Building Relationships are the Key to Success

Building Relationships are the Key to Success

By Mike Perkins, Sr Director of Philanthropy
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)

The goal of fund development programs is to create a base of philanthropic support by building relationships with persons who share an interest in, and a passion for, the mission of an organization. The first step in cultivating a relationship with an identified prospective benefactor is obtaining an appointment.

Successful Development Directors love to go on face-to-face visits, listening to people share their lives, accomplishments and motivations for living and giving. Making the visit can be fun, but many directors loathe the task of persuading a prospect to agree to a visit. Most feel frustrated when they seem unable to set enough appointments to consistently see even 20 persons per month. If that is the case, try implementing these practices for success.

Track Results

Successful development directors track results when setting appointments. One essential building block is the discipline to work at appointment-setting every day and to faithfully record these measurable results:

1. Attempts to reach a person
2. Contacts, or actual number of persons reached
3. Number of appointments made
4. Number of hours on the phone each day devoted to setting appointments

Recording results allows you to identify areas of strength and opportunity. With diligence, practice and guidance, your effectiveness will increase over time, ultimately leading to more satisfying results.

Pray Before Each Call

Offering a prayer serves as a reminder that it is God’s job to motivate a benefactor to open his or her heart for others. The job of a Development Director is to be the vehicle by which the Lord can operate. Pray. Then pick up the phone and act!
Prepare and Practice

Prepare an outline or script detailing the key points to be addressed in order to obtain an appointment. Rehearse before the call to feel relaxed and sound natural rather than nervous and scripted.

Keep Focused on the Goal

Remember that the goal is to get an appointment, NOT to conduct the appointment over the phone. Introduce yourself, ask if this is a convenient time to talk, and state the reason for your call. Save the case and “the ask” for the meeting!

Be Enthusiastic

Be someone with whom a benefactor would want to visit. Communicating enthusiasm should be a natural byproduct of a sincere belief in a worthy cause. Avoid a monotone or low-energy delivery. Instead, stand up to make phone calls and expect success!

Location, Location, Location!

Offer to meet where the prospect feels most comfortable. Some people will prefer their home, office, a restaurant or even a visit to your site allowing him or her to personally experience your organization. Allow the prospect to choose.

Plan for the Future

Always keep the door open for future visits if someone decides to pass on this opportunity. Potential benefactors are more likely to reject a request when there is not already a personal relationship. If a request for a meeting is declined, ask for permission to send a newsletter to keep them informed. Indicate that you will check back with them at a later date to update them about the organization.

Gather Information

Develop a habit of gathering as much contact information as possible. Having home, work and cellular phone numbers, home and work addresses and both personal and work email addresses, allows for more flexibility when contacting people. A home phone as the sole means for making contact limits the times in which you will successfully reach them, namely at night when they are more likely to be there. Besides, someone may prefer to receive calls at work, which also maximizes overall effectiveness.

Repeat and Thank

Repeat the date, time and location of the appointment and ask if a reminder phone call would be appropriate. Thank them for time and willingness to learn more about the mission and ministry of the organization.

Be Persistent and Disciplined

When working diligently at setting appointments, the opportunities to share the organization with others will increase exponentially. Additionally, it will offer more prospects an opportunity to involve themselves in meaningful and significant ways in the organization.

Again, the most important determinant for success is the commitment to the discipline of making calls to set appointments. There will be times in the year when people are away at their summer or winter home, or are tied-up with back-to-school activities or Christmas parties. It will not be uncommon to encounter many answering machines or voice mail messages and this can be frustrating. At the same time, making an hour or two of daily calls will assure greater success and help overcome the frustration.

Enjoy the privilege of building relationships with wonderful people who will often express gratitude for listening to their motivation for giving as well as the opportunity to make significant gifts to a cause they care about. Setting the appointment is the first step in that fulfilling journey.

Mike Perkins is a veteran fundraiser with 30+ years of experience in university development, not-for-profits, and educational institutions and Senior Director of Philanthropy for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.