You’ve been asked to do your caseload forecast for 2021 or your next fiscal year, and the news reports aren’t looking good. There’s an uptick of COVID cases. Fall is here, and you fear the predictions of more sequestering and its effect on your caseload donors.
Then there’s the stock market. Up and down. Rumors and reports of massive layoffs. Counter claims that things aren’t that bad – that the vaccine is just around the corner and everything will be OK. But you worry. Regardless of their opinions or political leanings, are your donors going to be conservative with their giving? Might they hold back? What should you put down for your forecast?
It’s a dilemma if you haven’t been talking to your caseload donors. Because, how do you know what to do? You don’t – if you haven’t been talking to them.
And that’s the key.
Having a conversation closes the information gap. It seems pretty basic. But, more often than not, the MGO doesn’t do it. Instead, they’re busily executing their plan, almost as if COVID or economic trouble didn’t exist.
Jeff and I don’t understand this. In our business, we’re constantly evaluating revenue in light of current events and circumstances. How do we do it? We ask the client. And that’s where we get the information we put in our forecasts – forecasts that we redo regularly. Why regularly? Because things are constantly changing, these days.
That’s what you should be doing with every donor on your caseload. You should be talking to them about their passions and interests, the great things that are happening because of their giving, what else needs to be done, and how their help is needed – ESPECIALLY during these turbulent and tough times. (Tweet it!)
Now, that last bit – how their help is needed especially during these turbulent and tough times – that bit right there is key. You must, with every one of your caseload donors, communicate that key point and follow it with some version of these talking points:

  1. As you know, these are very difficult times for a lot of people and businesses. And it’s affecting us (tell how it’s affecting your organization).
  2. How are YOU doing? This is where you talk to them about how things are going for them. And you have a conversation about that.
  3. Given how you’re doing, what can you do? There are two ways the “how are you doing” conversation can go as it relates to their giving to you. First, everything is fine with them. Or, things are not fine.If everything is fine, you confirm that you can count on their giving through the next year – and you might even suggest giving more to make up the gaps in giving from other donors and the need of the program that they’re giving to. Use our Permission-Based Asking approach to help you do this right. The point here is that donors WILL give more if you’re talking about what needs to be done in the program they value and are interested in.

    If everything is NOT fine, you express concern about that and then move into a discussion on what they will or will not be able to give in the coming months. You approach this with generosity and care, explaining that you’re doing a forecast for the new year and you want to tell management what they can expect in terms of program funding, so that they’ll know how to manage those expenses. This doesn’t need to be a gut-wrenching conversation, especially if you’re genuine, caring and thoughtful.

    Remember, you don’t need to be acting like you’re clutching every dollar this donor can give. No. Instead, you’re grateful for whatever they can do, including being grateful if they can’t do anything. Grateful for not giving? How does that work, you might ask? Well, being grateful for their past giving. Grateful for how they’ve stood with the organization. Grateful for what they’ll do in the future.

The point of these donor conversations is to have an adult conversation about what you can expect – a conversation that honors the donor while getting you the information you need for your forecast. Start doing it, if you haven’t done it already. Because time is ticking by, and you and your management team need to know what to expect.