First Thoughts

Arts Finance. Building stronger nonprofits.

I’m sorry … who are you again?

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Patron and donor cultivation is always a critical topic, and this month’s thoughts take root in works recently produced by two of my associates, Bruce Thibodeau of Arts Consulting Group and Joseph Truskot. Bruce has a piece entitled “Strategic Fundraising through Objective Research: Understanding Donor Capacity”, and Joe has initiated a program entitled “Staccato”, a series aimed at building the strength of your Board. The first release in Joe’s series, sponsored by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, is a short presentation entitled “Fundraising Advice for Board Members”.

I’m reminded of a situation I encountered a number of years back, when I was working the books in a small nonprofit. I happened to overhear one side of a phone call being handled by a Development staff member. The exchange caught my attention when, five minutes into the conversation, I heard the staff member say “I’m sorry … who are you again?”.

I suffered an almost allergic reaction to hearing those words within the confines of a fundraising office, and my curiosity was piqued. Later, after casually determining the name of the caller, I looked him up on our database, and found that he was a recurring $2,500/year donor. Nevermore shall we speak of what happened next.

In my view, donor recognition is a 24/7 job. I know that sounds extreme, and hardly practical. However, whether anything is said at the time, a donor will notice if they’re (apparently) invisible to the organization they support. And as self evident as this may seem, it bears repeating: the time spent cultivating your org’s ability to recognize your donors, and their value to your organization, whenever, wherever, or however that interaction may take place, will be time very well spent.

For more on this, Bruce Thibodeau’s piece can be found in Arts Consulting Group’s January Arts Insights. The first presentation of “Staccato” can be found here and the Association of California Symphony Orchestras can be found at ACSO.org.

… Jed

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