Imagine your horror to discover that a loyal donor
who had spoken to a colleague on your team about giving your organization $100,000 was overlooked because the staffer left your organization a month later, leaving no trace of the relationship behind. Not only did a program go unfunded, but a significant donor was left feeling unimportant and neglected.
Keeping a prospect management system alive and active is the best thing you can do to avoid dropping the ball with donors. This involves keeping track of prospects with a series of actions and ratings in a database – not on a pile of sticky notes.
So far in this series on ratings we’ve covered an overview of the main aspects of prospect ratings systems and discussed capacity and inclination ratings. This week I’d like to focus on prospect status, which helps us describe exactly what is happening with each prospective donor at any given moment in their relationship with our organization.
Prospect status codes run parallel to what is commonly referred to as the prospect pipeline. It’s a not-very flattering way of describing a pretty wonderful thing:
1. Donors become more aware of our work, and we become more aware of them.
2. We learn a little bit more about each other, and they become involved (many times as a volunteer) in furthering our organization’s work.
3. Through personal interactions, we may discover that the prospective donor has a deepening interest in our organization’s mission and has the ability to make a significant donation.
4. We ask them for a gift, and then we thank them repeatedly and sincerely when they donate.
That is the prospect pipeline in a nutshell.
Prospect status ratings describe this movement from one stage to the next. When each step forward with a donor happens, the action is recorded and there is always a date attached to that movement. We need to know when something happened (or when it will happen) so that we don’t drop the ball and lose momentum with that donor.
We also want to know when our donor moves through each category of the prospect pipeline so that we can track our success (or discover where the bottleneck is).
Keeping track of these categories involves a series of codes you can use in a database (or even Excel), and they are:
I is for Identification
“We identified this prospect on this date.” If possible, it’s also initialed, as in “HB identified this prospect on this date.” Why? So we can track the success of our prospect identification activities. This code is followed rather immediately by moving into one of the following two statuses, R or Q.
R is for Research
Our Research team/person is (or will be) looking into this prospect to discover capacity, connections, and clues to inclination, if any.
Q is for Qualification
A member of our team is assigned to meet with the prospect to further determine interest areas, capacity and inclination.
C is for Cultivation
The prospect is definitely interested in our organization, and we are actively engaging them in events, volunteer opportunities, and outreach to involve them. Many times an organization will create a cultivation plan for each major gift prospect when they are moved into active cultivation. There will be specific moves planned, with target dates attached to each movement. How long should prospects be kept in active cultivation? Having a planned ask date is a good motivator to action.
A is for Ask
This code is incredibly important. It signals that we have a date planned and a specific gift amount we will be asking for. We also know (and note in the system) who will be asking for the gift. (Here you may find a few descriptive sub-codes, as in Ask Approved, Ask Declined, and Ask Pending)
S is for Stewardship
We have a new (or repeat) major donor! Now it’s time to thank them and continue to involve them according to the stewardship plan we drew up while cultivating them, so that they may witness the effect their donation has had (to the degree possible).
N is for Not a Prospect
This is a category generally used after Qualification or even Cultivation, in some cases. Let’s say a prospect was visited and during the course of the meeting it was determined (for a reason that will be entered in the code’s accompanying comment section) that the prospective donor was not a prospect after all. The individual would be coded “N” with a date stamp, an initials stamp (who determined the person was not a prospect?) and a statement with the reasoning. This way it can be reasonably determined in the future when to re-engage (or not) with an individual.
D is for Deferred
This is a category also generally used after Qualification or Cultivation. This code would be used when a prospect was visited and during the course of the meeting it was determined (for a reason that will be entered in the accompanying comment section) that they are a major gift prospect, but current circumstances (such as heavy travel, or family events) prevent them from being as involved as they might like right now. It will be important to have some sort of reminder or tickler date set up to bring the prospect back up to the front of the queue when it is time.
Your usage may vary
Let me provide the usual caveats:
1. The number and type of codes you use may vary depending on the size of your organization.
2. How you use them may also vary, so consider this a menu of options to choose from.
3. You will want to decide how long a prospect may stay in each category before it is time for them to be reassigned or removed from active cultivation. This keeps the system from getting clogged up and (more importantly!) donors from being ignored.
4. This system should be used for your organization’s most elite group of donors. For some, that may be donors of $1,000+. For others, it may be donors of $100,000 or more. It is not a practical system to use for every single donor in your organization’s database.
How about you? Do these cover all of the codes you use?