When Susan left the Board, she left the organization with a pretty big hole to fill. How big? Oh, about $300,000 – over a third of the total operating budget. Susan, herself, had never written a check for more than a thousand dollars, but her friends sure did. Susan had cultivated and solicited her small group of wealthy friends for the whole five years she was on the Board and the three years before that when she was on the event committee. Now that she’d termed out and her priorities had shifted to another charity, all of her friends would be shifting over with her.
During the eight years that Susan was raising money for the organization, she had but one caveat: that she would handle all communication with them. She was afraid the organization would inundate her friends with direct mail letters and phone calls asking for money. It was not Susan’s intention to leave the organization in the lurch when she left the Board. She did not understand that there is more to development than just an ask.
For their part, the organization, understaffed and overworked as they were, didn’t exactly push back. Rather than invest some time and energy at the front end to reassure Susan and work with her to create a shared communication plan that they could both feel comfortable with, they did nothing. “Hey,” they figured, “less work for us.” Now they suddenly found themselves scrambling to fill a hole wide enough to shut down half of their program.
This is why it is critical to build donors’ relationships with missions rather than individuals. Staff, board members, volunteers and even clients will come and go but missions, like diamonds, are forever.
Creating a plan that focused on thanking donors and demonstrating the impact of their gifts would have directly connected donors with the mission and would have primed them for Susan’s annual solicitation. It could be as simple as just sending a newsletter a few times a year and inviting donors for an open house or thank you event.
Do you have a Susan on your board? If so, now is the time to bring her in and make sure her donors are your donors, too.