The look on her face said it all. “You want me to create a strategy for every single one of the donors on my caseload? Are you kidding me?”
This is usually the reaction our team at Veritus Group gets when we tell MGOs that this will be one of the first things they need to do if they want to become successful with us.
After the initial shock wears off and denial turns to acceptance, we get to work. We don’t skirt the enormity of the task. It is HARD work. We realize that. I mean, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But they are not. And this is one of the reasons that MGOs, and ultimately non-profits, struggle with their major gift programs… they don’t have a plan.
Today, I’m going to go over a step-by-step process on how to put together a strategic plan for each donor. This is the same process we use with our clients to help them overcome what they think is insurmountable.
Once MGOs start working on this process, they realize that not only is it possible, but it’s necessary for them to stay on task and become successful.
Before outlining the steps, I’m going to make three very big assumptions: 1) that you have qualified the donors on your caseload, 2) that you have a revenue goal and have cash flowed those goals by the month you think that revenue is coming in, and 3) that you have your donors tiered A, B and C levels. Now, a note about tiering: the higher you tier the donor, the more personal the strategy. Just keep that in mind as you work on strategies for each donor.
So, where do you create your strategy so it’s useful to you? Good question. We, at Veritus Group like to first see if the client’s donor database or moves management system has the ability to enter goals and strategy. This would be the best place. However, many non-profits either don’t have a good system for this, or they have nothing at all.
This is why we have created the Marketing Impact Chart. It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet that, when you picture it, has all of the donors on the left-hand column, one by one, and all of the months of the year in a row at the top of the spreadsheet, starting with the first month of the fiscal year. We can send you a sample template for you to use — click here to request it.
Now, here is the process you should follow in order:
- Write in all the mass communication pieces throughout the year—Take a look at your mail schedule: appeals, newsletters, annual reports, etc. Plug those into the months they are scheduled to drop. For “A” level donors you are going to want to create personal notes with some of these, so be aware of that when you figure out your weekly schedule. You can easily copy and paste this into your spreadsheet for every one of your donors.
- Review the month each donor’s revenue is expected to come in—then work three months backwards. For example, if you know that you are projecting revenue for Mrs. Smith in November, you need to put the high-level strategy starting three months prior to set up that solicitation. So, in August, you are starting to set up the meeting for November, then in September, sending a report on what her last gift did, and finally in October you send a formal proposal or prospectus to set up your face to face ask in November. Make sense?
- At least quarterly send “you made a difference” (YMAD) pieces to everyone on your caseload — plug those in for every donor. Your “A” and “B” level donors could be monthly touches that are highly personalized by you.
- Twice a year you want to report on specific programs your donors are funding with a report from the field — Those will be sent at different times depending on when donors gave their gifts. Populate your plan accordingly.
- Bi-yearly thank you calls — These are calls you make in addition to thanking any donor on your caseload file who gave a gift. Randomly thanking donors during the course of the year will endear them to your organization. You may consider up to four of these for “A” and “B” level donors.
- Bi-yearly “I know you” communications — These are notes or e-mail links or even cut-out magazine or newspaper articles your donors have an interest in. Especially for your “A” level donors, this is something to let them know YOU know them and are taking the time to recognize that.
- Cultivation face-to-face visits — Not every face-to-face visit should involve a solicitation. Some visits are meant to report back to donors how they made a difference and/or find out their passions and interests so you can get to know these good people and develop a relationship with them.
- Event invites and donor-view trips to see your programs in action — You should consider at least once per year inviting your caseload donor to see your programs in action. It could mean inviting them to your location just minutes from them or taking them to Uganda to see a water project they helped fund. This is a great cultivation and reporting back tool.
Okay, these are the main overall strategies that you need to create over a 12-month period for your caseload. Once you have these loaded into your system or spreadsheet, you’ll have moves associated with each strategy. If you are smart (and I know you are), you will enter those tactics or moves into either your moves management system OR simply into your calendar.
This will automatically give you your “to-do’s” for each day you come into the office. For example, a few moves that come from a strategy would look something like this: Let’s say in February you are going to send a bi-yearly project report to one of your donors. Okay, so one move would be to alert the program team in December to start putting together that report. Another move would be to let your communications team know that they have to create the piece from the information that program gives them, etc., etc.
Or, if you are a one-person shop, they would all be reminders to yourself that you need to get this completed in order for you to get it out in February. All these moves should be entered into either your moves-management system (like Salesforce, for instance) or your own calendar.
So, you still may be asking yourself, “Is this worth it?” My answer is a resounding, “YES!!” In almost every case where MGOs initially complain to us about having to go through this process, they come back and tell us this is the greatest tool for them to stay on track and ultimately be successful.
And actually, those who still complain about it don’t last very long as MGOs. This is a fact.
The beauty of this process is that YOU can start it right now. It’s doesn’t matter where you are in the year. Get going on it. It will be the best tool you have ever created for yourself.
P.S. Remember if you want a sample template of our Marketing Impact Chart, please click here to request it.
Great article, Jeff. I appreciate your willingness to put your trade wisdom out there for all, regardless of whether they might be a client or not.
Great tips. I too would be in shock if I was told I needed to create a custom strategy for each donor. Yet, time and time again it shows that donors who get individual attention donate more. It only makes sense to implement this strategy.
Practical and spot-on. As Ben said above, it’s wonderful that you share such useful wisdom with the community.
I love this article. Would you send me a copy of the plan? My email is above.
You said it. Glad to hear such awe inspiring wisdom
Does anyone have examples of how you have set this up in Salesforce instead of having to track in a separate spreadsheet?
This is outstanding information and detail. Thank you for sharing.