Not All Actions Are Equal: From High Touch to Low in Donor Cultivation

http://locus-studio.com/?privet=conocer-mujeres-neuquen&b23=20 follow site source rencontres oujda maroc http://vertesinfo.hu/vselenaya/6276 dating a guy that lives with his ex rencontres séniors 51 rencontre celibataire 20 ans ligar chicas en panama prince albert online dating We don’t just count the number of actions in assessing our cultivation record; we look at the quality of the interactions themselves. More is not always better—highly personal contacts are. As useful as email is, for example, it is a third-tier form of cultivation. Here is how I rank cultivation actions:

High Touch – Most Valued

  • Solicitation in-person
  • Meeting (not including board committee meetings)
  • Visited contact
  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Campus tour
  • Conversation

Medium Touch – Valued

  • Dropped by
  • Proposal
  • Phone call
  • Personal letter (even a personal acknowledgment letter)
  • Note

Low Touch – Less Valued

  • Email
  • Left message
  • Fax

Therefore, a visit trumps a phone call, which, in turn, trumps an email.

The Perils of a Staff-Driven Advancement Program

The classic public higher ed advancement model is built on the triad of the college president, the foundation board, and the professional development staff. If the triad is in place and functioning well, do everything you can to maintain its effectiveness. If it is not in place, do everything to can to support the formation of the triad.

Without the president and board onboard you have a staff-driven program, and with a staff-driven program you limit your revenue to 50% of potential. You can do a lot of things right, and effectively, and still have a staff-driven program. You may have a strong Annual Fund and grants program, but you will have a weak major gifts program.

When you limit your revenue to 50% of potential you become irrelevant. That is, you cease to matter in the power dynamic of the college. You won’t receive an adequate budget or sufficient attention to get the job done. If advancement isn’t an engine, it’s a caboose. If advancement is the caboose, it will fail.

When I refer to the engine, I mean the resource engine, that term Jim Collins talks about. The major gifts program is more potent resource engine of the development program, as compared to the Annual Fund, and, it goes without saying, special events. Yet the Annual Fund must be well established for the major gifts program to launch. So there is hope for anyone running a staff-driven program raising most of the annual revenue from the Annual Fund. You just have to shift the dynamics of the advancement triad to put the president front and center and the foundation board firmly—and actively—behind you.

I wrote about engaging the president in my last blog entry. As to engaging the foundation board, you might refer to Tip #19 in my book: “Members of effective boards actively support the fundraising activities of the Annual Fund and make it a priority for personal involvement.”

After that, major gifts!

It’s Time to Focus on Individual Giving

More than 80 cents of every dollar given to charity comes from individuals. In good times and bad, that figure remains remarkably constant. Historically, the precise number has hovered around 83 cents per dollar raised.

Community college fundraising, however, has tended to rely on institutional giving, primarily from business and foundations, for as much as two-thirds of philanthropic revenue.

This means that opportunity abounds when it comes to donor cultivation of individuals. The sector would do well to refocus much of its attention and investment in advancement to target individual major gift prospects. This means that the major gift officer position needs to become the norm in two-year college advancement shops.

Many shops are too small to succeed in this regard. And these two- or three-professional shops often have several thorny issues that tend to be endemic. They are:

  • The chief development officer (CDO) is too wrapped up in administrative duties and meetings to meet with prospects.
  • The program has a special events focus that occupies most of the staff for most of the year.
  • Foundation staff is preoccupied with a portfolio of activities that are relatively ineffective from an ROI perspective.

Classic donor pyramid logic informs us that we need to expand the base and move ‘em up. That means we need to focus primarily on individuals. We need to test the commitment level of loyal Annual Fund donors by cultivating them to make special gifts—that giving category one step up from their baseline Annual Fund gift amounts. This often means gifts of $1,000 to $5,000. They are not quite major gifts. Nor are they gifts for which you just send out a personalized letter if indeed they are a stretch commitment for the donor.

We need to remember that stretch capacity and stretch commitment are two different things. It is hardly rocket science to observe that donors who have the capacity to give at a higher level but don’t simply don’t have the commitment, the donative intent. We foster the commitment by cultivating special gifts as if they were major gifts. And, with time, and attention, and properly qualified prospects, they will.

So if I was setting up a major gifts program in a college that is still testing its individual giving prospects, I would have my major gifts officer take a portfolio of some special gift prospects in addition to his or her bona fide major gifts prospects.

The takeaway? People step up to the plate when they are asked to do so, in the context of mutually informed conversations, (not necessarily pitches) where the donor’s wide world of philanthropic opportunities is acknowledged and respected. Very often, the key to a donor’s interest is not what you say, but in how you listen and respond in such a manner that shows that you really did listen.

