain report or material is coming out, so you put in your plan a generic touch point in that month for every donor. Then, because you have it planned, you don’t move it even if you now have a very personalized, necessary communication. You look at the plan as something you can’t change, and you fall victim to being rigid about it.

    For example, an MGO with one of our clients had a plan for a generic type of touch point that she was working on in April, but then it came out that her organization had won a bunch of local awards. (Our team noticed it in a Google Alert and asked her about it). However, because she already had a touch point planned for April, it didn’t occur to her to push that plan back and pivot to sharing this very timely and exciting piece of information. Once her Veritus coach talked it over, she realized that it totally made sense – the touch point she had planned got pushed back to the next month, she sent out the information about the awards, and she got some good feedback.

  2. Leadership is mandating that a certain piece of information be sent out to all donors. It’s up to the gift officer to advocate for what they know about the donor and their personal relationship, and not send something if it wouldn’t be relevant or the right time. We had one specific incident recently where an MGO was lamenting to our Client Experience Leader that her organization’s leadership was pressuring her to get two types of reports out to all her donors in a portfolio, but there were a few donors in her portfolio that were actually ready for a solicitation, and she had been setting that up for several months.

    We had to help the MGO convince leadership to hold off on those reports to some donors because it was more important to follow through on the solicitation plan. It turned out the donors weren’t even interested in those reports anyway. This “We’re so great, donors will love it” kind of mentality can be really harmful because it keeps you organization-focused, rather than focused on your mission and your partnership with the donor.

  3. There is SO MUCH content produced by your team that you end up not using external content that validates the problem your organization is trying to address. Providing content from outside sources is powerful because it helps the donor trust that your mission is filling a need in the community. We had one client who had this amazing marketing department who was churning out a ton of wonderful, fully-designed and branded materials. It was all great stuff, but many of the fundraisers just got into the mentality that “We’ll just use this to send to our donors,” rather than thinking, “Okay, here’s some great material, I’ll send it IF it makes sense to my donor.”

    That’s a much different mentality. Remember, you are the one who should decide what goes to your donors, because you are the one in relationship with them.

Tips on how to use touch points effectively

Now that I’ve addressed some of the common mistakes when using touch points, our team of Client Experience Leaders has given me some tips for you, to be more effective with touch points:

  1. If you have an overabundance of great resources, that doesn’t mean they make sense for your donor at this specific time. Touch points should be used as arrows in your quiver that you can CHOOSE to use when it makes sense for that donor and the arc of your relationship with them.
  2. Connect with your marketing team to understand the schedule of when they plan to release materials.
  3. Create a plan for how to personalize even general touch points.
  4. Create a resources list for how to stay aware of external validation content about your organization, your cause, and your community.
  5. Set up Google Alerts to make sure you’re “in the know” about any outside articles that reference your organization.
  6. Remember that your strategic plan is meant to be updated and changed. You don’t have to be rigid with it. The plan is a guide to keep you focused and on track, but not to immobilize you.

There you have it – from the front lines of our work with hundreds of front-line fundraisers. Touch points are a powerful tool that helps you cultivate and steward your donors so that you gain their trust and deepen your relationship with them and ultimately realize transformational gifts.


PS — If you want to dig deeper with Touch Points, we have an on-demand course that you can start today! Check it out here.