By Bill Crouch and Mike Carter
Operationalizing a successful calendar is important for building relationships with donors for fundraising efforts. Here is why it’s difficult to enact and what you can do to follow through at each stage of the process.
Fostering Relationships with Donors
Successful development and advancement offices are known for their ability to set bold goals and objectives and then operationalize a series of action plans to enable donors to feel appreciated and deeply satisfied with their ability to give to the mission of the organization. Effective offices know that they must represent the organization with honesty and integrity, while sharing the message with prospective donors who can make a difference in helping to aid the life of the organization.
Our observation is that one of several essential elements is the ability to calendar effectively. What we mean is, not just setting a date on a calendar that staff will make a call or an in person visit to a donor, but successfully scheduling the visit in a way that maximizes the relationship with the donor and lays the groundwork for the next contact, and the next! A key factor is “staying on task” and “making the contact in a timely manner that is good for the donor!”
The planning process in many development and advancement offices follows a given ebb and flow depending on the culture of a particular office and organization. In this process, at some point, the calendar becomes a deciding factor on priories for the office staff. What appears to be routine and rather simple process, many times, gets bogged down with an array of issues. The issues which arise can be serious factors and needs to be considered, but they can also become reasons why staff cannot move beyond “the process and planning” stages to actual contacts and gifts, which are essential to their reason for being. We both have said to staff, if you’re looking for a gift under your desk, or in an internal staff meeting, then you are not going to be successful!
We want to warn development and advancement professionals to not suffer from “goal displacement” which so often comes when it involves successful calendaring. The reality is that if “the ask” is essential to gift acquisition, then the staff must not let “calendar clutter” stop them from having adequate donor contact. Time after time, we have witnessed staff say after they’ve made a visit, “what a wonderful and joyful experience it was to connect with a given donor.” Then to hear them say, “I have been trying to clear my calendar for several months to make this happen!” If the delays were brought about by the donor, then some justification might be found, but more often than not, the delays were “hinted at by the staff” then agreed to by the donor. The larger issue here is the message to the donor: We have other priorities! Too many of such unintended messages will result in a damaged donor relationship that will take more work and effort to repair and bring back to a healthy relationship. The reality is that once the downward spiral starts with a donor, it becomes very difficult to repair and can take years to get back to where it once was or needs to be for growth.
Focus on the Mission
We encourage our clients to see the joy in what development and advancement means to the life and mission of an organization. Don’t let goal displacement sidetrack the very reason you are hired by the organization. We warn our clients to not let “calendar clutter” consisting of nonessentials, internal organizational protocols, and other such activities to become part of the culture of an office for development and/or advancement.
For more insights into how to successfully and joyfully calendar, feel free to contact us at BrightDot and let us guide you with your fundraising journey.