One of the advantages of being an outside consultant is that you can see things that those who are “in it” can’t, for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean a consultant is better than a front-line fundraiser; it just allows for a different perspective.
Richard and I have been working together now at Veritus for well over a decade, and we’ve been fortunate to work with thousands of front-line fundraisers and fundraising leaders. We’ve seen it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we’ve seen a lot of very common mistakes by front-line fundraisers that suppress donor giving.
So, I want to pass along to you what these errors are, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes and you’ll be incredibly successful. You ready?
- You’re not focused on donors’ passions and interests — I believe Richard and I have written more about getting to know your donor’s passions and interests than any other subject on the Passionate Giving Blog. There is a reason for that. It is THE work of a front-line fundraiser. It’s everything. If you can understand your donors’ passions and interests, you will be able to connect them to all the projects and programs that are changing the world. When you do that, the donor gives in a transformative way. They find joy in their giving, and they want to continue giving because you’ve matched their heart with a need that touches them. When you don’t do that and either just go after a donor’s money or you don’t create an offer they are truly passionate about, you either get a transactional gift or no gift.
- You’re not qualifying the donors on your caseload — If you don’t qualify your donor portfolio, you’ll likely have over two-thirds of your caseload filled with donors that don’t want to relate to you. How does this suppress giving? You’ll end up spending a bunch of time on donors you never connect with and neglecting the donors that actually want to engage with you. Recently, we helped an organization reduce the number of “major donors” in their portfolios by 250. And giving went up year-over-year by 54%. All because the MGOs focused on the right donors!
- You’re focused on the money — If you focus on the money, you might get the gift you are seeking, but you’ll lose the long-term relationship. Donors are smart, and they’re human beings. They can sniff out a disingenuous major gift officer really well. They may give you a gift because they feel guilt or they feel obligated, but they won’t feel that gift with all their heart and soul. It’s when you focus on building the relationship based on trust that everything begins to open up.
- You have no plan for your donor — When you don’t have a strategic plan for every donor in your portfolio, you will get lost. You won’t be consistent with your cultivation or stewardship, and this will lead to value attrition with your caseload… meaning your donors will give less year after year. When you have a plan, you are focused, you can be held accountable, and you have a roadmap that guides you to a successful solicitation because in your plan you have done all the right things leading up to it.
- You aren’t creating goals that include plans for transformational gifts — One of the biggest barriers for front-line fundraisers is creating a story in your head about how a donor won’t give, or thinking they will only give so much. We see this happen all the time. So, what happens is that this “annual” donor gives $10,000 a year, and you’re content with that because it’s a gift you can count on every year. You have no vision for this donor, and therefore you don’t do the hard work of really finding out who this donor is, what they’re passionate about, or what their capacity is, so you never ask for that big gift because you can’t get this assumption out of your head about the donor. And you never create a plan that will lead them to that transformational gift.
- You don’t ask — Yep, you read that correctly. Many donors either don’t give or give way under what they are capable of because no one has asked them for a gift. You would not believe how many front-line fundraisers are not asking donors for a gift. They may be sending them written proposals or waiting for the mail to come back from an appeal instead of actually asking the donor for a gift, with a request made either face-to-face or over Zoom, text, phone, or email. In other words, they do all the steward stuff, but they don’t do the hard soliciting work. The less personal the communication, the less a donor will give.
These are all common mistakes we have seen front-line fundraisers make that suppress giving from their donors. Now, you don’t have to make these mistakes. Instead, you can have healthy, vibrant, trustworthy relationships with your donors and see their giving soar year after year.