Communicating With Major Donors During These Times
These days, one of the top questions we are asked at Veritus is: “How should I talk to my major donors during this pandemic?”
It’s understandable. It may feel awkward to reach out to donors when we’re all dealing with an international crisis, and it feels like we’re just trying to survive. But the reality is that donors DO want to talk with you.
We know this empirically because we work with over 200 major gift officers every day at Veritus, and we are hearing that donors are thankful they are being reached out to and that meaningful conversations are happening. Donors are asking how they can help, and they are giving!
So how do you talk to your major donors right now? Here are some thoughts for you to consider:
- Plan. Create a daily call plan. We don’t advise to randomly call donors, but create a daily plan for your calls. It’s difficult when you have many distractions at home, which is why creating a plan for calling and emailing donors is a way for you to keep focus.
- Prepare. Do you research your donor before contacting them? What is their lifetime giving? When was their last gift? What did they give to? What are their passions and interests? Where do they live? What is the latest news at your organization? All of this preparation is necessary so that your donor is aware you KNOW them, can report on the impact of their giving and are prepared for questions they may have about what is happening at your nonprofit.
- Get yourself in a good space. Make sure the environment you are calling from is quiet, and you won’t get distracted. If that requires you do one call at a time, then allow for that. But you may end up having some very emotional calls with your donors. You need to be prepared emotionally for that. Many of the MGOs we are working with tell us they are “absolutely drained” at the end of the day.
- What to say when you are calling a donor? Find out how your donor is doing first:
- “Hi, [donor]. This is Susan from [nonprofit]. I’m calling to see how you are doing right now.
- “I wanted to call to check in on you and find out how you and your family are doing.
- Listen. What we are hearing is that donors want to talk about how they are coping, how your organization is making it through the crisis and how you personally are doing. Listen to what donors are telling and asking of you.
- How can the donor help? Be prepared to answer a donor if they ask you how they can help your organization at this time. Perhaps you have a COVID-19 fund, a special match or a specific program that has a need right now. Know what it is.
- If appropriate, ask for an additional gift for a program or project the donor is passionate about. Perhaps a donor traditionally gives in November. Ask the donor if they would consider a gift now to help your nonprofit get through the crisis. Or say something like, “I know that you have supported our new artist initiatives, and I was wondering if it would be possible to give an additional gift to help support those young artists who are struggling financially at this time?” From all accounts that our MGOs are telling us, donors are NOT offended that they are being asked for gifts right now.
- Thank the donor. This is obvious, but if possible, thank the donor for the call by emailing them or writing a handwritten note and putting it in the mail that day or the next morning.
- Record and follow up. It’s very important that you record every interaction with your donors in your database. And if there is a request from your donor make sure you follow up with them. Now is the time for your donors to be served as best you can. Follow up and acknowledgement of the conversation is critical.
If there was ever a time to reach out to your donors, this is it. I know you have obstacles at home to overcome, but if you create a realistic call plan, have your research done, get yourself in a good place emotionally, you will be creating a positive experience for your donors and help them stay connected to your mission.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.