A common fundraising question from nonprofit leaders is “How many times should I follow up on an ask?” The situation I’m seeing a lot recently:
- A nonprofit leader asks a donor for a specific amount of money.
- The donor seems positive and says they need to talk with someone or check on something.
- Then the donor doesn’t reply to any follow up communications
Can you relate?
What do you do? Most people I coach want to give up. “I’ve sent them an email. If they’re really interested, they know where to donate.”
Or in the face of the silence from the donor, the asker starts making up a story, “They must have changed their minds” or “We must’ve upset them since our visit.”
When do you know when to stop?
The problem with stopping following up is that we end up making up the mind for the donor. We are deciding they’re saying “no.”
We don’t have the right to make up a donor’s mind. As fundraisers and leaders, our job is to treat the donor like an adult. Let them make up their own mind.
And in the situation above, all we have to go on is that the donor is interested in giving. If they’re interested, our duty is to help them complete their giving.
So this means following up. A lot.
Following up tips
Here are some tips on effective follow up
- It takes 6-7 attempts to reach a donor to set up an appointment so expect the follow up to take at least that many times.
- Mix up the forms of communication to find the one that is a best fit with the donor. Phone, text, snail mail, social media direct message, Whatsapp. They may simply not be seeing your reminders.
- Keep at it. Following up is one of the worst parts of fundraising. But one of the most necessary. So set a schedule to remind yourself to follow up regularly.
When do you know when to stop following up? When the donors tells you. That’s the best way to know you’re done following up.
This is what I call being pleasantly persistent. We need to assume that the donor does still want to give to us. And we’ll follow up until they do. Or until they tell us they changed their mind.
After all, who are we to we make up a donor’s mind for them?
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