Anyone familiar with Commissioner David Stern of the NBA knows that the term “information is currency” is a very important mantra of his. It is his belief that information about every aspect of your organization, information about other organizations with which you compete, information about what programs, initiatives or projects are working—or not working—all of this information is the same as currency. And the more information that you have and hold, the richer you are!
In other words, the more key facts and data you are able to assemble regarding all aspects of your own organization and processes, your competition, and prevailing market conditions, the smarter you are and the better your organization’s planning and decision-making will be.
Well known management consultant Peter Drucker said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” One of the driving forces behind successful companies is the notion that the relentless search for data and information—and the encouragement within an organization to take whatever time is needed to ask the right questions—is as important, if not more important, than the answers that follow.
As a nonprofit fundraiser, where the competition for charitable dollars is fierce and where there are always more requests than there are gifts, it is even more critical that members of a nonprofit development team be prepared and armed with as much key information and data as possible in advance of approaching and meeting with a potential donor.
If I am in the process of approaching a potential donor with a gift proposal, either to my own organization or to an organization I am representing, and in advance of a meeting with that potential donor, pieces of information that may be of benefit to me might include:
- Is this person known for his/her philanthropic giving? Does (s)he have a history of giving?
- What types of causes or organizations have they supported in the past? Is there a trend or pattern to the type of causes they have supported?
- In regard to their past giving, is there information about how much they have given? How much in total, and how much in individual gifts?
- Is his/her spouse or family involved in the charitable giving? Is multi-generational philanthropic giving important to the family?
- Is the donor apt to participate and provide support beyond the actual donation? Does (s)he often sit on boards, or does the donor participate in on-the-ground volunteer efforts?
- Does the person tend to seek recognition for the support (s)he provides, or does the donor eschew publicity surrounding his/her gifts?
- Does it appear the donor’s gift had the intended impact and results? Was the charitable endeavor a success?
- Has the donor ever been involved in a charitable gift or initiative that was not deemed successful? And why?
- Does the mission or purpose of your organization present any present any philosophical or political obstacles that would stand in the way of the potential donor giving?
While the process of identifying a potential donor, making the actual donation proposal, and receiving the formal commitment of a gift may often take many twists and turns, the road is far more manageable with solid information and preparation. It is far better to be over-prepared and not have to use the information you have gathered than to be under-prepared and find yourself in an awkward or uncomfortable situation where you are thinking to yourself, “I should have know that information before I walked in the door!”
Information is indeed currency, no matter the task or the assignment, and the more we have accumulated, the more successful we will be.
Next Installment: Step #4: Identify your prospects
This is the third part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising