It’s way past time to seize the opportunity for personal face-to-face solicitation. Make sure you’re read Part 1 of this column, otherwise the rest won’t make any sense. Now, here’s Part 2, the specific steps.
Specific steps to prototype and co-create
First, my outline is not rapid prototyping. I’m using prototyping and co-creation as a coordinated back-and-forth process to accomplish my intention of learning > change > understanding > ownership. (And participation by some board members and potentially other volunteers and even donors.)
There’s no need for rapidity; in fact, in this situation I’ve seen a rapid approach implode later. Typically, this process lasts several months. Indeed, the organization’s board meeting schedule might require process adjustments.
Furthermore, much of work (and life) is non-linear. That’s true for prototyping and co-creation, too. The steps outlined here intend to maximize process. The various tools in the preceding articles/research should reduce problems later. Naturally, flexibility allows for adding, reordering, redoing, and skipping steps, as necessary.
One final note: It’s essential to carefully distinguish between the various roles, as outlined in the grid. Messages that confuse participants produce problems immediately and later. (And sometimes, seemingly forever!)
One more comment before getting into the specific steps
You don’t have to use a consultant to do this work. Obviously, your professional development officer, if you have one, should be leading the steps below. Your development officer should be promoting this work…designing, leading, supporting, facilitating this work.
If you don’t have a development officer—common with smaller organizations—then your executive director serves as the chief development officer. She or he leads this process. And when I say “leads the process,” I mean promoting, designing, supporting, facilitating, etc. See the enabling functions on my website—and described in previous NPQ columns.
Okay…now the specific steps to prototype and co-create:
- Introduce the concept of personal face-to-face solicitation to development staff and the CEO, and to the fund development committee and board of directors.
- Talk about best practice. Share small bits of research, not lots.
- Tell stories of real solicitors, solicitations, and donors.
- Create the prototype. Describe the value and process in narrative. Diagram the process, if that’s useful. Include real-life success stories.
- Consultant drafts and shares with development staff and CEO to ensure comprehension.
- Make adjustments without compromising best practice.
- Facilitate a complaint and whine session with the full board. Participants share everything they dislike about fundraising—as a donor, as a board member or staff in an organization, etc. I respond and teach. In a significant percent of cases, their concerns are right, and behaving that way is bad fundraising. So the organization agrees not to conduct fundraising that way. In other cases, I explain, justify, try to reduce anxiety. Adjust the prototype to address expressed concerns.
- Test the prototype with the board’s fund development committee.
- Adjust as necessary, without compromising the body of knowledge and best practice by inexperienced individuals. Board members are not (and need not be) experts in fundraising. That’s why an organization hires a fundraiser. Even if there are expert fundraisers on the board, these individuals aren’t directing or controlling this process. That’s staff (and consultant) work.
- Create a companion document that explains/responds to adjustments that cannot be made.
- Test the prototype with selected board members who do not serve on the fund development committee.
- Adjust as necessary, without compromising the body of knowledge and best practice by inexperienced individuals.
- As necessary, modify the companion document that explains/responds to the adjustments that cannot be made without compromising the potential of personal face-to-face solicitation.
- Recruit several board members (from the fund development committee and from #5 above) who agree to conduct personal face-to-face solicitations. Ensure their commitment prior to the board meeting where the prototype is presented.
- Identify a preliminary list of current donors who are likely prospects for personal face-to-face solicitation.
- Explain criteria for selecting them as possible prospects. For example, the obvious information: Loyalty. Lifetime value. Recent gift sizes. Ideas re: income based on where they work, etc.
- For example, the not-so-obvious information: Board members who may have connections with the preliminary prospects. Other linkages.
- Present the prototype to the full board, along with the companion document that explains why certain adjustments were not made and responds to expressed concerns.
- Work in small groups at the meeting, with a member of the fund development committee in each group to facilitate.
- Introduce the preliminary list of current donors who are likely prospects.
- Review the notes from the small group work at the board meeting. Make adjustments to the prototype and/or the companion document that explains and responds to concerns that are not included in the prototype.
