When you don’t see the value in your donor prospects, they don’t see the value in you.
I’ve come to realize that nonprofits have what companies spend millions on– a pool of qualified prospects that represent customers who are interested in their product. Businesses, large and small, have entire teams of people devoted to the “sales” side of their business equation. They have entire departments focused completely on generating and then cultivating those new prospects. They do this because they know how valuable these leads are. They are worth their weight in gold, literally. In fact, many companies actually calculate the value of a lead, figuring how it translates into essential revenue.
And yet, few NPO’s I’ve come to work with have acquired a strategy related to this pool of prospects and how to move them to a “sale”. Do you know the financial value of a lead for your organization?
It doesn’t matter if your NPO is in healthcare, academics, social services, or the arts. Every month you generate new major donor prospect leads that lay unnoticed. And these unnoticed leads, that are not being cultivated, are leading to revenue loss for your NPO.
Your lead generating system includes obvious things like events, but consider new clients and volunteers, people who signed up for your newsletters and RSS feeds, and people who inquire about your services and programs. But collecting these is just a waste of time if you don’t have a plan that you act upon.
There are four ways you can capture prospects that are new to your organization. Let’s call them our “First in the Door” prospects. These people have expressed an interest in you. It might not be as obvious as a lead saying “Hey, I like what you do, put me on your radar screen for a donation.” It probably is more common that they have attended an event, as a guest or a participant, had been present at a workshop or lecture, read your blog or newsletter, or maybe requested information on your program for a friend. I can think of a recent personal example of this. In January, my 80-year-old father came to live with us and I contacted a not-for-profit senior housing and assistance group to learn more about their organization. While they sent it right away, no one from the group has since reached out or shared other information on their organization with me, even though we had chatted about the challenges of being a not-for-profit and their upcoming building campaign! I could be a terrific prospect for a donation, but I get the impression that they don’t value me as one. So, I’ll move to focus my attention on another charity.
To help you with those First in the Door prospects, here are four really solid things you should be doing to get them the information they require to build rapport:
1) Email response with material. For every new person that is entered into your database- client, guest, or vendor- you should have an email mechanism thanking them for their involvement with your group (appropriately) and delivering to them literature on your organization’s message. Remember stories sell, don’t push them away with statistics, but tell them a story that brings them closer. This material could be in the form of an ebook, a slide deck, or a video.
2) Blog. I can’t say this enough, blogging is a simple, inexpensive way to stay in front of your prospect pool and current donors. 250 words take under ten minutes to prepare but represent days of retention with your supporters. You already know they are interested, keep them engaged with a regular flow of blog posts about your work. Again, stories, stories, stories. Include a call to action or a response mechanism for further information. Send your First in the Door prospect this blog, link in a follow-up email to the one above. Ask them to sign up for future posts.
3) Lectures and informational sessions. I recently received a beautifully prepared pamphlet on upcoming arts and music lectures that interested my husband and me. The series was to be held twice monthly and had some interesting speakers, including local historians speaking on New England music, an old folksinger of local fame, and a representative talking about a local non-profit art museum. This series did not come from an arts organization, but from a senior housing facility, a different one I had called upon. Brilliant! I’m going to attend some of these programs, and I am excited about learning more about this innovative group that markets itself so well. My point is, they kept me engaged by attracting me to a program that they knew I, as their audience, would be interested. They could have easily invited me to a lecture on issues of caring for an aging parent, and I would have attended. But they diversified and offered me a value-added opportunity as well. I like them already. Your informational sessions can and should be about your services, but also about those things your audience likes. Do your research, know your prospects and clients.
4) Social media. It’s not for fundraising. I can’t stress enough how ineffective Facebook and other social media strategies are in actually raising a dollar. However, they are invaluable when it comes to performing in the way they were intended—building your tribe of supporters and deepening your relationships. Instagram pictures of your team, your clients (with permission of course just as you would do for your newsletter), and your daily activities. Instagram is informal, no need to save it for big activities. Tweet out information on upcoming activities, current successes, and research that relates to your work. Create Pinterest boards relevant to your work. Talk daily with your prospect pool on Facebook. Create a discussion group on LinkedIn. Invite your First in the Door prospects to all of this.
Right about now you’re saying “Oy!! I don’t have time for all of this!!” You won’t have any time, at all, if you don’t do this, because these people whom you are currently ignoring will not be your donors in the coming months. And without donors, you’ll have no programs to offer. Ignoring your pipeline of prospects is putting your organization on ice, ignoring your financial future, and telling those people who have already said they are interested in you, that you don’t value them. They will leave, you can count on it.
Take a look at your organization today, create a strategy for cultivating those First in the Door prospects and decide who will be responsible for carrying out this prospect generating process. Many companies (and nonprofits) envy you for the pool you are building, show them you value your prospects as much as they do.