Small Shop Development; Where to start?

I have heard so many times the following statement from nonprofit executive directors and board members: “I know she has money; we need to get her involved.”

Now on the surface it’s hard to argue with that thinking.  You believe your nonprofit’s mission is worthy of support, and you know of a “rich person”, and it appears obvious that once they hear about your needs, money will rain down powerfully and purposefully.

And, seriously, who hasn’t heard of this happening.  The details are unclear, but someone told you it actually happened once, and it was amazing!

I would say that this is a rabbit hole of epic proportions that you may not have time to go down.  So let’s tease this apart a bit.

And, we will start with the best beginning question: have you thoroughly and completely and fully examined all your current donors for their capacity to give, identified the level of their giving potential, developed a strategy to build their giving over time, and executed the strategy successfully?

Now don’t get me wrong, it is critical to concurrently build current donor giving and recruit new donors, but remember that second one, recruiting new donors, or acquisition of new donors, takes a lot of time, really lots of time.  And if you are a small shop, you need to prioritize your time for best outcome.  I would argue that starting with your current donors is the best place to begin.

Back to the original statement about “if only she would get involved all of our funding issues would be solved.”  Again, it could happen.  But are you really ready for it?  Meaning, if you don’t have clear and successful practices for your current donor pool, how do you assure that new donors are stewarded well after that initial donation?

The rabbit hole in this is that you imagine the best outcome and focus all your energy on trying to get in front of a prospective “rich person” thinking “all will be solved” instead of first assuring that your overall strategy for stewarding your current donors is solid.

My final pitch for this approach is that new donors are a tender bunch.  Meaning, when they make that initial donation, your response to it has great impact on if there will be another one coming.  From the minute that donation comes into your hands you are actively involved with stewarding that donor’s relationship with you, whether it’s $5 or $500.

So, if you take a look at your current donors and see that many of them are one-timers, or have given a couple of times but are now lapsed, you must ask the question: “If we get the rich person involved, and they donate, how will we keep them?”

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