Wait for it…


My colleague David and I received an email from a former client last week.  The email contained the kind of news we all dream about…our former client reached out to let us know they received a very significant gift from a family.  Needless to say, they were thrilled – as were we!  I have thought about this client – and this wonderful gift – often over the past several days.  It provided me with the opportunity to reflect on  “good development”.  Like the title of this blog posting, we often (if not always) have to wait for the right time to make a significant ask.  Here are a steps you can take to ensure that, when the time comes, both you and the donor will be ready to have this significant conversation.

Invest in your donors

As we often say, if you want your donors to invest in your organization, you need to invest in them!  For your more significant donors, be sure that more than one person is in contact.  This may be the Executive Director, another staff member or a Board member.

Cultivate your donors

Be sure that you have opportunities to connect with your donors which do not include making an ask.  If a donor made a contribution just before your annual appeal is mailed, consider pulling out the return envelope and simply writing a note of thanks on the letter instead.  This will keep your donor appraised of what is happening at your organization, but acknowledges that you are paying attention to the details.  Consider making thank you calls to donors of all levels – perhaps enlist a volunteer to call first-time donors or monthly donors.  It’s never too soon to begin cultivating donors – and it’s always nice to be thanked!

Listen to your donors

When you do have an opportunity to visit with a donor, ask questions.  Listen and understand why they support your organization and what programs are important to them.  Remember to document what you learn!  It is also a nice touch if you recognize donor milestones – birthdays, etc., if you have that information documented.

Be patient with your donors

It may take months or years – if not decades – to realize a transformative gift.  Be patient and continue to treat your donors the way you would want to be treated.  You never know when you might be surprised with a gift or a bequest.

“Good development” is like the game of Bridge…it is easy to understand the basic principles, but it often takes a lifetime to master the skills.  By making “good development” a priority, both your organization and your donors will reap the benefits.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


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