Sometimes You Need to Move on From a Unqualified Donor
About every three or four months, Richard and I do a free webinar answering your “burning questions.” We enjoy it because when we ask for your questions, we get hundreds of them… and they are all compelling.
One question (or a version of this question) comes up quite often:
“What do I do with a donor who never gets back to me?”
This is probably one of the most-asked questions we get from major gift fundraisers all over the world. We can hear the frustration in your voice. The background to this question is usually something like this:
You have identified a donor who has given your organization a gift that has met your “major gift metric.” Instead of going through a process to qualify that donor, they are put into your caseload by some manager; and there is now pressure on you to get a large gift from them.
This is now where the frustration sets in.
You call. No one answers, so you leave a message. The donor does not call back. A week later, you call again and leave another message… you hear nothing back. You write a letter, thanking them for their gift and follow up with another phone call… nothing. You find their email, thanking them again… crickets!
You start building a story in your head about this donor. You ask yourself, “Why they are not engaging with you after they gave a fairly large gift?” You start to question what is wrong with you. You are now frustrated and wonder why none of your donors ever get back to you.
Here’s the deal: First, don’t put an unqualified donor into your portfolio. Put them in another category called “To Be Qualified” list. This way, you and your manager will not put revenue goals or expectations on you or the donor. Secondly, know that two thirds of donors do not want to engage with you. Sometimes we’ve seen that number as high as three-fourths.
This means your mindset is different when they’re in the qualifying stage. If you follow the Veritus formula (up to seven attempts) to qualify a donor and they don’t engage with you… let them go.
This is where it’s usually tough for you. You typically don’t want to let them go. You say to yourself, “She has so much more potential, or she is a pillar in our community. I can’t stop trying to get her to engage.”
Our advice is this: After you have done all you could with those seven attempts, do not attempt to reach out anymore. Let that person go.
Because you have qualified donors in your portfolio who need your time and attention. Too many major gift fundraisers are chasing unqualified donors and taking their focus off donors who have already said they want to engage with you.
The greatest gift you can give your qualified donors and your organization is to stop chasing donors who don’t want to be chased. Think about it. It’s a waste of your time and a waste of your organization’s money.
It’s okay that most donors don’t want to engage with you personally. It’s not you. What’s great for you is that you now know that after all your hard work to get them engaged, you can move on knowing you’ve done all the work you can.
That’s all you can do.
Sometimes, letting go is the best thing you can do as a major gift fundraiser.
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.