Involving non-fundraising staff in donor stewardship is peachy. So let’s think about who to take on that next donor visit and how to make them successful!
In the past, I was guilty of defaulting to the chiefs. I’d automatically bring along a board member, maybe even the chair or my CEO.
But if donor stewardship is about showing people the impact of their gift, then why not go straight to the source and bring along a person who actually delivers your programs? They might not be as polished as the CEO, but I bet they’ll be more interesting – mainly because they are so much closer to the work. They can likely talk about your mission from a first-hand-delivery point of view, with more passion than fundraising or management staff would have.
Don’t get me wrong – I know this can backfire. I have taken intelligent, amazing and personable programs staff to donor meetings and then watched as they unleashed a torrent of verbal diarrhea. After seeing this happen a couple of times, I realized they were reacting to the pressure of being “on stage” and felt they had to talk talk talk.
Here’s how to prep your program colleagues for success.
- Book them for an informal briefing a couple of days before the donor meeting.
- Tell them about the donor: how much they’ve given, what their interests are, and above all, what kind of personality they have.
- Emphasize more than once that the visit is informal and that we’re not going to ask for money.
- Do a bit of a role play. The fundraiser should start, as she has the relationship. Then let the donor talk, then cue up the program person.
- Have a signal for your colleague to let them know when they’ve said enough on a given topic. Let them know this is necessary because it is SO important to let the donor talk too. (I had a system with one scientist where I’d put my pen down on the table. He stopped so abruptly the first time we did it, it was like someone had punched him in the neck. We improved over time.)
- Figure out a “leave.” What’s the follow up we will offer when we close the meeting? An advance look at a pending report? A promise to send along an event invitation? Make sure it’s never just “goodbye.”
- Write a thank you for your program colleague to send from her email address (she can cc you) encouraging the donor to get in touch directly with any questions or comments. This creates a nice value add where you’re giving your best supporters exclusive access to the change-makers of the organization.
And don’t forget to tell your colleagues why this is so important. At the end of it all, we are looking to secure more funds for their work!
No organization can boast 100% retention and we all know that the competition is just as busy trying to catch our donors’ attention as we are. Including your programs people in the stewardship process is great for business and, if you prep them well, they’ll have a blast.
Thanks for reading!
Siobhan : )