Many organizations I speak to are struggling to effectively engage and qualify new prospects. At the same time, those who know and believe in our cause are often looking to help however they can, in addition to their own generosity. Despite our increasingly virtual world, this is a perfect time to partner with those supporters to introduce new potential prospects.

That being said, how we secure those referrals, act upon them, and report back is critical to whether we’re effective. These elements are also critical to whether our contacts who trusted us with those referrals will do so in the future. I’ve found that by following a few key steps, we can make the most of these referrals and the relationships they’re built from.

First, the work starts in how you secure those referrals — and building your referrer’s confidence in your approach is critical.

  • Be clear about your process: messaging, how your connection will be involved, and whether/when you will solicit a donation.
  • Set realistic expectations by letting your contact know that not everyone referred will become a supporter — and that this is all a part of the process.
  • Explicitly ask permission to use the name of the referrer, and for any involvement you hope they will have in the process.
  • Keep your contact updated on the status of your outreach.
  • Reflect upon your interactions with your contact. If you have been thoughtful and responsive in your engagement with them, you are modeling what their referrals will also receive from you.

Next, you must be diligent in acting on those referrals.

  • Be comfortable with knowing that you may have limited information about those referred. The most important data point is that this individual was referred, and we learn the most valuable information through conversation.
  • Timeliness is key. We recommend making 6-12 contacts within 90 days to create momentum, and use every avenue (email, phone, mail) available.
  • Be clear about why you’re reaching out and your purpose. Your clarity creates confidence for you and for the person referred, making them more likely to accept your invitation.

Finally, close the loop by keeping your referrer updated. Always share when first contact has been made, and key milestones. And ask leadership to thank them, reinforcing the value of these referrals and your organization’s gratitude.

Identifying and engaging new prospects is a necessary step in building a successful philanthropic pipeline. To develop you or your team’s skills in engaging and qualifying new prospects, contact us today.

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