Great Migrations

Three great migrations.  No, not the wildebeests or the Monarch butterflies.  Three migrations that have everything to do with our work.

I get asked all the time how to know if a major gifts officer is “measuring up.”  We can’t put the pen in the donor’s hand, but we can be mindful of the progress that ought to occur in major gift work.

It starts, of course, with visits.  Are we making visits?  Every week?  Are we disciplined about this priority of ours?  Steadfast in the effort it takes to get visits? 

In the beginning it doesn’t matter where in the Donor Cycle the visit occurs; identification of a prospect, rating the gift capacity, cultivation, solicitation, or stewardship.  We could be thanking, asking, or shooting the breeze.  All that matters is, we’re making visits. 

After a reasonable period of time we need to see that our visits include a growing percentage of asks.  This will happen because the people we’re visiting have gotten to know us and the exciting projects we’re sharing with them. A relationship is present between the gift officer and the donor.

We might see one visit a month include an ask early on.  Then 10% of our visits include an ask.  Then possibly 50% of them. 

As we ask more often, we’ll see that our visits come to include “closes” on those asks.  It doesn’t always happen on the same visit as the ask.  We may need to schedule another visit to close the gift.  But if we pay attention to the migration of visits, asks, and closes, we will inevitably see “gifts.”

That’s the first migration.  Visits, asks, closes, gifts.

The second has to do with the way people will connect with our organizations in the future.  We won’t know their address; heck, no one will be mailing anything!  So how can that connection happen?

It will begin on Social Media.  Potential friends and potential donors will learn about our organizations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or even platforms that haven’t been created yet. 

They’ll be curious about us and want to learn more.  So they’ll find our Website.  Finally, we’ll stay connected to them by Email – and in Person!

A year or two from now, who knows!  But today, focusing on donor migration from Social Media to Website to Email and in Person is a good bet.

Finally, what about the emotional link that drives philanthropy?  What is the migration there?

It begins with Awareness.  Someone learns about your organization and what you do.  They become aware of something you do that is meaningful to them. (Reference how two-thirds of the 322,000 donors to the $6 billion USC Campaign were not alumni, they just saw something happening there that mattered to them.)

From Awareness grows Understanding.  That donor “gets” you.  They dive in more deeply to the program at your organization that is emotionally compelling to them.  Now, their connection to you is not superficial.  They are beginning to understand your mission. 

Next is Engagement.  Whether it is an event, a proposal, or a conversation, the prospective donor is feeling more and more a part of who you are at your organization.  The pronoun changes from “They” to “We.”  This is the moment when your donor decides that she or he believes in you.

The last step in this migration is, of course, Commitment.  The donor follows their heart and invests in your organization.  We know that most  donors need to be invited to make that investment.  We also know that most all donors WANT to be invited.

Awareness to Understanding to Engagement to Commitment: the Great Migration in the mind of the donor.