This week HBG team member Angie Herrington shares some great tips to make sure you don’t lose track of an under-the-radar, future group of supporters to your nonprofit. She’s not totally convinced that she’s got the perfect acronym yet, but IMO she’s on the right track! ~Helen
Fundraising is no different than any other profession with our acronyms and jargon. Some are expedient (DO, MGO, 990, CRM, ‘soft credit’) and some make me think too hard and wonder if we’re making it up (LYBUNT, SYBUNT, and CRUT).
Some of our legacy terms can also be polarizing. Ever dropped the word “suspect” on PRSPCT-L over the past 20 years? If you’re feeling sassy, try that one and let me know how it works out for you.
There’s another group of people out there that has an equally terrible acronym that I’d like to talk about today. They’re a special pool of graduates or volunteers who come from a wealthy background, usually designated “children of wealth.”
I love a good acronym, and I’m on a mission to revise that obvious one. The best I can come up with so far is POISE “Persons of Interest to Solicit Eventually.” I’m still working on it, and I will give a SM shout-out to anyone who comes up with a better idea. (That’s ‘social media’, folks.)
But POISE is actually kind of apt, because we all know that standing up straight builds strength. It leads to a solid core. And, along with promising start-up entrepreneurs and potential IPO executives, this POISE’d group of future beneficiaries is a great addition to our “not now, but definitely later” pool of prospects. Given time and the right cultivation, these people could be your future significant donors.
Unfortunately, the time needed for cultivating this group isn’t going to meet a fundraiser’s metrics for this fiscal year. This is where you, dear prospect development pro, can step in and save the (future) day. For the long-term financial security of your organization, you have to start thinking more than two to five years out, toward 10 years or even more down the road. You need to start tracking your future prospects now so you don’t miss cultivation later. But how?
Hang on, I’ve got some great solutions for you. But first, I need to drag out my soapbox for a second.
((Sound of my soapbox being dragged out.))
Friends don’t let friends create shadow databases. Also, a spreadsheet isn’t a database and a database isn’t a spreadsheet. Your new Excel effort might start off simple and easy to track, but you’re missing the long-term ramifications, ranging from lack of relational reporting to unintentional information hoarding to creating a potential cybersecurity liability.
Most important is the fact that no one looking at the prospect in your database knows you’ve designated him/her as someone of interest. Your great information isn’t doing your organization any good. Instead, it’s sitting on a spreadsheet living a completely hidden life on your computer or a shared server. Which you’ll eventually have to copy over to your database anyway. So save your future self that step and just put the information straight to your database. Ok?
((Okay, soapbox safely tucked away now.))
So here’s what to do
Your first step is to give this unique group a code or flag to track in your database for future reporting. Any type of special indicator on a record will let you or someone else know that the person may not look like a prospect now, but there’s future potential. That way, 3-5 years from now when they start making larger gifts, you can say I told you so count them amongst the prospects that research found.
The ideal scenario is to outright rate and assign these prospects to a major or annual gift officer’s portfolio. They stay active on a list with perhaps a stewardship touch or two happening more frequently than not. This is also a great time for your POISE prospects to begin a relationship between your organization and them that is actually focused on them and not just exclusively their parents.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, Angie, you’re a genius! This is so simple and everyone is going to love it!”
(Ok, I know what you’re really thinking and I agree that might not realistically happen.)
Metrics will be the #1 reason why a fundraiser might not contact them now, or even annually. They might potentially want to outright drop them from their portfolio. “Not now, maybe later” prospects aren’t going to meet the current major giving thresholds or provide immediate dollars raised for annual goals. But if your prospect management system is geared up for it and senior leadership agree that both short-term and long-term financial stability is important, this is a good case for creating a metric for long-term cultivation and pipeline building.
How can you overcome these obstacles? What practical steps can prospect development take? Have one person in your research or prospect management department take ownership of and maintain this group. This pool becomes their portfolio. They can set up news alerts and add the names into periodic screening batches. This ensures one person is always keeping POISE prospects on the radar when there’s inevitable turnover within your staff or the fundraising team.
Also, it’s important that the POISE manager document everything significant, just as a frontline fundraiser would. Take that extra two minutes and add a note or contact report explaining what makes this prospect unique. What new information about their philanthropic interests just came through the pipeline that could be significant later? A little work up front is going to save you a lot of time when these names come back on your radar and it’s time to escalate them to a front-line fundraiser’s portfolio.
Periodically review the group and share the information with your prospect research, prospect management, and frontline fundraising teams. Collectively, you may find ideas and opportunities to engage these prospects. Ultimately, building a meaningful relationship when they’re not giving (or not giving to their interest and capacity) can lead to many future years of financial security for your organization.