An Answer to a Problem, Part II

(Note: Following is an introduction to a new book I have written that will be published by Charity Channel Press in April 2013.)

My new book, “Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call,” details a “better way” to bring new prospective major donors to your non-profit organization.

Some of the information in the book comes from the school of hard knocks. I kept trying different ideas until I found one that worked. I learned other methods from professional colleagues. For example, the discovery call questionnaire in Chapter Eight originated from a document shared with me by my former boss, Bud Bender, who retired as WMU vice president for development in 2010 after a long and successful career in fundraising.

As I’m sure you know, if you are not feeding new prospective major gift donors into your pipeline on a regular and systematic basis, sooner or later your efforts are going to stall. So, whether you are new to fundraising or have been active in the profession for years, this is a resource that can help you build new relationships and add good prospects to your portfolio.

The book provides specific strategies that will increase your odds for success when you are ready to meet your donors. You will learn—as I did—to “warm” your prospects so they are receptive to your outreach, to make allies of the gatekeepers who control access to the decision makers, and to conduct a qualification call that is both casual and purposeful. All of these methods are designed to initiate a comfortable and meaningful relationship that will one day result in a significant philanthropic investment.

How important is the task of mastering the discovery call? Take a look at the average portfolio of a major gift officer. A number of industry benchmarks indicate that if there are 150 individuals in a fundraiser’s portfolio, as many as half of them (seventy-five) might be prospects/suspects who haven’t yet been properly qualified. Therefore, it is critical for today’s development professional to become proficient in prospect qualification.

My aim with the book is to present information in a straightforward and logistically sequential fashion. We start with the reasons why qualification calls are important and then delve into researching your prospects. Following that are practical tips for negotiating voice mail and gatekeepers en route to successfully making the appointment.

Next we focus on the actual format of the discovery call, including suggested scripts that you may wish to employ during your face-to-face visit. Down the homestretch, we look closely at strategies for conducting follow-up calls and then conclude with a look at future trends.

The qualification of donors is, generally speaking, not an easy task. Hard work and discipline are essential. At the same time, bringing new donors to your organization can be a lot of fun. You’ll meet some amazing people, many of whom will share your passion for your nonprofit.

Bottom line, if you follow the strategies detailed in the book, I believe you will be successful. If I did it, you can too.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Answer to a Problem, Part I

My new book, Opening the Door to Major Gifts,  provides an answer to a problem. A problem I faced a number of years ago and that many others face today.

In 1998, after nearly two decades of working in the communications field, I took the plunge into fundraising and began work as director of development for the Greater Kalamazoo (Michigan) Area American Red Cross. Simultaneously, I began pursuit of a master’s degree in philanthropy and development at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.

Previously, I had supported development functions as public relations director at Kalamazoo College, writing a number of media releases announcing major gifts to the college. As an outsider, I had been intrigued by the fundraising profession and finally decided to make the jump.

While I enjoyed the opportunity to raise funds for the Red Cross, which has a great mission, I quickly learned that it was harder than it looked. Since I had learned at Saint Mary’s that “people give to people,” I initially set out a plan to meet one on one with as many of our current donors as possible.

I found that setting up meetings, especially meetings with individuals who were not personally connected to our Red Cross chapter, was a difficult task. It took a great deal more time than I had anticipated to arrange for the meetings, and a number of people I contacted either did not want to meet or did not have time to meet. The challenge was complicated by the fact that major gifts was just one of my fundraising responsibilities there—a commonality that many one-person development shops face.

In 2001, I was thrilled to return to my undergraduate alma mater, Western Michigan University, as director of development for the WMU College of Education. While I was fortunate in my new duties to be able to focus solely on major gifts, I faced the same resistance from prospects. It remained quite difficult to schedule meetings—especially introductory meetings. During my first year, it was tough going, to the point that I was getting rather discouraged. While it had long been my goal to return to WMU, this was not proving to be my dream job.

All along, I kept thinking, there has to be a better way.

The new book is the better way.

(Stay tuned for Part II, which elaborates on the “better way”)

Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call will be published in April 2013 by Charity Channel Press.

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Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why I Decided to Write a Book

At 52 years of age, I have wondered aloud why I waited until now to write my first book. I suppose the answer is that I have never seen a need for such an endeavor. My approach to work has always been practical, so it was not until I saw a problem that needed to be solved that I became motivated to write. I’ve seen way too many new development officers struggle to get appointments with new prospects. Once the relationship had been established, it wasn’t nearly as hard to continue cultivation and even ask for a gift, but hoo boy — that first meeting is a bear. Setting up and conducting the discovery call was easily my most difficult challenge when I started in major gifts fundraising 15 years ago.

“Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call” (April 2013) will make its debut from the publisher Charity Channel Press, which I am delighted to work with. It started with a list of questions that were provided to me by my former boss to be asked during a discovery call. It slowly grew into a manual of tools and techniques dealing with letter writing, using the telephone and voice mail and a myriad of other methods needed to set up and execute the identification call.

The outpouring of support from the non-profit community has already been tremendous. I’ve been blessed to receive endorsements from some great fundraising professionals, including Gail Perry, Guy Mallabone, Harvey McKinnon, Laura Fredricks and Bruce Flessner. Very flattering and a high bar to live up to!

As I said, I really wrote the book in response to a direct need that I saw. I believe those in the development world will agree with me about the need.

Published in: on March 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm  Comments (1)