When my son was younger, he loved to watch a children’s program from Australia called “The Wiggles.” If you had kids who grew up in the early 2000s, you may remember the show, featuring a musical group of four Australians who danced and sang and jumped around. The characters never stopped moving! It was quite entertaining. I found myself thinking about the Wiggles today when I was discussing how to engage with major donors during these crazy times of COVID-19.
Recently, a major gift officer for one of our clients met with a major donor. The meeting was a typical donor appointment until the gift officer asked the donor if he planned to take advantage of the 2020 CARES Act. The donor had not heard of the opportunities in the CARES Act and asked for clarification. The gift officer shared how, due to the CARES Act (also known as the coronavirus relief bill), there are some specific ways a donor can give this year that won’t be available after 2020. The donor was very intrigued, and the conversation changed. Previously, the donor had indicated he would give a gift in the $100K-$250K range. The donor was now considering giving as much as $1 million.
So what’s the connection to the Wiggles? Well, after this exciting conversation, this particular donor went silent. He had confirmed that he wanted to make a gift before the end of the year, but then several weeks passed without any further word from him.
Have you ever had a key that would only open a door if you wiggled it just right? You know it is the right key, and the door will eventually open if you just keep on trying. That’s exactly what’s happening with this major donor. You know it’s the right key: the donor has a long-term relationship with the organization, and he has confirmed he wants to make the gift. But this donor is a busy executive and for whatever reason, he hasn’t responded.
This major gift officer needs to keep wiggling, trying different things until he can get an answer. I don’t mean that he should text every morning and call every night – that’s overkill – but I do mean that he should work creatively to follow up and figure out the next step. Sometimes we take a donor’s lack of communication personally, and we think if they stop responding that they have lost interest. But this is a long-term relationship. In my experience, major donors are simply busy people. We just need to keep wiggling the key until we figure out a way to connect with the donor.