Last time, I told you about a client that needed more time for donors. We can’t magically create more time, but we can create better processes. Using the basics of project management, I outlined a few areas to analyze what’s going on at the organization. (Read that blog first or this one might not make sense!)

Here’s what the organization found:

The Customer: Donations traditionally come from two places, corporate gifts and individual gifts. The most successful corporate foundation partnerships started with an individual relationship with someone at the company, rather than applying for a grant. Individuals are mid-career and tech savvy.

The Process: Donors hear about the organization from a friend, usually, who invites them to an event. A new donor will give money to buy a ticket to the event, may give again at the event, and then will be added to our newsletter list. At the end of the year they will receive a letter asking them for more money. Unless they attend another event, they usually don’t give again.

The Employees: The Development Director and Development Coordinator send thank you letters signed by the Executive Director. The Development team also plans monthly events, one big yearly event, and sends the end of year solicitations. The Development Manager constantly prospects for new corporate contacts and sends those ideas up to the Development Director, who elevates the top prospects to the ED and the Board to see if any existing connections can be made. In tandem with the Development team, the Communications Manager creates and sends the newsletter.

The Bottlenecks: Work gets backed up as soon as it gets elevated to the Development Director. The vast number of corporate prospects tend to linger there and also get “stuck” with the Board of Directors. From the customer point of view, the process stops after they get a thank you note. The work that isn’t happening is on engaging current donors. The Communication Manager has noticed that the open rates are steadily declining as their list of donors gets longer and noted that the last few newsletters have gone out late, since they were waiting approval by the ED and DD before sending.

Variability: The Development Director feels that she is constantly reacting to leads thrown her way from the Board and the ED, leads that all need a different approach and follow-up. Often these go nowhere. She is constantly sending emails with the goal of setting up meetings. The Development Manager feels that he is always making lists of potential contacts but that he’s also always waiting for next steps. He’s also unsure what to do with the vast pile of business cards from various networking activities, it seems that each business card should have a different approach. The Communications Manager, in order to increase open rates, has been creating a new format each month for the newsletter.

So what next? From this analysis we can see a few ways to make more time for donors, get those renewal rates up, and increase the amount of new donors to the organization:

1. Engage the donors more. For this organization, it made sense to revise the thank you process a bit by adding an additional thank you that was closer to the program. Talking to the program staff, they agreed that 4 times a year, they could get handwritten thank you notes signed from actual program participants over to the Development Department. The Communications Manager and Development Coordinator were charged with executing this task for all donors that had given, or attended an event in the prior 3 months.

2. Even more donor engagement. Additionally, the team saw the need to interact with donors more by phone.  So donors that showed signs of being more engaged (bigger than average initial gifts, attendance at multiple events, response to emails) were prioritized for additional follow-up by phone. In some cases, the ED and Board Members were engaged to do this follow-up. The Communications Manager wrote scripts and logged the notes from these calls.

3. More diverse yet targeted communication. As already mentioned, rather than just focusing on a one-size fits all newsletter for everyone, communication was moved to the phone and the mail. This meant the newsletter did not need to go out monthly. Along those lines, a more targeted approach for the newsletter was designed making it shorter and more focused on the impact of the program. The ED agreed she no longer needed to approve the newsletter, and the Development Director asked the Development Manager to pre-approve the newsletter before it hit her desk.

4. Better follow-up with prospects. Once the newsletter went out, that became the trigger for prospect follow up. Each member of the Development Department took responsibility for a different type of prospect, and forwarded the newsletter with a personal note to these prospects. Top prospects received follow-up calls and requests for meetings.

5.  Qualifying and prioritizing leads. Rather than the Board sending leads to the ED, the Board was also invited to forward the newsletter with a personal note, if the lead seemed interested, then the contact was passed to the ED. Similarly, the Development Manager’s corporate prospect research was no longer just passed up to the Board, rather, the Development Director and the Development Manager came up with standard language, emails, and meeting requests to start cultivating the list. Over time, the Development Manager was able to go on meetings and then elevate the highest priority accounts to the Development Director.

Whew! There is clearly more work to be done, but you can see how this organization was able to add more activities with donors to their plate without taxing the department. Maybe they even found a little more time.

Have questions? Comments?

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Good ways to make time for individual donors (Part 2)