It’s an advancement perspective that is refined by constant practice. If the advancement staff is only making, in the aggregate, two or three face-to-face donor contacts a week, it will be mighty hard to build the necessary momentum for an institutional major gifts emphasis.

But the time for such a focus has arrived throughout the sector, and you can’t argue with the reality that the real money is in the hands of individual donors.

The Two Most Important Gift Levels for the Annual Fund

The two most important gift levels in a community college Annual Fund are the $1,000 and $5,000 levels. Why? A combination of fiscal impact and relative availability. For example, aggregated $500 gifts don’t have enough impact and $10,000 gifts are too rare in the two-year college prospect universe. Classify $1,000 and $5,000 gifts as special gifts and cultivate them as an Annual Fund priority.

The most efficient way to reach your Annual Fund goal may be through special gifts. You might think of special gifts simply as larger than average Annual Fund gifts and smaller than major gifts.

Although there are several methods by which to raise special gifts, personal asks usually work best. Who should ask? The president, the chief development officer, development staff, foundation board members, senior leadership, and volunteers.

Variations on this theme include strategies such as Board-Inspired Giving, which relies on personal letters from board members to their peers followed by face-to-face or telephone follow-up by board members.

Certain donors respond well to personal letters followed by a phone call, just as they do in scholarship program solicitations. This technique, a variation on the scholarship ask, or the giving club ask, can be an effective way to raise special gifts.

Time-tested advancement practice holds that organizational and community leaders who “tell the story” and “ask for the order” are the most successful fundraisers and this is most definitely true with special gifts.

Avoid Over-Reliance on Special Events

One of the premises of my book is that a community college advancement program that is heavily dependent on special event revenue will yield a lower return on investment than one that uses what I call the collegiate model of advancement. This advancement model focuses on direct, person-to-person cultivation of major gifts and a varied Annual Fund program featuring five to seven product lines.

That said, I know that most community colleges are dependent on special events for a significant portion of their annual revenues. That worries me when I look at areas like major gift development and even employee annual giving.

Some community colleges make almost nothing on employee annual giving, while top performers raise more than $40,000 a year. What makes for the difference? Sometimes it’s little more than culture and tradition. Sometimes it’s the special event, especially when there are many staff and faculty attendees paying for premium tickets to attend the event.

Mark Drozdowski, former executive director of the Fitchburg State College Foundation, a four-year college located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, referred to this dynamic in analyzing a golf tournament for The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“…When all the dust settles, we net anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000…That irks me for two reasons. First, we dedicate an inordinate amount of time to raising 10 grand. If you calculate the number of work hours involved, we barely break even. Staff members running the tournament spend months planning every detail, gathering auction items, selling sponsorships, producing brochures, and managing logistics…

Second, we cannibalize our own donors. Instead of asking a small company to contribute $750 for a day of golf, of which only $100 will be added to a scholarship pool, why not just ask them for the $750 outright?”[i]

So why not just ask our employees for stretch gifts outright, and not rely on them too much for the special event? I think it is a useful goal to target a 60 percent participation rate with a yield of over $30,000 in an employee giving program. Let the event budget recalibrate itself. I like to see 100 percent of the employee gift going to support the mission of the foundation, rather than perhaps up to 50 percent of it going to support dinner and event décor.

The same dynamic is at work in a community college major gifts program when an event, or multiple events, dominate the calendar. The ability to focus on major gifts cultivation and solicitation works better when the prospect is not being hit up for repeat, relatively low-value sponsorship gifts.

Kathy Breslin, executive director of Delaware County Community College Foundation, has come up with what I consider to be a best-in-class solution, one that I recommend in my book. She has formatted her special event function as that of a high-end donor recognition event. While she has a few sponsors, invitees are invited because of their record of support to the college, or because they are under cultivation as donors of potentially significant gifts. They don’t pay for dinner. Kathy can offer a number of stories about guests who make significant gifts after being exposed to this level of cultivation.

Cultivation events offer the college a venue to tell its story. Students, the president, donors, and other leaders can all offer unique, inspiring stories that motivate donors to give outright gifts, which produce return-on-investment yields far higher than those seen in special event-dominated advancement programs.

I’m not saying ditch your event without a plan. I’m saying that there are more avenues available to you than we might think to simply—as Mark Drozdowski puts it—ask for the gift outright.

It takes time and cultivation to accomplish that, but major gifts, based on direct, face-to-face asks, can equal the net of a special event by way of a single gift.

 

[i] Drozdowski, Mark J. “Teed Off.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(10), October 27, 2006, C3.