Ok.  You just had a great big unsolicited gift come in.  You’re not sure why, but super grateful and excited.  Could be a response to a splash in the media, friend of a friend, year end tax break, the list goes on.  You celebrate for a few minutes but then the work begins because as you know, our primary aim, mission, and priority is to secure that ever so important, ever so encouraging, ever so absolutely gotta get this done – second gift.

If you’re like me, the folks that have sent in unsolicited gifts that you typically prioritize pursuing are those that gave the most generously.  100% no brainer.  The size of a gift is typically a great indication that whoever gave it is totally into you, or actually and better yet, totally into your agency, your cause, and the great work you are doing.  Or, are they?

I mean, what’s going on when you send that timely and compelling thank you to folks that have given a major unsolicited gift thanking them, expressing you desire to get to know them, and genuinely communicating how much you appreciate their partnership and for a response you get nada?  Zilch.  Zero.  What does it mean when you don’t hear from them for a few weeks, and try again, and then, still, nothing?  A few months go by and you start to worry that you seem like a stalker.  You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do and still, nothing?   What now?

Well, at the end of the day, we just have to accept it.  We can’t make donors talk to us.  And, in the grand scheme, that’s ok.  Here are a few things to remember and perhaps be encouraged by:

  1. For donors we don’t know, that ‘big’ gift may not be that big for them.  If they are unknown and their capacity is unclear, it could be a drop in the bucket.  We might be one of many orgs they are giving to and the need to get to know us better simply might not be on their radar.
  2. While pursuing donors is our top priority, we simply are not always theirs.  Rules of the game.
  3. There are many, many other ways to evaluate the success of our fundraising efforts than whether or not we’re able to engage everyone who gives.
  4. Donors are the shot callers, not us.  Let’s go with what works, and focus on the doors that are opening not the ones that remain closed after repeated (hopefully not incessant knocks).

Thoughts on how to manage donors who never call us back?  Tweet a comment to @infosmallchange with #ascblog.

Everyone is always looking for ways to grow their donor base so I thought I’d offer a few suggestions and tips that I’ve used myself. Feel free to add some of your own ideas. The first step would be to figure out what you mean when you say “donor base.” Are we talking about monthly donors or annual donors? If you want to grow your base you have to know what you are growing them to be.

  • Send an appeal to lapsed donors from a year ago and invite them to get involved again. You can highlight a new project or just tell them you missed them.
  • Ask your faithful donors if they could introduce you to some of their friends. I often let the volunteers, community advocates, and close donors know that if they ever want to introduce a friend of theirs to the organization that I am always available to give a tour or meet with them.
  • Look at other similar organization’s annual reports or donor recognition publications.
  • With local businesses I will often make sure I am watching the local news & skimming the paper for organizations that might be interested. I will often follow that up with a cold call or a letter.
  • Get your “unsolicited gifts” and fringe givers to be involved more closely in the organization through a tour or event.
  • An annual fundraising event can be a great way to bring in new donors.
  • Chambers, Rotaries, networking groups, and other associations can be a great way to meet new business donors and individual major donors.

What does your organization do? Anything you’d like to add to the list? Leave a comment.

Re-Prospecting Donors

January 21, 2015

There are always donors that have a personal relationship with other people in the organization. Often times the donors who have these friendships make judgement calls about their “donor friends” without consulting the individual donors. When your major donors have family that is on staff or are part of your staffs private inner circle (we […]

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Raise Supporters Not Support

January 19, 2015

Everyone always talks about fundraising as having to do with raising money or providing funds for an organization. I think that it could be worth our while to expand this idea to include activism in a more general sense such as advocacy and community activism. Volunteers and community members can be such incredible ambassadors for […]

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Ice Breakers Part Two

January 14, 2015

A couple of years back I posted about Icebreakers that we use in conversations with donors, prospects, board members, etc. You provided some really great ideas and feedback and I thought I’d include a few more that I’d heard from you and that I’ve used since my initial post. What is the heart behind your […]

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Never too late for New Year’s resolutions….

January 12, 2015

Oh boy.  Here it is.  2015.  For those of you whose fiscal years close in December, my hope is that y’all got to celebrate meeting or exceeding your fundraising goals, and that you threw a party and savored the success a few days at least, before diving back in.  And, for those of us whose […]

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Working the Room

January 7, 2015

A good development officer understands the value of working the room. Whether it is a small house party, a large gala or luncheon, or even just a tour it is important to make a special connection with your guests. Everyone has a different capacity of how many new people they can meet at one time. […]

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Happy Birthday to Me!

January 5, 2015

If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s my birthday. Birthdays seem to be the only day of the year everyone is okay with someone tooting their own horn. So here it goes… A Small Change has sort of been a life’s work for me. There have been incredible moments, I’ve met amazing people and […]

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Tooting Your Own Horn

December 30, 2014

This may sound a little cheap but I’ve found it invaluable. Succeeding as a fundraising professional is often more about managing perception that your actual performance and success. I am writing this for those of us that do not toot our own horn (not for the slackers that really don’t do anything). I have found […]

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Who Likes Meetings?

December 23, 2014

I have talked a lot about meetings in my last couple posts. Why does everyone hate meetings? Too often not enough work has been done before the meeting so everyone sits around getting nothing done. Sometimes the one chairing the meeting has not “rallied up enough support” before the meeting and everyone spends the entire […]

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