Keeping an eye on the B List

by Janet Levine

I’m in the midst of writing an on-line fundraising course, and find myself having a lot of "oh yeah" moments. These--as opposed to "aha" moments, where you have an epiphany that hadn’t struck you before--are those moments when you remember what you should be doing. In this case, things I used to do, successfully, before my jobs became so mired in other administrative duties and/or where the volume of what had to be done was matched only by the lack of resources with which to do them. Sound like your job?

One of those oh yeahs was the keeping of me and my organization on the radar of my second-tier major donor prospects. The ones I wasn’t quite yet working with. If I was in the middle of a solicitation cycle, of course I kept in touch. But if I had thought, "ummm, Josie is someone I should keep on eye on," I too often didn’t keep Josie’s eye on me. Meaning, of course, that I didn’t just call to chat on a regular basis, or ask Josie to meet for coffee or come onsite to see something interesting. By neglecting this, I was always having to start it all from scratch.

Related to--and possibly the cause of--this was not populating my B list regularly. I got too busy to pull aside one of the thank you letters I was signing each week to find out more about that particular donor and if he or she should be identified as a potential prospect for a larger gift. Didn’t always follow up with that person I met who was an alum of my institution or who mentioned that she "loved" the work done at my organization. I had gotten, frankly, too busy to plant the seeds that would turn into a strong, sustainable fundraising program.

Inevitably, I found myself bemoaning the fact that all the low-hanging fruit was gone and my good intentions to make a certain number of fundraising calls per week were impossible, because all I had was a database (for good, bad or indifferent—a subject for another time) list of names, who had serious cultivation needs before they could be considered a major donor prospect.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grant writing class is available here