If You Build It….

There I was, the chief development officer and the chief cook and bottle washer among my other duties, with no time and no resources to do development. It wasn’t the first time I was there, and so before I started I committed to making three prospect calls a week. That turned out to be unrealistic.

It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find the time to have three more meetings. Somehow there is always time for another meeting. What I didn’t have enough time for was the calls to get three appointments a week. I figured that it would take a minimum of 60 (and more like 100) phone calls on average to get those 3 appointments. Even assuming that in 80% of those calls I got to speak only to the answering machine, that was the equivalent of one full day a week

What was do-able, however, was to block out at least a half hour a day (or two and a half hours a week) to make phone calls. Because we hadn’t done any real fundraising for years, I didn’t exactly have a wonderful prospect list—but I sure had a lot of suspects!

So I segmented by what I could—age and zip code. Where I didn’t have a phone number, I sent a letter—with a request to call me and a reply envelope. I didn’t get a lot of responses. Interestingly, though, I got more checks in the reply envelope than calls. That was okay. The checks generally gave me phone number and now my calls were much easier.

“Hi,” I would say. “This is Janet. I’m calling to thank you for your gift.”

That worked so well—over 85% of those folks were willing to meet, and most of them ended up giving larger gifts—that I figured I needed to get more reasons to make thank you calls.

A full-on direct mail campaign was beyond my budget, but with the help of IT and my PR department, we sent out large-sized post cards, with the aim of driving them to the website to register. They could, of course, make a gift, but I really didn’t care about that. Registration gave me up-to-date phone numbers, people who had self-identified as being interested in us, and a reason to call.

“Hi. This is Janet. Thank you for registering.”

Pretty soon (well, okay, it took 18 months), I could make 3 fundraising calls a week, which improved our fundraising bottom line immeasurably. Better still, the board decided that if I could accomplish that much by myself, think what could occur if they hired a dedicated development officer.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at jlevine@levinemorton.com. Her online grantwriting course is available at www.edtogo.com/courses/ggr