Major gift fundraisers know that we are not a top priority for our prospects. We are competing with their own priorities – job, family, hobbies, and other organizations they may support. It can be quite challenging even to get a response from a prospect to secure a visit. Here’s how you can avoid being ghosted. Persistence and creative messaging will make the difference. The goal is getting a prospect to open your email. Here are 7 crafty techniques to add to your fundraising arsenal:
Faculty and Staff
Most likely, the faculty and staff at your university have the best relationships with alumni. They can be a great asset and resource. Use them! Collaborate, communicate your strategy, tap into their expertise, and gain their trust. The time you invest in cultivating this relationship is time well spent when they provide you with some solid leads. Share the name of the faculty/staff member in your email. It actually works when you put their name in the subject line. (Ex: Dr. Stephanie Dorado gave me your name…)
LinkedIn is another great tool! If you are connected with a prospect on LinkedIn, check out your mutual connections. These connections can be another enticing way to capture your prospect’s attention – not to mention a great conversation starter once you do. (Ex: “I see you are connected to Robert Danforth. I had lunch with him last month in Austin.”)
Most universities have an archive of photos, yearbooks, etc. This is a great resource. Nothing warms an alum’s heart more than receiving a photo of themselves in their college days. Add it as an attachment in your email request. They’ll appreciate the time you took to find and share the photo. You’re bound to get a response after you have taken them down memory lane!
Photos are great, but so are awards and accomplishments your prospect may have received as a student. Same idea. Check into the prospect’s history. If you find an accomplishment – send an email and give them a shout out! For example, if an alum still holds the record for most points in a single season for the basketball team, send them the list of the top ten. Or, if they won a major academic award as a student, send them an archived article about it. Again, the idea is to prompt a response – and it will!
Most prospects think that all we fundraisers want to do is ask for money. Sometimes just being genuine and honest in your messaging will get a response. Be upfront – let them know that although fundraising is your job, you won’t be asking them for money in this first visit. Your mission is to listen and discover what the prospect is passionate about and what future funding opportunities they may be interested in supporting. Honesty will get you far – isn’t that what they say?!
In the Press
Keep your eyes on the news. If you see/read about an alum, an alum’s company, a community award or other accomplishment, this is another great way to connect with your prospect. Sending a simple message referencing the news piece shows your interest. And, who doesn’t like to get a little recognition and acknowledgement. Sharing good news goes a long way! (Ex: “always good to see our alums doing great things.”)
Drop Off a Gift
Be aware of your donor’s recent giving history. Personal notes aside, what about dropping off a gift or token of appreciation? Reach out to your prospect and let them know you’d like to meet to drop off a gift for their recent donation. Easy visit confirmed!
Sometimes initially not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck. Be creative – and crafty.