The Art of the Light Touchpoint

By: Nadine Gabai-Botero, President

February 19, 2020

What’s a development professional to do? You’re getting to know your prospects and donors, but you’re having mixed results. How can you make sure your outreach doesn’t feel overbearing?

Fundraisers spend a lot of time reaching out to their donors and prospects. Whether you’re a major gift officer at a large institution, development director at a one-person shop, or anywhere on the career spectrum, contacting your donors and getting to know them is always part of the job.

Recently, on a call with a client, we discussed the fine line between reaching out to cultivate a prospect and being “thirsty,” – essentially too needy or obvious about engagement. Because the line between casual outreach to connect and a push to forge ties can be fuzzy, I thought I’d share my views on what works and what to stay away from.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is starting with a prospect list that is just too small. Inevitably you’re going to be bugging someone if you keep going back to the same people. So, first goal is to build out an expansive list – and prioritize those names! – so that you won’t have to circle back too often with each one. Circling back with donors is fine, but just make sure you’re giving them some breathing room in between outreach.

Next make sure you’ve identified what aspect of your work is likely to interest each prospect. Nothing screams desperate more than sending emails or making calls about something that has nothing to do with what someone wants to support!

Another element to keep in mind: make sure you have a good reason to call or email. Great development folks spend a lot of time planning interesting events, thinking through unusual volunteer opportunities, and identifying how to bring aspects of the mission to life because they do work. Think through your outreach programs from your donors’ point of view and push to improve them!

Last, figure out mutual connections. One of the surest ways to build ties with someone in a way that doesn’t feel forced, is to have a friend in common. Your job is to figure out who you know in common, and get creative about making the link. Let that person advocate for the impact you’re having and the work you plan to do.

What’s your story on donor or prospect outreach? I’d love to hear your views and, if you want help thinking through your donor engagement, let me know!