Prospecting Beyond the Usual Suspects

Change is hard.  Most of us would rather stick with what and who we know even if that means that things aren’t optimal.  But unless you are one of the lucky ones—an organization with unlimited prospects who all have huge capacity—you are going to have to steel yourself for change. Not a big change, mind you.  Just one where you reach out beyond the usual suspects to find some new prospects.  If you don’t reach out, you will at best stay exactly where you are.  More likely, your organization will shrink.

That means cutting programs, slashing staff hours and/or staff, serving far fewer clients than you need.

On the other hand, if you broaden your horizons you very well may be able to expand your organization’s reach as well.

Last week, I talked about the need to reach out to your audience in ways that make them care.  Now I want to talk about caring in a broader sense—as in who does care about your organization and your mission?  That’s a question I get a lot from students and clients:  Who would care about what we do?

My response is:  Who wouldn’t care?  And besides, the real issue is are you giving enough people (and organizations) the opportunity to show how much they care?

You’ve heard this before—80% of people who don’t make charitable gifts say that they don’t give because nobody asked.  No one gave them the opportunity to support something they just may want to support.  Instead, someone decided for them that they wouldn’t care enough to write a check or provide credit card information.

Don’t do that.  Instead think about all the ways you can make someone care—by connecting them to your organization.

As with everything in fundraising, connections often begin with people.  People who are already connected to you know other people they can help to connect to you.  That’s your Board, your donors, others who are involved in some way with your organization.

Ask them who they know, but also ask them if they know a particular person you’ve read or heard about.  If they don’t know, do they know someone who might know someone who…you get the picture.

Instead of thinking about all the reasons someone wouldn’t support you, focus on all the reasons they would.  Then think about how to translate that possible interest into involvement.  People who are involved with your organization most likely are or will also be donors.

Prospects are all around you.  Keep courting your usual suspects but broaden your reach and allow more people (and organizations) to care about what you do.

Janet Levine is a consultant and trainer who works with nonprofits and educational organizations on increasing fundraising capacity.  Learn more at