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  Identifying Potential Donors

The scariest thing about fund raising is asking people for money. Non-profit development directors often find it easier to write a grant application, create a direct mail program, send out regular newsletters asking for support or any number of non-personal requests for funding. Unfortunately, development is a contact sport requiring multiple face-to-face meetings where you end up asking another individual to give up something very precious - their money.

High school football coaches put their 'boys' through endless hours of practice and mock games to help toughen them up for the real thing. Through all this they learn the rules and techniques of the game and, perhaps most importantly, they learn to take the hit, get back up and keep going.

We haven't found an ex football coach who will help up train development directors but we promise to keep looking. In the meantime we could have a couple of skull sessions where we learn the various plays in the Play Book, talk about ways to improve our game and our team's performance on the field.

Asking for a donation is not rocket science but it does involve using some proven techniques for not only making the ask but achieving a positive outcome with a high percentage of potential donors. In this article we will talk about how to identify potential donors. Future articles with deal with qualifying and cultivating these donors and eventually making the ask.

While it is true that people give to people (not to organizations or causes), they only give to people they know and to those that have taken the time to earn their trust. So out of the hundreds or thousands of people in your community that may have the means to provide support for your organization, how do you identify or select those that will most likely to be cultivated into donors?

The first step is to identify those individuals in your community with whom you would want to build a relationship. That's right! First, develop the relationship, then make the ask. It's a lot like dating, courtship and marriage. You typically do not ask someone to marry you on the first date. However, after you have gotten to know someone and discovered common interests and similar goals, you may move on to a more serious and lasting relationship.

Where do you find the people to build relationships with? Begin with the people you already know: board members, volunteers, employees, clients, suppliers, etc. Each of these people shares a relationship with a larger group of people: family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends, fellow church members and so on. The average person in the U.S. has significant relationships with forty other people. The people you know, plus the people they know, make up your organization's market universe. When you do the math you'll see that you have an immense universe of people to work with.

Of course, not all of the people you have identified are going to become donors. Those that have a natural linkage to your organization, the people who are directly impacted by what you do, are more likely to support you financially. But don't stop there. You can create linkage with other individuals in your market universe by inviting them to attend events (breakfast meetings, annual dinners, golf tournaments, etc.) or by providing opportunities for them to participate as volunteers in the work of your organization.

When a guy and gal meet at a social event and as they talk they find that they share some common interests and kind of like each other, he's probably going to ask for her phone number. In the same way, when you invite someone to attend an event, visit your place of work, or volunteer with your organization, you will want to ask for their contact information so you can continue to develop a relationship with that person. In a very short period of time you will have amassed quite of a list of potential donors to work with. The more people you have to work with the more likely you are to reach your fundraising goals.

Your homework assignment is to quantify your organization's market universe. That number will surprise you. Want another shock? Assume that you are able to develop a relationship with only 10% of the individuals in your market universe. Now multiply that number by 40, the number of individuals that this 10% has a relationships with. As you can see, you'll never run out of people to talk to about helping to fund the work of your organization.

In the next newsletter we will discuss how to qualify and cultivate these potential donors. After that, we will include an article on developing and making the ask.