You Can’t Use the Economy as a Crutch

How many times have you heard a fundraiser, either a colleague or someone from another organization talk about how they are down in revenue over the last few years because of the bad economy?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard it over and over again.

I really believe if you are a great fundraiser you should never use that excuse.  To me, that excuse means you don’t know your donors.

“Jeff, aren’t you being a little tough on folks?”  I’m sorry, but I can’t take that excuse from people.

As a major gift fundraiser our work is to know our donors.  This means not only do we know what they are passionate about, but we know their circumstances, what they do for work, and how they live.

If you are cultivating a healthy caseload, you will always have some of your donors who are encountering “trouble.”  This is expected.  And, this is why maintaining solid relationships with your entire case file is crucial.  If a few of them are having “trouble”(their business is bad, divorce, a death in the family) you’re able to weather it because of the relationship you have with your other donors.

Too many times, though, I run into a caseload of donors that’s unhealthy, i.e. over half of the total caseload revenue comes from only a handful of donors, or the MGO is not engaged with enough donors, or having too many donors on the caseload which is preventing the MGO from really knowing their donors.

Let me tell you, if your caseload is unhealthy you’re going to run into trouble eventually, regardless of the economy.

Okay, here are some quick tips to make sure your caseload is a healthy one.

  1. Ask yourself, “Do all of my caseload donors want to be on my caseload?”  If you cannot answer with certainty a big, “YES”  You need to qualify these donors. You can read about how to do that here.
  2. What is your cost to revenue ratio of your caseload?  You need to know this.  We tell you how to do this here.  If this is a new caseload of donors you need to be around a 3:1 ROI, if mature at least a 10:1 ROI.
  3. Do you have revenue goals and a marketing plan for EACH donor?  If no, you need to create this.  Here’s why you need to do that here.
  4. You need to be putting new proposals and offers in front of your donors at all times during the year.  Knowing the passion of your donor will assure that you are putting the right offers in front of them.
  5. Do you know the major dates in your donor’s life?  Birthday’s, Anniversaries, etc.  If the donor knows you know them when making a decision between your organization or another…you win.
  6. When was the last time you sent an article to your donors that interests THEM?  Little touches like this goes a long way.
  7. Work your plan.  If you have a strategic plan and have the discipline to stay with it, you will be successful no matter what the storms may bring in.  If you don’t have the discipline, seek outside help.  Having someone keep you accountable works.

If you’re cultivating your caseload in this manner you’ll be able to weather bad economies, disasters, etc. because you paid attention to these folks.  This matters.  Good fundraisers don’t whine about the economy.  They make sure they pay attention and take good care of their donors.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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3 Responses to You Can’t Use the Economy as a Crutch

  1. Heather says:

    Are you saying that the economy isn’t an excuse for decreased major gifts or that the economy isn’t an excuse for decreased revenue in general?

  2. Hi Heather, thanks for the question. The answer, Major Gifts. Basically what I’m saying is if you are cultivating your donors, being proactive, understanding their needs, you will be able to weather any storm, whether that is economic, disaster, etc. I just see many MGO’s make excuses about the economy as a reason for not making their goals, when in reality if you look at their work, they are not doing the job like they could be doing.

  3. Pingback: Stop Making Excuses—The Economy is not the Problem | Passionate Giving

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