What Flavor Is Your Ice Cream?
I took an informal poll the other day, asking 10 people if they liked ice cream and if so, did they like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. Specifically, four liked vanilla, four liked chocolate and two liked strawberry.
The impetus behind my exercise was my idea that fundraising professionals' approaches to prospects can be like ice cream.
Many fundraising professionals take a light, "vanilla" approach, focusing only annual-gift prospects. They seek low-level gifts without research or cultivation. They attempt to secure the same level of gift over and over again in a transaction-type manner. The approach is usually one-on-one and may take several impersonal forms. These approaches may include a letter, telephone call, e-mail or possibly face-to-face. Regardless of approach, the prospect is viewed as one-dimensional, or vanilla, in nature.
Other professionals prefer the warmth and depth of chocolate — in this case, major-gifts prospects. This transformational gift takes more thought, strategy, engagement, education and communication than a vanilla prospect. The fundraiser needs to understand priorities and possibly seek a multiyear-pledge scenario. The gift amounts are larger, as other factors such as recognition, gift policies, solicitation teams and other details come into play. The engagement must be personal and the relationship orientation geared toward the long term. Research and volunteers may be required to get the job done.
A large number of institutions have the resources to take a strawberry approach, which specifically focuses on planned-gift prospects. It's a more complex relationship that involves many planned-gift specialists, including attorneys, CPAs, trust officers and financial planners. These legacy-type gifts require the ultimate trust and constant nurturing by a team involving administration, staff, volunteers and professionals. Strawberry prospects taste great, as these typically large-size gifts are derived from assets and can be used for many needed purposes.
The point of my Ben & Jerry's theme is that, in my opinion, fundraisers should not look at prospects as single flavors. Instead they need to aim for the Neapolitan approach — a combination of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, separate, but working together. View every prospect as having the capability to make an annual, major and planned gift.
When this integrated thought process is accepted by your staff, common communication and information is shared. You welcome and enjoy collaboration by various stakeholders. You also tear down silos and view the fundraising process in a very different way.
So, what flavor is your ice cream?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.