Imagine: you have a donor with mega-capacity who’s been giving modestly over several years. Your prior personal outreach hasn’t yielded anything substantial, but they pick up the phone when you contact them for a routine qualification call. Through that one conversation, you learn that your organization is their top philanthropic priority, and they’re interested in meeting with your CEO.
I’m not speaking in hypotheticals—this was the recent experience of a Campbell & Company partner. Without persistent outreach and a structured qualification call program, that donor would not be in active cultivation right now.
I’ve previously written about the importance of identifying and qualifying major donors. In this article, I’m zeroing in on the qualification piece, introducing a sample structure for your qualification call program.
Qualifying donors is a central challenge for most development shops, whether they have dozens of staff members or a team of one. It’s an ongoing process with no natural deadlines. On top of that, qualification involves reaching out to unknown prospects and weathering rejection.
But qualifying donors is essential when you’re striving to grow your prospect pool and trying to ensure your front-line fundraisers are focusing their attention on the right people. With discipline and commitment, you will see results!
The following steps and recommendations are scalable for organizations of every size. Major gift officers, stewardship managers, dedicated qualification teams, and even trained volunteers can all qualify donors.
STRUCTURING YOUR OUTREACH
Qualification starts with a list of identified prospects. Select a batch of these individuals to focus on over the next two months. The number of prospects in your qualification group will depend on your bandwidth: it could be 10, or it could be 100.
Collect basic information about each person, such as where they work and live and their giving history to your organization. Qualification is focused on learning more, so you don’t need all the details ahead of time.
Sending a letter to your qualification group is a good way to prime them for outreach. In the letter, make it clear that they won’t be solicited for a gift; the purpose of the call is to express gratitude and gather feedback.
Once you’ve selected your qualification group and informed them of your upcoming call, you need to decide on an outreach schedule. In a perfect world, all your identified prospects would pick up on the first ring, but your potential major donors are busy people. Qualification takes persistence.
Be prepared to attempt six to eight contacts—one per week—over a two-month time period. These outreach attempts could include one or two other forms of communication, but remember that the desired outcome is to have a conversation with the prospect.
Establishing an outreach schedule will help ensure you maintain a sustained effort over a limited period.
MAKING THE CALLS
Once you have an outreach plan for the next two months, it’s time to start making your calls.
My colleagues and I find that blocking off a half day or full day for qualification outreach each week allows for optimal flow. You’ll be more productive if you focus on qualification for several hours at a time rather than shifting back and forth between competing tasks.
Draft a script for yourself to ensure you touch on important themes, including:
- Your gratitude for the donor’s support
- The donor’s motivations and giving priorities
- Their personal interest in the organization
- Their openness to making a major or planned gift in the future
- Their willingness to meet in person
These calls are an opportunity to thank donors—and hopefully discover new information. Why are they interested in your organization’s work? Are they open to a deeper relationship? Would they consider increasing their giving in the future or making a planned gift?
Having a conversation guide will help you hit all the key points.
FOLLOWING THROUGH ON NEXT STEPS
Based on your outreach, determine whether the prospect is qualified for major giving and moved into active cultivation. Take notes after each call and document them in your donor database, including staging information and next steps.
Qualification is never one-and-done. Every four months, six months, or one year (depending on your prospect pool size and available resources), you should be qualifying new donors.
As I mentioned at the top, qualification takes commitment, and using a structured approach will pay off in the form of a healthy major gift pipeline.
Campbell & Company’s Fundraising team can help you implement a qualification call program or strengthen other aspects of your major gifts strategy. Contact me to learn more.