From the Author of Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call (Charity Channel Press)
Do donor identification/qualification calls really work? In the life of today’s busy fundraiser, are they worth the time? Why should you spend your limited time initiating new relationships that might or might not pay off?
While there are no absolute guarantees, I’m here to tell you that , conducted strategically, a regimented approach to qualifying prospective major donors is almost always worth your time.
My personal experience bears this out. After being appointed a director of development in 2001 in a higher education setting, I spent much of the next two years making discovery calls. I’d estimate that as much as half of my work time was devoted to this task. The reason for this was simple: many of our current major doors and none of our prospective major donors had ever been personally visited by a representative of the University. Hard to believe, huh?
While there were extenuating circumstances, all the time spent opening doors paid off. In December 2003, a little more than two years into my new job, I experienced a highlight of my fundraising career. During that month, I documented a total of eight new major gifts in support of WMU. At that time, a gift or pledge of $10,000 was considered to count as a major gift.
I can take at least part of the credit for this occurrence. There was no doubt that many of the gifts came to fruition because of my early groundwork two years earlier. During this time period, I traveled to the far reaches of the country to initiate new relationships. There was scarcely a rental car company or major hotel chain with which I was not familiar.
Lest I appear overly boastful, I should note that December 2003 was the last month of a five-year comprehensive fundraising campaign to celebrate the University’s centennial.Two of the eight gifts were specifically secured before year end because the donors wanted to be counted in the campaign totals. Of those two, one of the commitments was actually secured during qualification visit — a rarity in major gifts work.
The lesson? Discovery calls conducted with a focused approach do work. My personal experience bears it out.
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