Last week I wrote about taking an inventory of your connections and stakeholder circles to build your prospect list from scratch. Now let’s talk about adding to that list by widening your circle of influence using SUGGESTIONS and INTRODUCTIONS. Here are five types of people you already know who can lead you to new prospects:
Your board of directors – Making connections and promoting your organization in the community should be high on your board’s priority list.
Your most connected donors – By “connected” I mean donors who are leaders in your community. They know a lot of people, they’re often found out and about, they track the interests and activities of their peers, and they enjoy connecting people. These folks are an excellent resource.
Your volunteers – Volunteers who are active with several organizations and may have lived in your community for a long time can often provide good leads.
Public figures – If you can get their attention, public figures who have a personal connection to your mission, have spoken at one of your events, or have contributed to your organization in another way, may be willing to share their contacts.
Your favorite donors – These are the donors you always look forward to visiting. You enjoy a relationship that’s so easy and solid that asking for suggestions in this area won’t feel awkward or stressful.
Suggestions and Introductions
After you identify your key connectors, how do you begin these conversations? How exactly does one ask for a suggestion or introduction? A great way to bring up this topic is to use an “event” at your organization as the opportunity.
For example, maybe your organization is revamping its annual fund, creating a program to better serve your constituents or making some other change to your fundraising program or your services.
It can go something like…”You know, Sandra, we’re creating the XYZ program at [your organization] so we can make a larger impact in our community. I wanted to ask your advice on this. Do you know other folks in town who might be interested in learning about our organization?” (Don’t ask for suggestions on who might be interested in donating, as you won’t get any referrals!)
If the answer is yes, you have two choices: 1) You can ask Sandra right then and there if she’d be willing to introduce you to the people she has suggested. Follow her lead on the mode of introduction that feels most comfortable to her. Or, 2) scribble down the names she mentions, go research the people a bit, and reach out to her again asking if she’d be willing to introduce you to three of the people she mentioned.
Keep in mind when you request and vet prospect suggestions you need to be a little bit selective. Two key qualities of a good major gift prospect are:
Capacity (the financial ability to make a gift)
Interest (an affinity for your organization’s work or mission)
These key qualities hold true across the board – for the prospects you know, as well as those you don’t. For prospects you don’t know, an interest in your organization’s field of work is important to have from the outset.
An affinity for your particular organization can be nurtured. This is what making new friends and cultivation is all about! You’ll want to invest time and energy getting to know your new prospects, and helping them learn about your organization and all the important work that you do.
What other suggestions do you have for building a major gifts prospect list from scratch? Please share in the Comments box below. Your fellow fundraisers and I thank you!
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