Two Touches

Advancement professionals think about our donors and prospects regularly – whether we’re wondering if a prospect will fund a gift proposal, a donor will take our meeting request or a faculty partner will tell us if she identifies a new potential prospect. But as much as these prospects and partners may be top of mind, our actions can send a very different message. We get busy, or focused on just a few relationships, and can let months go by without communicating with those we want to draw closest.

This pattern is why I’m a champion of a Two Touches exercise: starting every workday with two outreaches, or touches, to donors or organizational partners. This habit is an easy way to ensure we start every day the right way: focused on relationships! When we begin each day this way, we’re reinforcing discipline and a focus on our most important work: building, enhancing or growing our relationships and the strategies that support them.

These daily touches are simple:

  • A hand-written note card of congratulations on a recent achievement (personal or professional)
  • An email sharing some news that might be of interest (our organizations are diverse, our outreach should be as well!)
  • A note in a birthday card that is truly personal
  • A news release that provides follow-up while rekindling the fire for your institution/organization
  • A text message with a photo of something happening at your organization (e.g. a commencement ceremony, a new wing opening or a new program opening)
  • A message celebrating a program milestone

Every strategy we build relies on a relationship, and every relationship requires interactions both big and small. Focusing on the moves is important, but our strategies need both moves (active fundraising) and interactions (passive fundraising) to truly be successful. The Two Touches technique, when implemented habitually, creates ten small interactions per week – or over 400 per year.

How would these touches strengthen your strategies?

Begin by keeping a stack of organizational note cards on your desk as an easy reminder to keep this important activity front and center. You’ll be glad to see the results of making sure your donors, prospects and partners actually know when you’re thinking of them!

Who are you going to outreach to today?

Building Sustaining Donor Relationships

Many of us who have the honor of working in philanthropy profess that we want to see our business elevated in professionalism, while we unconsciously continue patterns that create the exact opposite. One example of this tendency to sabotage our larger vision is when we focus our donor strategy on the next solicitation, rather than on building a relationship that grows affinity and philanthropy year after year, even decade after decade.

The reality is that we need both. In taking this two-prong approach, we will develop the relationships that ultimately lead to greater generosity over time, and that demonstrate the very best of our philanthropic industry.

For example – during my tenure at a university, I joined a meeting about the strategy to solicit an alum. This alum, only in his 30s, was already a multimillionaire. In all the discussion of what the solicitation should be – how much, for what, asked for by whom – no one mentioned that the alum easily had 50 more years of giving ahead of him. That to focus just on this next gift rather than a lifetime of giving would both reinforce the worst stereotypes about fundraisers and fail to maximize the opportunity.

So how do we do a better job of thinking about our donors’ long-term relationships with our institutions? Here are some ideas:

  • Ask probing questions about your donors’ values, goals and experiences, and then listen, allowing for true dialogue.
  • Expand the relationship circle by involving institutional colleagues, leaders and others. The more touch-points between a donor and your cause, the more the larger institutional relationship has meaningful opportunities to grow and can weather staff transitions. Then develop ways to measure, recognize and celebrate this type of activity among your team.
  • Introduce your prospects to a variety of areas across your organization, not just the one you want to solicit for next. A greater exposure to, and understanding of, our work will allow for a broader and deeper relationship. Measure and celebrate this work as well.
  • Recognize loyalty giving by celebrating first gifts, anniversary gifts (time), milestone gifts (amount) and completed pledges.
  • Ensure every individual strategy includes not just what you hope to accomplish now, but also goals for two, four and more years out. Use these goals to inform donor stewardship.

And while we’re talking strategy, make sure you build time into your calendar to be thoughtful in how you build those strategies. Written strategies almost always guarantee a win-win relationship for your institution and the donor.

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