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Follow Through Is Worth a Lot

Follow through in fundraising is like the follow-through in sports. Follow-through yields significant returns.

It has always seemed mystical or magical to me that a good follow through in sports results in greater success. After the bat or the club makes contact with the ball it seems like the process should be over. The same is true when you throw or shoot a ball. Where your hands end the throw is critical to success even though there may be dozens of feet or hundreds of yards between you and the resting place of the ball.

The same is true with fundraising. Here is a case to illustrate the point.

One of our clients held a fundraiser. About 250 people attended the event. Each attendee paid $25 to attend and spent about $35 during the evening. As a result, the organization added about 180 new names to their prospective donor pool. It required about 212 hours of volunteer hours to raise a net $5435. There were many professional staff hours involved but untracked. Their budget is roughly $2 million and they raised about $25 per volunteer hours. They need $900,000 in donations to supplement their budget because their income from services only covers about $1.1 million.

How do you feel about their success? When the event is over the follow through is just beginning. With follow through it is possible to raise significantly more money.

At first glance, the story seems good. It was very efficient and somewhat effective. Raising $25 per volunteer hour is a good efficiency rate. Being introduced to 180 or more prospective new donors is always good. However, it would take about 165 similar fundraisers to fund the organization. In other words, it is a small step toward the goal of funding the organization.

You probably realize that an organization of this size has a well-developed donor pool and grant process. However, they still need many new donors and new dollars to fund growth and stay ahead of inflation.

They only have time to run 6 fundraisers each year. Therefore, each fundraiser must be successful. However, the success of a fundraiser is measured at the end of next year. The follow through is what counts.

Their follow through process is what creates success. They think it takes 6 – 10 personal contacts to receive a meaningful gift. Personal contact is something that is directed specifically at the individual rather than a mass mailing.

1 The “thank you for coming” note is handwritten rather than an email blast to all attendees.

2 The attendees receive a thank you phone call from a volunteer. During the call, they are asked what about the mission is most important to them and why they attended.

3 They are called and invited to a presentation at the organization’s offices. The presentation includes a tour of the facilities and a detailed explanation of what takes place. It is a small group of only 8 – 15 people.

4 They receive a follow-up call and an invitation to have lunch or coffee with someone on the fund development staff.

5 At lunch or coffee their interest in the mission is explored and they are asked to learn more about what the organization is doing.

6 During this learning session they are asked how they see themselves helping the clients.

From here, it depends on the prospective donor’s response. They may be asked to make a donation or given time to deepen their involvement before being asked to donate. In addition, if this process overlaps with the annual giving event they are invited to that event (The giving gathering is a large dinner, which is free for attendees, but it is all about the mission and everyone is expected to make a gift at the end of the evening.).

Of course, along the way the prospective donors receive newsletters and periodic appeal letters.

Some things we know:

If the average person spent $60 on the evening ($25 admission and $35 on other things), they have the capacity to give more than $200 per year.

Some people came to the event but will never become donors

If only half of the people become donors and give the minimum expected amount ($200), the organization will raise an additional $18,000. The majority of those funds will be received in 2012.

The point being that good follow through increases the value of the event significantly.

Next Step:

Before your next fundraising event occurs, design your follow-through process

Before you next fundraising event occurs, set your total event goal (event net plus the follow through)

Be selective about how you promote your event so that you maximize the likelihood that attendees will be individuals who become donors

Use fundraising events as the door opener that introduces prospective new donors to the organization rather than cultivating existing donors

The follow through is designed to raise funds next year. The event raises funds this year.

Sustainable organizations focus more on meeting next year’s goals than this year’s goal. Ensuring that each year is stronger than the previous is the key to creating a sustainable funding stream.

Think about your last fundraising event. How much more could you have raised if your follow-through was more robust?

As always, contact Mission Enablers if you want help. We use a special process that offers a guarantee. For more information about our process and guarantee, you can click here.

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