What defines a prospect? This is the question that fundraisers carry each time they engage a new prospective donor: does the individual fit into their portfolio, or should they be disqualified?

But philanthropy is a holistic enterprise, and this binary approach leaves opportunity on the table every day.

Consider what we as fundraisers could accomplish by shifting our mindset from the immediate and personal to the long-term and institutional.

From “Is this individual a major gift prospect for me right now?” to “How can this individual fit into the university’s overall picture of engagement and support, and how can I help get them there?”

By the time we’re in a meeting with a new prospect, we’ve done the hard work of securing that first visit. Honor that work by moving beyond “qualified” or “disqualified,” and ask yourself the following questions in every visit:

  • Is this person a prospect for my portfolio right now?
  • If they are not a prospect for me, would they be a fit in another fundraiser’s portfolio? How can I help set up that transition?
  • If not a prospect for any fundraiser, is there a larger program portfolio this person would fit into (e.g. annual giving, planned giving, or alumni engagement)? How can I support that transition?
  • If truly not a fit for any area right now, what should the take-away be to provide value and leave doors open for the future?

Consider an alum whose life circumstances means they’re years out from major capacity, but they’re engaged and willing to give annually. Or, the long-time annual donor whose capacity isn’t right for your portfolio, but who should hear from the planned giving office.

For so many of us, the answer is: disqualified. Perhaps their name will be sent to the appropriate team, but that’s certainly not consistent.

But what if we moved from a model of disqualification to one of transition. If for that alum, we personally solicited an annual gift and transitioned them to the annual fund for personal outreach? Or for that planned giving prospect relationship, we sent a note with the recent planned giving newsletter that says, “After our conversation, I realized that many of our long-time donors like you like to create an ongoing impact through their estate. We’ll send you some items from time to time in case you would be interested too.”

Fundraisers face daunting goals, and in pursuit of those goals, we can become laser-focused. However, when we think through all the ways a meeting can move an individual, we build a larger philanthropic culture that supports fundraisers, our institutions, and the causes we care so much about.

How are you using transitions to support our larger philanthropic culture?

Want to learn more? Contact KDD Philanthropy for your planning, training and coaching needs.

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