The Best Thing You Do Today

What’s one thing you can do today, and every day, for the rest of this third month in our “new normal,” that will improve your fundraising the most in the long run?

Check in.

Put it on your to-do list. Set a recurrence for “daily” through May 31.

As Advancement professionals, we know that our work, when done well, is relational and not transactional. It’s the strength of our working relationships – and how we connect people to our important mission – that inspires generosity and grows philanthropic revenue long term.

We recognize those who have the capacity and the affinity to help fund our important institutional priorities are people and not checkbooks. And we know that, right now, some are anxious. Some are scared. Some are jobless or furloughed or fearful of being jobless soon. Some are just feeling isolated and lonely. And some are sick.

How are those closest to your institution doing in this difficult time? Have you checked in with them?

This should be your first priority. Call them. Set up a quick video meeting with them. Make sure they are okay. Leave a voicemail for those who don’t answer that offers a warm and friendly hello and a “hope you and your family are healthy and well” message.

If you have a formal portfolio of assigned donors, try to reach every single one, in person, to find out how they’re doing. Stay focused on this one objective – checking on their wellbeing. And listen.

If you do this one activity, with as many of your donors and prospective donors as you can, it will grow your working relationship with them. They’ll know you care for them as a person, not a “funding unit.” Second, you’ll learn valuable information that will help you adjust your future approach (your cultivation plan) to something that is more sensitive and thoughtful for their unique circumstance. Third, you will have a leg up on any other cause they care about.

Past history shows that generous people still give during challenging and uncertain times. But if their finances are affected by a market downturn, they may have less to give. And often, this results in giving to fewer places.

Your care and compassion for how they’re doing during this time won’t be forgotten and will likely set your institution apart if they find themselves narrowing their scope of giving.

If success in our work means we focus on being relational rather than transactional, then it makes sense to reach out and find out how people are, right? But I guarantee you this…if you do, you will be one of the few that do so, and most likely the only one that your donor hears from. Case in point: I’m a donor to multiple places and I have yet to receive such a check-in call.

Looking at it from another perspective: When life returns to normal and you haven’t checked in on your donors’ wellbeing, how do you envision starting the conversation?

Avoid this future challenge. Check in!