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November 19, 2019 Shelley Cochrane

We needed some wiring done in our house recently, so I looked into hiring an electrician. Getting estimates from three companies allowed me to compare who would be cost-effective and competent. It worked like a charm.

That’s the goal a nonprofit has in putting out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to fundraising companies. It’s an attempt to line up agencies side by side to look for an affordable, reputable vendor. But an RFP doesn’t reveal the most important outcome, namely, who will be the best extension of your team in motivating your donors to respond generously.

But an RFP doesn’t reveal the most important outcome, namely, who will be the best extension of your team in motivating your donors to respond generously.

Your donor relationships are your treasured possession. Every interaction they have with you must reinforce that their generosity is making a life-changing difference. The voice and cadence of asking and thanking; the clarity of how their gift will make an impact; and the compelling reason to give now must ring true through every message on every channel. Collaboration that integrates these elements at the highest level requires a dedicated partner whose team functions as an attentive extension of your own staff, not a distant vendor who turns the crank on the next project to push out the door.

Discerning the best fit in a strategic partner comes through qualitative questioning and careful observation. How well do they listen? What leads them to a breakthrough solution? How passionate are they about the people you serve?

Look for a collaborative partner that specializes in data-driven strategy, custom creative development, donor-focused tactics, and robust analytics. Ask about segmentation strategy to avoid over-mailing and a custom dashboard for reporting results. Find out what goes into their online, email, and social media success and dig into how they monitor true multi-channel integration. These are the dynamics that contribute to strengthened donor relationships for maximum long-term donor value.

If your ultimate goal is to engage more and better donors for long-term sustainability, I encourage you to reconsider before you reach for that RFP template. Consider a qualitative inquiry instead. Dialogue with a potential partner who listens, understands, and offers custom solutions will produce the best outcome for you and your donors, now and into the future.

Our team is happy to help advise you on what strategy may work best for your organization, but you’ll never know unless you try.

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