A Personal Touch Can Lead to Big Nonprofit Impact
We do a lot of planning at Veritus. Right now, we’re working with about 140 major gift officers; and they all have goals and strategic plans for all of their donors. So, yeah, a ton of planning.
In the process of creating a 12-month strategic plan, there is a lot of focus on: soliciting, preparing proposals, thanking the donor and reporting back the impact of that donor’s gift. But, what we have found can really make a difference in nonprofit impact are the small, personal touches that let the donor know you know them.
While we plan for those types of touches with our major gift officers (MGOs) throughout the year, many of them are spontaneous. But, here is the key to these personal touches: You, as the major gift fundraiser, have to really know your donor. You have to be aware of little details when you talk in person or the phone with them, or it could even be their style on email that is unique to a specific donor.
Let me tell you a story that one of our senior client managers, Diana Frazier, told me the other day about one of the MGOs she manages:
This particular MGO has been working with a donor for months on a gift of land, plus cash. It was taking months, and there had been little progress on it. The MGO was really frustrated, and the whole thing looked like it was not going to happen.
One day, the MGO is driving in her car and heard a story on NPR about the poet E.E. Cummings and how he always wrote his poems in lower case. It hit the MGO that whenever she emails her donor, she always writes back in lower case. So, the MGO goes back to her office, finds the interview link on NPR’s website and sends it to the donor saying, “I heard this today on my way to the office, and it made me think of you. I hope it brings a smile to your face.”
The donor responded back saying she loved the story and thanked her for sending it. Suddenly, the donor was no longer just a cog in a wheel of an organization. She was someone who knew the donor well enough to connect in a personal way.
After that, they quickly resolved the issues surrounding the gift and the donor gave a $3 million donation!
You see what happened here? The donor felt known. The MGO recognized a little nuance with this donor and thought enough to tell her about it through a touchpoint like that.
Diana also told me another great story:
An MGO had been trying to reach a donor that was transferred to him, but he was having no luck at all. He tried several ways to connect to him, but nothing worked. This donor happened to be the CEO of a company that sold cigar humidors.
One day, the MGO is out with his father golfing and as was their tradition, went to pick up a couple of cigars to smoke on the course. The MGO noticed that his donor’s product was being used at the golf club as their humidor for all the cigars. The MGO took a picture of it, and the next day sent an email to the donor telling him the story.
The donor replied almost immediately and was thrilled that the MGO thought of him; a genuine connection was made and now, the donor always takes his calls.
The key to these personal touches, again, is that you are aware of who your donor is, you listen for things that make your donor unique and you make that connection. You know how good it feels when someone does something unexpected and personal for you. It’s an incredible feeling.
Give that same feeling to your donor, and you’ve now endeared them to you and your organization.
So, yes, you can plan for these touches throughout the year, but knowing your donor will allow you to also be spontaneous and genuine in your touches with your donors. Remember these little touches will have huge impact on your donor.
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.