- Meet with the fund development committee to confirm the prototype. Share the confirmed prototype—and the accompanying explanatory/response document—to the board as an FYI.
The learning launch
Handled well, the prototyping and co-creation process helps internal audiences learn along the way. By now, the internal audiences should be less uncomfortable and less afraid. They should recognize the value of personal face-to-face solicitation. And even if they have no intention of actually participating, they endorse the concept to some degree.
Through the process of prototyping and co-creation, the organization has recruited a team of personal face-to-face solicitors. The staff has completed a preliminary list of prospects with some basic data.
Now it’s time for the learning launch. And this learning launch is real. These are real solicitations, not test cases. That’s the best way to proceed.
- Define success and identify measures.
- Solicitor team and fund development committee meet together.
- Apply resources from research and best practice.
- Initial thoughts on success/measures for the learning launch—to ensure that the launch is followed by mainstreaming this opportunity for subsequent years. Future measures would include things like: Donors remain in the face-to-face pool. Match between ask and gift amounts. Relationship-building effectiveness. Comparative analysis of growth in giving between this and other solicitation strategies. Increase in number and effectiveness of solicitors and number of prospects. And more—for example:
- Outline the logistics for the first personal face-to-face solicitation campaign. Host a general session for all, and/or personalize for specific individuals based on their experience. Possible activities: how to get the meeting, the usual first barrier. Talking not presenting. Telling stories. Roleplaying. Actually asking.
- Orientation and training
- Final number of prospects based on the number of solicitors
- Pulling the prospects from other solicitations…and so forth.
- Develop personal face-to-face solicitation materials, e.g., case for support, FAQs, introductory letter to prospects who will be invited to participate in this new approach. The case for support should already exist; that’s part of the organization’s ongoing fundraising. However, for personal face-to-face solicitation, an “informal brochure” can be helpful as a resource for the solicitor and a leave-behind for the prospect. “Informal” means informal. Perhaps printed on letterhead. No need for a glossy formal brochure, certainly not in the learning launch stage.
- Finalize the prospect list.
- Solicitors (volunteer and staff) review the preliminary list and evaluate their connections/relationships.
- Assign individuals/teams for solicitation.
- Return remaining prospects to the “other strategy pool” until more solicitors can be recruited in the future.
- Design prospect requests.
- Prepare prospect information.
- Design the request and gift amount. Review with solicitor(s). Modify as necessary.
- Conduct orientation and training for solicitors. Encourage all board members to attend, even if they aren’t soliciting.
- Send the introductory letter. Shortly thereafter, solicitors begin calling for meet-ups.
- Host briefing meetings with solicitors—live, telephone, electronic—every few weeks during the solicitation time period.
- Monitor progress of the new opportunity.
- Monitor solicitor performance. If some solicitor(s) don’t complete their assignments in a timely fashion, take the prospect away and assign elsewhere.
- Provide updates at meetings of the fund development committee and board of directors. Tell success stories at these meetings. Offer public compliments to solicitors.
- Conduct personal follow-up with the prospects to secure their feedback and ascertain their satisfaction with the experience.
- Invite anonymous feedback, electronically or via traditional post.
- I suspect that an informal, personal conversation between the chief development officer and the prospect would be most wonderful.
- A focus group with donors who participated could also be wonderful. I’ve conducted self-administered anonymous surveys, key informant interviews, and focus groups with donors. But I’ve never done this with personal face-to-face donors to evaluate that solicitation strategy. This could be marvelous!
- Conduct a final evaluation and report to both fund development committee and board.
- Adjust as necessary.
- Confirm personal face-to-face solicitation for every year.
- Expand the number of solicitors and prospects for the following year.
I know, Nike’s “just do it” is old news. A cliché these days. Nonetheless…do it! Launch (or increase) your personal face-to-race solicitation program.
This is the best way to raise the most money from the leading donor source—individuals.
You’ll find my resources in the Free Download Library on my website. I’ve already mentioned selected books and authors earlier in this column. And there’s lots more: Check out Amy Eisenstein’s book Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, from CharityChannel Press.