‘Tis the Season
Yes, it’s that time of year when fundraising begins again in earnest. No more procrastination: it’s time to make that followup call.
Over the summer most people are on holiday – foundations, institutions and your major donors haven’t been reachable recently. So you’ve let yourself off the hook for the summer months. Now, it’s time to get your fundraising off of the back burner.
How to make that followup call:
Gently Does It
Ease yourself back into peoples’ line of sight. Everyone is just getting back into the swing of things; you’re not the only one who has been holding back emails and calls over the summer. Send donors – especially new prospective donors – personal greetings, asking about how their vacation was, and gently remind them about that proposal you sent before the summer.
Call vs Email
Follow their lead. How did you first communicate with them? Do they have staff who handle their correspondence? It’s a good idea to call and speak to a personal assistant or secretary, who will likely have handled the proposal letter or email, anyway. If your prospective donor always communicates by email, you can be sure that’s the best way to follow up with them.
Make It Easy
When following up, don’t put too many questions or statements into your message. Keep it simple: “Did you get the proposal?” Don’t push for an answer about the proposal itself – confirming that they got the proposal is often a clear enough reminder that they should look at it. If they (or their office) can verify that the proposal is in hand (or on desk), it’ll help put it top-of-mind rather than bottom-of-pile.
Make It Digital
Did you mail a physical proposal the first time? Have a digital copy of it ready to email, in case you’re told, “No, we didn’t get it.” Did you send cold proposals the first time? Call to follow up on whether the proposal was received and if they say, “No,” ask for the best email address to reach them at. Send a .pdf of the proposal by email – it’s easier to forward to the right people and it’s possible to track whether an email has been opened, unlike “snail mail”.
Don’t Give Up
Keep trying until you get a response. When you call or email, who are you trying to contact? Think creatively – how can you get that person’s attention?
Try some practical things, like changing the color of the envelope you send hard-copies in, or by sending it via a courier service that requires a signature on receipt.
When you reach someone who can’t give you an answer right away, give them a specific time and date when you’ll follow up – “That’s great, I’ll call you again next Wednesday at 3 pm to see if you have an update.”
Tips: The most wonderful time of the year?
Put yourself in a good mood to go “back to school” with one of our favorite ’90s ads. Parents: this is for you.
Be New: Renew
As a fundraiser, how do you draw on what you know from experience, with the uncertainty of the future? Non-profit organizations can learn from what returning students experience each year.
Don’t “repeat a grade” by just submitting the same thing you did last year – see what worked and got responses (if not grants) and use more of those strategies in writing year’s grants. If you didn’t get a grant last year, do something different in this year’s proposal, especially if you’re sending to the same prospects.
Don’t get held back by setting your goals low. You’ve grown – don’t stick to the kids’ stuff. Challenge your fundraising trends. If you’ve spent the last few years aiming for the same numbers, why not aim for something more? Setting bigger goals may spur you on to bigger achievements.
What your organization “wears” tells how you view your organization and the world around you. From year-to-year your journey requires some reinvention and some style changes. It’s the little things – some actually new news to share, for example. Show that things are ongoing, not static.
If fundraising is like school, we’re the guidance counselor. Talk to us – we’re here for you.