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Your Best Development Officers Are Right Under Your Nose...And They Aren’t Your Colleagues!

By Mary Solomons

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences held its annual Scholarship Event this week. As I wondered around the room, dropping in on tables, I heard a second-year student bonding with an octogenarian over a shared passion for chess and German food. At another grouping, a first-generation college student recounted how his parents immigrated from Malaysia while his scholarship donor talked about his family’s roots in Italy. A donor with a class year from the mid-80s explained to a rapt group of Gen Z students how prescriptions were filled before the advent of computers. The conversation flowed and our donors saw firsthand the impact of their philanthropy.

The first rule of fundraising is that people give to people, and the best spokesperson for why your organization needs support are those who benefit from it. Remember, you are probably not the only nonprofit your donor supports, and it is the human connection that can determine the magnitude of their philanthropy.

A scholarship reception is one vehicle that educational institutions employ to put a face on a donor’s philanthropy, but this concept—bringing donors and recipients together over a meal—translates to virtually every cause. A few words of advice:

  • Keep any program to a minimum! Chances are your guests have heard from your president or CEO before but may not have spent substantive time with the individuals their gifts benefit.

  • Just as we’re seeing Black Friday deals pop up in July, don’t limit your donor-recipient engagement to an annual touch. ThankView, a video-email software, is one of the easiest and most effective ways to send a personalized video to your donors and offers response options and analytics. Can you bring a recipient to the home or office of your donor for a face-to-face meeting? What about using FaceTime or Skype while a gift officer is on a donor visit?

You may not have the salary lines to add a number of gift officers to your staff, but I bet you have people who can help do their job!

This post was written by DRG Group associate, Mary Solomons.

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