You put in the time, and all those months of planning and hard work are done. You have erased all of the fears, nailed the pitch meeting for that investment and won. The money is in the bank. The work is over and the job is done, right?
Unfortunately, even for the best of the best in the industry, this is still one of the biggest faux pas made by fundraisers.
Picture this scenario: You are a CFO of a multimillion-dollar empire, and you’ve reached this level of the game because it’s a business you are incredibly passionate about.
Treating the time after the experience for the donor with as much priority, care and importance as the donation itself is crucial to creating long-standing relationships.
You have worked hard to get there, spending days and nights building this business. You have sacriﬁced time with your family, faced the highs and the lows, and put your all in to get it where it is.
In fact, it’s so successful that you now have people coming to you asking you to invest in their businesses or make substantial donations to their causes. It’s a good feeling, right?
Then you take time out of your very busy day to listen to many pitches, and one in particular stands out. You decide that is the one you are going to invest in.
You write out the check and hand it over to a very excited recipient. You feel good. You have just made a difference, and it’s a good feeling.
But soon, that initial adrenaline starts to dissipate, and you are now left wondering what has happened with your investment. What diﬀerences has it made? Who have you helped? You have heard nothing for weeks and your initial buzz has turned to bewilderment and even resentment.
They really wanted your help and put a lot of eﬀort into securing it, and now that you have helped them, you have been dropped. No expressions of thanks, no updates on the investment, no contact whatsoever – not even a bunch of ﬂowers.
There is a mix of feelings happening now. You may feel pretty irritated and used. You may feel rejected, no longer needed, or insigniﬁcant. You may even forget why you helped them in the first place.
One thing is for sure though, especially if this is your first time as a donor, you have learned a big lesson in human nature, and you don’t like it.
But being the professional entrepreneur that you are, you carry on with your day-to-day and get on with building your empire. You do what you do best and, eventually, forget about the whole situation.
You see, if you don’t treat the aftermath of the donation as seriously as the initial ask, then you are almost guaranteeing that your donor will be a one-timer.
Then one day, around a year later, you receive an email. The email is from the same chump who sat in your office 12 months ago with the impressive, eager pitch that convinced you to hand over that check.
You read on, and the eventual conclusion of the email is that they are asking you for money again. It insinuates that since you gave once, you might want to do it again. How does this email make you feel?
Are you ﬁlled with joy and excitement, or does it bring back all those feelings of resentment you had all those months ago? Most probably the latter, right?
So, what do you do with that email? If you are like most people who have been in this position, the email is met with a very swift repositioning into the recycle bin.
You see, if you don’t treat the aftermath of the donation as seriously as the initial ask, then you are almost guaranteeing that your donor will be a one-timer. Not only that, but the likelihood of them recommending you to anyone else is little to none.
Treating the time after the experience for the donor with as much priority, care and importance as the donation itself is crucial to creating long-standing relationships and the expansion of your donor network.
The following is my tried-and-true formula for how to do a proper, respectful and gracious follow-up. I will show you how to work with your donor in this second and arguably most important stage of fundraising: GIVEN.
GIVEN is the act of showing gratitude, keeping the investor informed, making them feel like someone of value, engaging them and making them want to share their network.
Many things can be gifted, such as time, knowledge, energy, networks and, of course, ﬁnances. Each one of these is just as valuable as the other, and showing gratitude for those gifts should be done freely.
Gratitude and the act of being grateful are things that are too often overlooked. As humans, we have a tendency to see problems or hurdles. If we are successful enough to solve the problem or get over the hurdle, we rarely take time to appreciate that success.
Gratitude and the act of being grateful are things that are too often overlooked.
The whole ‘keep rising, keep winning, keep moving forward’ attitude is great, but it causes us to miss a fundamental step in our own personal development and the development of relationships with other people. We miss out not only on allowing ourselves to be grateful but also on learning how to express that gratitude.
You may be old enough to remember the door-to-door salesmen or the mail-order clubs where you could collect encyclopedias and watch your collection grow. If you were like me (a geek), this excited you. It was the best way of satisfying my thirst for knowledge.
The birth of the internet in the 80s only furthered the testament that humans have a blood-thirsty desire for information.
