Building a Bridge: How to Effectively Transition Prospects

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Building a Bridge: How to Effectively Transition Prospects

Advancement officers are, typically, quite familiar with the idea of transferring a prospect from one portfolio to another. This is most easily done when transitioning a new prospect without an existing relationship. In those cases, it’s easy for a different colleague to reach out and introduce themselves.

But what about when you do have a relationship? When a prospect or donor that you’ve gotten to know just isn’t the right fit for your portfolio, do you know how to provide them with a bridge to a different team member?

Let’s be clear about why we may need to bridge a prospect to someone else’s portfolio. It may be that the individual’s passions more closely align with a colleague’s area of focus. They may not be right for your role, or the area you represent. Or, that their giving patterns and opportunities suit them for the portfolio of a planned giving or leadership annual giving portfolio.

Is it easier to just make the switch on the back end and let your colleague reach out? Yes.

Is it more respectful and supportive of retaining the relationship to make that transition and introduction personally, sharing the shift with the prospect? Absolutely.

But this is where it’s very easy to be at a loss for words. Which is why it’s important to think through the language you use when you create a bridge for a prospect to another colleague.

My tip is this: Never focus on gift level.

Prospects do not want to feel they’re being sorted and assigned in that way. And we do not do handoffs! Instead, focus on interest and demonstrate that you’re getting to know the prospect as an individual and want them to have their best match.

Here’s what this may look like:

  • I’d love to introduce you to my colleague, Victoria. You shared about your passion for theater, and Victoria represents the theater program. She works to foster generosity with community members like you who are fellow arts lovers. [For a prospect qualified for another area.]
  • May I introduce you to my colleague, Jacob? He runs our President’s Leadership Society, which I think would be a great fit for you based on your interests that you’ve shared with me. I know he would love to get to know you and share more about how community members can get involved through that program. [For a prospect who is an annual leadership giving candidate, not a major giving candidate.]
  • Would you be open to me introducing you to my colleague, Alexa? She’s a part of our larger team who works to engage our supporters, particularly those like you who have long-term relationships with us. [For a planned giving prospect.]

These options are definitely more work! But they’re also more effective for the work we’ve dedicated ourselves to doing — developing meaningful, thoughtful relationships between supporters and the institution we represent.

Do you use bridge language with your portfolio transitions? Share how it works for you and what tips you have for others!

Kathy Drucquer Duff
Kathy Drucquer Duff
Every day I have the pleasure of assisting fundraisers and leaders become the strongest possible team. I believe people and relationships are at the heart of everything we do. The best investment an organization can make is in talent, because nurturing and inspiring teams creates lasting philanthropic relationships.
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