Connecting with Donors: Appointments or Disappointments?
An excellent approach, in theory, is to call the prospect directly. However, cold-calling produces limited success because of caller ID and voicemail. While a letter or e-mail in advance of a phone call certainly helps, it doesn't guarantee success. (Based upon personal research, on average, for every 10 cold calls you make to transactional donors, you may reach two contacts; you'll hear six voicemails, and two calls will ring into infinity.)
Even if you finally do reach someone in the home, in most cases you won't connect with the actual prospect. It's difficult for individuals, even donors, to trust you making a cold call over the phone. To increase your chances of success, it's recommended that women call prospects since most organizations have more female donors than male donors.
So what's the lesson?
To obtain an appointment and not be disappointed, you must determine how to contact the prospect and who can link you to that prospect. The key to securing a major gift appointment is connectivity!
You must tap someone connected with your organization to be an advocate and open a door for you. This person might be a volunteer, board member, staff member, friend, donor or even another prospect. Your targeted prospects will respond more positively about meeting with you if the meeting request comes from someone they know and trust.
Ideally, your connector knows your prospect; if not, remember that in most cases, a prospect tends to react more favorably to a volunteer rather than a paid staff member on the first approach for a face-to-face meeting.
Always keep in mind that major- and planned-gift fundraising is relationship-based and very personal and requires touching a donor's heart and soul; after all, you're trying to engage donors in the life of your organization for the rest of their lives. A highly engaged donor once told me, "I am giving my estate to my four 'children' - my three sons and your hospital - in equal shares." Over time, this individual was moved from a direct-mail donor, to a major-gift donor, and finally to a planned-gift transformational donor. The process began during our first face-to-face meeting, and the end result was several years in the making.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.