This is the first of a three-part series.
We’re into December already, and there are plenty of distractions pulling you away from your caseload.
The event folks are trying to get you to help with the holiday gala. Who is going to get those reminders out? How about the food? They need help with greeting folks. You must be there. After all, “your donors are attending the event!”
The CEO has assembled a list of prospects he believes will make good targets for year-end giving. Never mind that he has been told a million times that just selecting targets on capacity or reputation is usually a waste of time (and it is awfully late in the season to be selecting targets). And why is he using the word “targets”?
There is the traditional organization-specific fund and brandraising activity that happens this time of year that must be serviced and attended to. Why? Because “we have always done it and it is so important.” Never mind that the concept has run its course and the numbers prove it.
And then there are the meetings you are getting dragged into. Some are budget and forecast meetings. Others are organizational or departmental meetings. Others are phone or internet conference calls. Most of them should have been done earlier or not done at all, but they are just “so important and critical.” Managers: get your MGO out of these meetings!!
All of this, and more, is taking you away from the really important work of managing those important relationships with your caseload donors, especially those donors who will make significant year-end gifts.
Now is the time that you need to get out your calendar and start canceling your involvement in most of these things you are being asked to do. Now is the time to return to the real purpose of your job as a major gift officer – serving and fulfilling the passions and interests of your caseload donors.
There are four basic things you must do this month:

1. Continue with your final plans to bring your Tier A caseload donors to a year-end ask. These are the 10 -25 donors on your caseload that have the highest potential for substantial year-end giving. Hopefully you have tailor-made and executed a communication strategy that is centered on their core passion and interest. This plan should provide information on what needs to be done and should lead to a year-end ask.

If you haven’t done this – if you are behind – then stop everything you are doing and select 5 -10 donors you can do this with. Then customize a plan for each of them that you can execute before year end. Remember, an effective ask or offer must have two important elements: a compelling problem that must be solved and a believable solution to that problem that the donor will support.

2. Continue with your plans to ask your Tier B and C caseload donors for a year-end ask. You can cluster donors who have the same passion and interest, producing a printed offer that you can get in the mail in the next few days. There can be an email follow-up to that offer, and maybe a phone call. The point is, if you haven’t planned already, you should be getting these strategies in place right now.

3. A follow-up to your ask, to all tiers. This follow-up needs to be executed by December 23rd if you haven’t heard from the donor, so that it reaches them between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This last week of December is when many donors make decisions for giving.

4. A repeat ask in some situations. There will be some situations where one or more of your caseload donors, because of the good planning and communication work you have done, has already given a substantial gift early this month, but is open to giving more as they consider their year-end giving. You must be very careful on this point not to be offensive. This is where your knowledge of the donor and your good relationship with her comes into play.

We have seen a number of situations where a donor, interested in and asked to participate in solving a particular societal problem, gives generously and is then given an update on the progress of the program/project, where he is told that the financial need has not yet been met. In that update, some appropriate version of the following ask is made: “Thank you so much for your generous gift of $XXX on DATE. Your gift has moved us substantially toward the goal of meeting this critical need. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure the rest of the funds needed, totaling $YYYY. If in your year-end gift planning you are able to help with an additional gift, we would really appreciate it. If not, that is OK. You have done so much already, and we really appreciate it.” Something along these lines.

As you read this, your stomach may be in a knot and you may be thinking: “What! Ask again?!! This is not right. How can we ask again? The donor already gave. It seems so clutching, greedy and abusive.” Well, hang on. Tone down that emotional response and listen to the logic. We have seen enough of these situations to know that, in certain cases, this approach is appropriate.

Look at it from the donor’s point of view. He and his wife have, together, looked at all the non-profit asks that are before them. They have agreed on what they will send to each. They have sent in those gifts and it has brought them a lot of joy and satisfaction. Now they are wrapping up their year and realize there is a certain sum of money that needs to be distributed. This conclusion comes from tax or revenue calculations; from the realization that life has been good this year, and there is “more left in our accounts than we thought”; and/or “we really are so thankful that we would like to do more” – it could be any or all of these inner thoughts or outer conversations. The point is that the donor wants to do more, and it will be done. If you are respectfully and appropriately present in their thinking, then there is a possibility for additional giving.

Please take immediate steps to review your calendar and remove all the distractions that have nothing to do with your caseload donors. Then be sure you are being proactive in managing your caseload donors at this important time of the year.
In my next two posts, I will address planning for the new year and planning for your caseload in 2016. Stay tuned.
Read the full series:

  1. Year-end Strategy
  2. Planning for the New Year
  3. Refresh Your Caseload