Six Things You can Do This Summer to Help You Win in the 4th Quarter! Summertime Lesson #2: Figure Out Who Your Donors Are

I know summer can be kind of frustrating for major gift officers because many of your donors are on vacation, or the program people are away and not doing a whole lot, so it can create a little anxiety.

Well, here’s a great idea to calm you down and help you feel like you’re making progress.  Get to know your donors!  “Wait, Jeff, didn’t you just say many of my donors are away?   So how am I going to do that?”

Well, how about the old-fashioned way  …  research!

I’m guessing that your donor data-base is not tapped out with the information about donors that it’s capable of containing.  The fact is, most often, Richard and I see very little of this..  Yes, we see gift behavior, but where are the notes about who this donor is, what is she passionate about and when is her birthday?  Often, it’s blank.

This is a problem.  Remember, these donors are NOT yours.  These donors belong to your organization.  I don’t want to sound morbid, but what if you get hit by a bus walking across the street tomorrow and nothing about your caseload donors beyond their giving history is in your database?

It won’t be a pretty sight for either you or the person taking over for you. (I know, I have a sick sense of humor.)

So this summer, take some time to start filling in those holes in the database about your donors.  Start putting in information like birthdays, anniversaries, hobbies, where they work, who are they connected to, what they are passionate about, how much wealth they have, etc.  Now is the time.  Additionally, start recording contacts with the donors and how they’ve gone.  What did you talk about?  What clues did the donors give you about how they would like to give to your organization?

This is really important stuff.  And, if you don’t know this information, spend the time and research this it..  Get on Google, Zillow, Facebook, Twitter, company web pages.  Go down to your nearest foundation library.  Start driving around the neighborhoods where your donors live and shop.  There is a lot to figure out.

Don’t use the excuse that you “don’t have the time” when it comes to understanding who your donors are.  This is what it’s all about…figuring out who your donors are and what makes them tick.  Only through personal contact and solid research are you going to know this.  So, carve out some time this summer and fill your caseload’s database with good stuff.  All of it will be helpful when it comes down to crunch time at the end of the year!



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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2 Responses to Six Things You can Do This Summer to Help You Win in the 4th Quarter! Summertime Lesson #2: Figure Out Who Your Donors Are

  1. Jennifer Ott says:

    Summer IS a great time for this! Also, even though board members may be away, they can still help make your efforts even more robust by agreeing to review lists you send them. I like to create a template, filling out one for each donor/prospect with whatever info we already know, both with respect to the organization or which we’ve uncovered from prospect research. Of course this shows you have done your homework, but it can provide the trustee with new info they hadn’t known and–most important–it prompts them to recall anything else they know that might be helpful about a donor or prospects (what boards are they on; their major giving elsewhere or their capacity generally; whom they may know; personal, educational and professional history; what aspect(s) of our program resonate most and why; whether they might be open to further cultivation–you get the idea!).
    BTW, select current major donors who love you even if they aren’t on your board are often willing to do some of this (though you may want to omit giving histories for them). If they agree, not only do you get great intel, you now also have an active donor who has demonstrated they are likely ready for a deeper commitment–whether it’s a larger or multi-year gift, or possibly ongoing involvement in fundraising or even stepping up as a board candidate!

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