Most development officers are working under ambitious goals. The introductory outreach – that first call, email or letter to a prospect – can be a critical tool in reaching those goals, allowing us to successfully secure visits with new prospects, and make the most of those visits.
However, for your initial outreach to help you be successful, it’s crucial to hit the right notes. Too impersonal and you’ll struggle to secure the visit in the first place. Too vague and you may find it difficult to bring the conversation around to philanthropy.
How do you nail effective outreach?
- Why are you contacting this donor? Is it because you’re reaching out to alumni who are leaders in their field? Because you’re seeking feedback from patients of an old facility in the planning for a new one? Figure out the answer and share it.
- What do you know about this donor that you can acknowledge? Perhaps you want to recognize a certain number years of giving, a regular presence at your organization’s events, or past engagement as a volunteer or board member.
- Being unclear about your role is both ethically questionable and, ultimately, ineffective. A prospect who feels you’ve mislead them into taking a meeting will not only be angry, but also may not be able to trust you and your motivations. And, if the idea of philanthropy was never on the table in the dialogue to obtain a meeting, it becomes much more difficult to effectively segue the conversation in person.
Don’t drop the ball.
- Sending an introductory note or email and then not following up is worse than never reaching out at all. It sends the message that the prospect was a part of a group of communications you sent, and then promptly forgot about.
Accomplished development officers regularly allocate time to engaging and qualifying new prospects and donors. Ensuring that your tools are effective and strategically deployed allows you to be both efficient and effective. In a season of reflection, take the time to acknowledge your strengths and opportunities when it comes to prospect outreach. Use December as a time to get your outreach in place to ensure you start your new year with a strategic plan for engagement, qualification and follow up. Your institution, and your portfolio deserve a well-honed plan and strategy.