A call to show you care

Surely you shouldn’t call your major donors and potential major donors now of all times. They’ve got other things to think about haven’t they? Those they love, their own health, their businesses. Why would they want to hear from you?

I’ve spoken to a number of major gift fundraisers, Heads of Fundraising & CEOs over the past 2 weeks.  “To call or not to call?” is a question they’re grappling with. Many are coming down on the side of: “let’s wait until things get back to normal to call our major donors”. Some are thinking “it’s not possible to meet right now.”

It feels tough to call at the best of times. And I certainly don’t have all the answers – there are no rules to fundraising in a global pandemic! However, there are a lot of reasons why now is the time to pick up the phone to your high-net-worth supporters and potential supporters:

  1. Show you care

    I’ve written before on putting yourselves in your donors’ shoes. Now is the time to do this more than ever. Many high-net-worth individuals are older. They will be desperately missing grandchildren. They may be more worried about their own health and their partners’. They may be struggling, like many of us, to adapt to this vastly different world of limited physical contact and a suddenly empty social calendar. Check in how they are, and you will be remembered as the person who took the time to care.

  2. You may be pleasantly surprised

    With so many of us in social isolation and working remotely, it may be far easier to get a meeting. Of course not face to face! However, if you were planning to try and get someone to meet with you and your Head of Services, why not still offer this on Zoom/Skype? If you’re homeschooling, does an evening meeting work for you, and for them? You may find that with less hectic schedules they are more likely to agree.

  3. Showcase the amazing spirit of your charity

    What the sector is doing right now to keep going, help the most vulnerable people, or the planet/animals, is staggering. It is inspirational. You may be too close to everything that’s happened over the past 10 days to realise this. It has been a whirlwind. So take stock, let you donors know how tough it is, but give them hope. Let them know what incredible work is still going on and what lengths your charity has gone to. (and yes, if appropriate, mention that now would be the time that a gift from them would have the most impact).

  4. It gives you focus

    Cultivation events have been cancelled (hopefully some moved on-line but that’s another blog coming up!) Your likely working in a very different way, potentially home-schooling, 100% remote meetings. It can be tempting to think you will leave those calls and meeting targets with high-net-worth individuals until the world is back to ‘normal’. Who knows when that will be though? Our causes need funds. They need you to keep building relationships. Virtual meetings and phone touchpoints mean you will keep building those relationships rather than putting everything on hold.

Finally, know that you won’t put your foot in it. You’re hardly going to remind your donor to pay that pledge if she mentions she’s battling to keep her companies afloat.

Trust all the skills that we as major gift fundraisers have  –  a listening ear, tact, open questioning and remember, this isn’t a call to ask for money. It’s a call to show that you care.

Louise Morris is the Founder of Summit Fundraising. She is a major donor fundraising specialist and has worked with over 200 charities helping them raise large gifts.

This was posted on 23 March 2020.


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