The advent of Google in the 90s helped the internet user sift through a vast array of information to obtain more accurate information. Google quickly became one of the most powerful companies in the world.
It was not long until we were able to discover and share more stories via social media, and the world changed forever. A person’s desire for knowledge and to be kept informed is now greater than at any time in history, and it is no longer a privilege but a necessity.
A person’s desire for knowledge and to be kept informed is now greater than at any time in history.
This desire only increases when the subject matter is close to the person’s heart or something they are invested in, and the quickest way for someone to become disheartened is for them to be uninformed.
When a person is uninformed, they will generally jump to assumptions and fill in any gaps by themselves. Unfortunately, with very little information, those assumptions can often end as negative ones.
That is not to say that you should tell your investor absolutely everything going on in your company. The highs, the lows, the good, the bad and the ugly. No, they don’t need all that, but they do need some communication.
Valuing your donor and knowing the value of your donor are two separate things that are equally as important.
To ensure they feel valued, invite them to events, let them be the first to know about things, mention them in posts and websites, send handwritten notes or thank-you cards and showcase them where you can.
Your donor is more valuable to you when they feel valued.
Your donor is more valuable to you when they feel valued. The question of how valuable your donor is to you can simply be answered by how valuable you are making them feel.
They don’t want to know how many donors you have; they want to know that they are special, they want to feel like the only one, and you need to be ready to treat them as such.
Engaging with your donor and making the conversation a two-way thing is extremely important when it comes to the long-term retention of your donors. Making someone feel part of the process and making them believe they are an integral part of the process will bring you a long way to a prolonged and sustainable relationship.
Engaging with your investor will keep them engaged with you.
I always say my goal is to make the donor feel like they are the only donor, they are important and that they are a major part of the team. How to go about this is simple: schedule regular check-ins and know your donor.
Track the data and make sure you and your team are kept informed about your donor. Knowing little things like their birthday or their kids’ names can be a game changer.
Engaging with your investor will keep them engaged with you. It is no different to any other relationship. It takes work, effort and the occasional bunch of flowers.
Now you have your donor, you have gained their trust, their affection and their buy-in. But there is one thing they have left that you want – no, actually, that you need: their network.
When building a business, fundraising or seeking investment, a strong network and pool of connections are crucial. Your network should be an ever-evolving and expanding part of your business and be prioritized at all times.
You need to be engaging with all your donors to get them to open up their little black book to you. If you have put into practice all the other tools I share in my book, How to Ask for Money, then this part should be very easy for you.
Your donors should be your biggest supporters.
Your donors should be your biggest supporters. They should want to talk about you, they want to tell the world about you and the work you are doing. Beyond that, they should be so impressed they want to encourage others to join you too.
If they haven’t done it already, then do not be afraid to ask if they would feel comfortable telling others about your work. A well-respected and well-engaged donor should have no issues at all with opening up their network to you, and if they do, then this is a problem you need to resolve as a matter of priority.
If they do agree, then give them that nudge to do so; offer to speak at their events or host parties for them. If they have donated, it’s likely their circle will too.
As your network grows, you have more opportunities to branch out your divisions. You will be able to identify the qualities of your network and how each person can benefit along the various stages of your fundraising journey.
If, for example, you have a large pool of high-profile, celebrity or large-following influencers on your list, then these are the perfect people for promotions or events.
Encouraging them to share what you have going on with their followers will give you a huge increase in visibility, and if you are looking to increase the followers of your cause, there is no better way than utilizing influencers’ existing lists.
However, the golden rule here is: keep your ink dry. If you over-ask people to make introductions, to share posts or promote your brand, then you will stand the risk of generosity burnout.
People do not like to feel used. You have to follow the How to Ask for Money rules, even with your promotional asks.
Following the steps outlined in GIVEN will ensure that the first amount from your new donor or investor won’t be the last.
Alana Stott’s first business book, How To Ask For Money, chronicles the successful negotiating tactics borne of a life fully lived – as a sales professional, bodyguard, Mrs Scotland, entrepreneur, CEO, writer, producer, podcaster and lifelong philanthropist. The Founder of Wolfraven, she is using her media platform to share inspirational stories while advocating for causes that improve the world. Alana and her husband Dean have three children and live in California.