The Weekend Briefing

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We were having coffee and my friend looked panicky.

“What’s the matter?”
“Rob, it’s almost the end of the year and I’m not getting out.  I haven’t made a visit in a month.  My plate is so full right now I can’t imagine even finding the time to try to get a visit.  I need a day, but it’s not going to happen.”
“Do you have ten minutes?”
“What do you mean?  You can’t do major gifts fundraising in ten minutes!”
As gently as I could, I looked my friend in the eye and said, “Of course you can.”
Pay yourself first.  For fundraisers that means making the time or, if need be, fighting for the time to get out on a visit.  And if you can give yourself the gift of ten minutes, that will happen.
Think about major gift work as a series of moments.  This work is a series of moments, connected together.
The last ask you made?  The elapsed time between when you asked and when the prospect responded was less than a minute.  Meeting a potential donor at an event?  Five minutes.  A phone conversation just to say hello, but you know you’ll have coffee soon?  Ten minutes.
Is putting yourself in position to get a visit and make an ask worth ten minutes a day to you?  Yes?  Good.  First thing, turn off your email so you can think without being distracted.
Mail a handwritten note to someone.
Make one phone call to get one visit.  (Okay, you can turn your email back on if that works better.)
Who did you meet recently?  At a board meeting or event?  Call or write them to say hello. No one?  Then make sure you’re at your organization’s next event, helping out, so you CAN meet someone.
Make a phone call to thank someone for their gift.
Schedule your next trip, even if it’s to the other side of town, so you can tell the next person you call, “I’ll be in your neck of the woods soon, can I stop by to say hello?”
Who’s sick?  Send a card.  Whose birthday is coming up?  Ditto.
Look at last fiscal year’s list of $1,000-plus donors.  Who needs some TLC?
Commit to the next three people you’re going to try to visit.
Go find some news about your organization you can send to a donor.
Have a conversation with a “service provider” at your organization; a teacher, a social worker, a doctor.  You’d be amazed who they know. And it’s a good bet you’ll come away with a great story to share.
The point is, do something.  Anything.  One little thing.  Today. 
I promise that if you commit to ten minutes a day, you’ll see results and the ten minutes you invest will yield great returns over time.
Next week, we might be able to find a story to end the year. 
But before we sign off, I heard again from my favorite volunteer fundraiser:
“Rob, last week I had lunch with an old prospect.  He and I went to high school and college together.  He feels indebted to both places.  At one time he was a prospect to build 50% of a new building at the college.  Today he is struggling mightily to save his business. 
“I find that paying attention to possible donors when they are having tough times is a good way to strengthen a relationship for the day when circumstances change for the better. 
“Just like everyone else, donors have friends who ride with us in good times but remember “true” friends who ride with us through dark times.”

That’s called “taking the long view.”
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings coaches gift officers, consults on capital campaigns and helps nonprofit organizations build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at

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