In the “we need more gift income yesterday,” reality of many institutions, the concept of practicing patience with donors can feel antithetical. There is no time for patience. The money is needed now.
In these pressurized settings, the message is clear, “cultivate donors quickly and ask soon.”
But there is a lot to be said for practicing patience. And, in particular, practicing productive patience with donors.
What does productive patience look like?
First, what it doesn’t look like are casually-warm, “howdy-doody” calls, visits, and interactions with donors. Productive patience is not a gift officer repeatedly taking the same donor on monthly lunch dates with no purpose prior to each lunch and nothing much of new value to report after the lunch.
Instead, productive patience, looks an awful lot like strategy in action. It is progressing a donor thoughtfully through the gift cycle. It is planting seeds about their next current gift or a planned gift (or both!) purposefully.
It is piquing their interest by sharing your enthusiasm for newly-approved campaign priorities before sharing the case statement with them.
It is treating them as “special but not targeted,” so that you build trust before asking. It is a countless number of small, but exceedingly strategic and planned steps, a gift officer takes so that when an invitation to give is made, the amount is larger than the donor may have previously anticipated and the response is far more likely to be affirming.
In short, productive patience looks like smart advancement work. But there is a catch – or, more appropriately – a key to the success of productive patience. The process must start with donor goals and timelines.
If you are a gift officer and you haven’t yet identified the potential invitation amount, the potential gift purpose, and the timeline for inviting the gift (i.e., within the next 3 months, the next 6 months, the next year, or the next 2 years) for each of the assigned prospects in your portfolio, you should do that work today. Only then will you be able to create your productive patience plan for each prospective donor.
Yes, your institution needs money now. But, your institution will most likely need even more money tomorrow and the day after.
Practicing productive patience with donors today gives you the best opportunity to achieve all of your institution’s gift income goals – now and in the future.