Are you in the right pond?
Alas, nonprofits spend too much time thinking about the right way to ask people for donations, yet not enough time thinking about who the right people are to ask.
It’s like buying a perfect fishing rod and reel, learning how to cast, and then casting off into empty waters.
Folks, success — in fishing and fundraising — takes more than toiling, tackle, and time.
If you are fishing in the wrong place, nothing else matters.
When You Need to BAIL on a Donor ‘Prospect’
Determining who to include in your major donor prospect portfolio takes work. It’s not something to be done on a whim (or on the whim of a board member who throws out the name of a celebrity who resides locally or a nearby venture capitalist or tech CEO.) That’s why I put “Prospect” in quotes, because So-and-So is not a viable prospect for you in any of the following circumstances.
Use this checklist as a tool. If you find yourself checking off even one of them, you know you have some work to do before you’re ready to include this individual in your portfolio, let alone ready to make an ask.
1. So-and-So HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE
At some point in time, this individual had a run-in with you; were they a fish they’d have learned avoidance.
- Got poor service from a program or the receptionist… or knew someone who did.
- Got poor service from the development office… weren’t thanked promptly and personally… weren’t kept informed… weren’t recognized… name was misspelled… promised follow-up never happened… etc.
- Didn’t like the position your organization took on an issue... a rumor they heard… a run-in they had with a board member… etc.
2. So-and-So HAS NO ABILITY TO GIVE
Were they a fish, they’d be too small to feed you.
- Has no liquidity; overly committed elsewhere.
- Has too few resources; resting on their celebrity laurels but currently, aside from the home they live in, barely getting by.
3. So-and-So HAS NO INTEREST
Were they a fish, they’d have no appetite for your bait.
- What your organization does is a complete mystery to them. Maybe they’ve heard something vague, but not much. They’re essentially clueless.
- What your organization does is not what they care about. They may not object to it, but it’s near the bottom on their list of priorities.
- What your organization values are not values they’ll ever share. Why? Whales just aren’t their thing. In fact, animals aren’t their thing. Their big thing is feeding poor people. They’re always going to give their extra dollar to help save human lives. Period.
4. So-and-So HAS NO LINK
Were they a fish, you’d have no hook with which to draw them in.
- Has no organizational connection; never attended an event, participated in a program, used/referred your services, or obtained any benefit from you.
- Has no human connection; doesn’t know anyone affiliated with your organization.
It’s Best to Bail Sooner than Later
If you’re contemplating prospect cultivation and/or solicitation, go through this B-A-I-L checklist. If you’re able to put a check next to any of these, you’ve got some work ahead of you before you’ll be ready to ask. In some cases, you’ll never be ready to ask. It’s better to know and accept this at the outset than spend a lot of time chasing wild, avoidant, uninterested, unmeaty fish.
Caveat: You Do Need to Fish to Survive
Don’t make the mistake of simply using the B-A-I-L checklist to indiscrimately check everyone off your list, throwing your hands up in despair. Help is near. You just need to be taught how, and where, to fish! One of the best ponds to fish in — and one too few nonprofits diligently explore — is the mid-level donor pond.
These folks already have ability, interest and linkage as demonstrated by their current giving at an above-average level.
But you may inadvertently be giving them a bad experience by virtue of treating them exactly the same way you treat a $10 donor!
If this sounds like you, and you could use more viable major donor prospects, please consider enrolling in the Certification Course in Mid-Level Fundraising. You’ll learn exactly what you need to do, you’ll have support along the way so you don’t procrastinate or push this to the back burner, and within just a few months you’ll become certified as a Veritus Scholar, pick up 36 CFRE credits, and walk away with a detailed, actionable plan and skills you’ll use the rest of your career. Plus it’s stimulating and will re-invigorate your work! Sign up by 9-15 to save $100 with my Special Discount Code: CA5. The upfront cost of this course evaporates with just a handful of upgraded gifts, or one new major donor identified. And after completing the first two modules, a full refund is available if you decide the course doesn’t meet your needs. Email me with any questions.
Photo by Marnus Van Der Merwe on Unsplash