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There you are, standing over the punch bowl at the holiday party, chatting with a former board member or a volunteer you haven’t seen for a while. She’s just walked through your new offices, recalled the early days, inquired about how various programs are going now. She’s reconnected.
Would you be prepared, right there in that moment, to delicately suggest some ways she could be of help to your organization?
Maybe she’s not ready to jump back in to a major volunteer role, but she could host a little Point of Entry or dessert gathering in her home after the holidays—just to help you spread the word. No fundraising, of course!
Or those dear friends of hers you’d just love to meet—could she arrange that lunch for all of you to get acquainted?
The foundation board she sits on—can she help you arrange a meeting with the grants officer?
Her firm’s volunteer department—don’t they look for volunteer opportunities for the employees all year round?
Will you be arriving at the holiday party informed about the guests and armed with your mental list of opportunities for involvement?
If not, get to work!
You may need to brainstorm with your team to be sure your list is broad enough. If you know the guests who’ll be coming to the holiday events, you may be able to get very specific: someone to chair the big event next year, someone to help you launch the computer program, or that new young professionals group you’ve been wanting to start.
Play a game to see how connected or reconnected you can become in each conversation you have over the holidays.
It’s the time for reconnecting and then planting a seed that can be nurtured and grown next year and in the years to come.
Your goal with each holiday interaction is to connect enough in each conversation so that your last sentence can very naturally be: “I’ll call you after the holidays to talk more about it.”
Q: How do we capture the names at our annual holiday banquet fundraising dinner and can we use it as a Point of Entry Event? We expect to have over 200 people, and we do a great emotional program about our work, but we’ve never been very successful at getting people to give us their cards for more info.
Neil in Massachusetts
A: In order to consider an event a real Point of Entry, people must be invited personally by someone they know, they must attend knowing they are coming just to learn about your work, you must have time to do the full Point of Entry program, and you must have permission to follow up with all of the guests afterwards.
Your holiday banquet is a great example of what we call a Point of Entry Conversion Event, which is often a great feeder strategy for your Points of Entry if you can successfully follow up with attendees and invite them to come.
At a moment in the program when you have people’s attention, have your emcee say that you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t take a moment to share what the support raised at this event will make possible for the mission. Have them introduce your Visionary Leader, who should give a brief Visionary Leader Talk. Following the Visionary Leader, you should have a testimonial from someone who was supported by your organization.
Once those two program pieces have happened, the emcee should come back out and say that people have now gotten a glimpse of what your work is about and that some of them might find themselves wanting to get more involved. Then direct them to cards in the center of their table or under their plates, which they can fill out to indicate that they would like to talk with someone from the organization. You will then follow up and invite the people who gave you a card to a Point of Entry.
To shortcut the process, you can recruit your table hosts to become Ambassadors who agree to host and fill one private Point of Entry Event after the holiday banquet for those guests who want to attend.
Have the dates for their private Points of Entry pre-scheduled for January and work with each person to invite the folks they bring to the banquet back to a Point of Entry in the new year. Tell the hosts that it will be a great way for their guests to learn more about the organization and feel proud of what their support has allowed them to do.
What do we mean by lifelong donor? Does it mean we have to wait a whole lifetime before they make their first gift? Does it mean they take a lot of extra care and maintenance that your organization may not be prepared to give?
Let’s start with the word “lifelong.” That sounds like a long time! Think of other lifelong relationships you have—with friends and family, perhaps with work colleagues. You’ve been through a lot together—good times and bad times. You’ve had moments when you wondered why you stayed connected to this person. Yet something has endured. There’s something about these lifelong relationships that makes them worth it. They add tremendous richness and breadth to our lives.
Now imagine that your donors put your organization in that category. The people and the work are important enough to them that they want to stay connected long-term. We each have organizations like this. I will always have a fondness for the hospital where our two children were born. I consider myself a lifelong supporter of the quality healthcare they provide. The same goes for my alma mater, my faith organization, the search-and-rescue organization that airlifted my sister out of a terrifying wilderness experience, and the schools that have done such a terrific job of educating our kids.
There is very little they need to do to keep me as a donor. I already consider myself to be a lifelong supporter of their work, and in most cases, they don’t even know that. They certainly don’t fawn over me and make me feel as if I could become one of their special major donors.
My story is typical. We each have a handful of organizations like this in our lives—organizations we truly love and to which we are lifelong donors.
Who are those donors for your organization? Who is already out there that cares about your work that much? With them, you have deep permission—permission that you are most likely not even using. I say that to the extent to which you are not fully “taking advantage of” the deep permission you have with these donors, you are not serving them.
We had a woman in one of our workshops who was the director of a major American art museum. She had done a brilliant job of cultivating her donors over the years. She proudly told me that she had at least 20 donors who were ready to give her a minimum of $1 million each. Yet she was afraid to ask them.
As we were meeting in her beautiful office one day, her assistant came in to tell her the sad news that one of these wonderful donors had just passed away—never having been given the opportunity to make a major gift to this institution that she had loved her entire life. Instead, an additional million or ten went to her heirs or to taxes. What pleasure that gift could have brought that woman, to know the lasting impact she would have made on the museum.
Perhaps this story sounds familiar. Whether your donors are ready to give you millions or thousands or hundreds, every organization has donors with whom you have this deep permission—donors who consider themselves to be lifelong supporters of your work.
Your job is to find out who they are, nurture the process, and then ask them to give to whatever it is that most moves them. Furthermore, your job is to develop a pipeline of donors in this category so that the person who comes along after you will have inherited all those well-cultivated potential donors. You are on a scouting mission for lifelong donors, donors who truly get it about your mission and are giving for the right reasons. Then you’ve left a real legacy for your organization.
Q: We always feel so overwhelmed with people’s generosity at holiday time. Do you have any suggestions to help us feel more prepared?
Stewart in New Jersey
A: Maybe it’s time to take out the old Wish List and give it a tune-up. After all, these are your holidays too! What do you really want for your organization? What are you wishing for?
Ask each department, staff subgroup, or staff member to list their top five needs. Have them be as specific as possible, from soup to nuts: band aids, diapers, computers or office equipment, gas for the van, a new music instructor or counselor, playground equipment, or even a new gym.
Then compile them all into a single Wish List. You might consider listing them by area or department: “The nursery is wishing for X, the maintenance staff is wishing for Y.” It will let people know that you really need these items.
Print them up on pretty holiday paper. Make enough copies so that you can distribute them generously throughout the season. Have them at your front door. Insert them in your newsletter. Have a little basket of them at your holiday parties and other events. In other words, let people know what you want and need so that they can fulfill your wish.
Get started now. This is the helping season.