Fix Your Roof!

Capturing meaningful donor information is critical for your ongoing fundraising success. How can you encourage your team to write meaningful contact reports in your CRM? Submitting visit reports is an afterthought for many development representatives who “will get to it when they have time,” but never seem to find the time. Some simply don’t like paperwork and procrastinate until their scribbled notes no longer make sense. Good fundraisers are typically more relationship-oriented than task-oriented so writing contact reports doesn’t come naturally to them.

Donor contact reports add to your institutional knowledge about your donors and their relationship to your ministry. Contact reports bring accountability to your team and give future team members insight into your key donor relationships. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget some important conversation and miss an opportunity. Unrecorded contact reports might not seem like a big deal, but it’s like overlooking a small leak in your roof that, if not addressed, will cause a lot a damage.  Effective donor reports key gather data and should include these four R.O.O.F. points:

R—Reason for the Visit

Every visit must have a definite purpose. Categorize your visit as “Discovery,” “Cultivation,” “Solicitation,” or “Stewardship.” If your goal is “Discovery,” listen for information you can glean about your donor’s connection to your ministry, their giving capacity, and why they might be motivated to give. If your purpose is “Cultivation,” take specific steps to build a closer relationship between your donor and your ministry. Whom from your organization could you introduce that would establish another attachment? What information could you share to spark a greater interest? When you are ready to “Solicit,” take a personalized proposal based on their giving interests and ask for a specific amount or gift range. The purpose of “Stewardship” visits is to genuinely thank your donors and continue to deepen your relationships.

O—Observation

Listening and observing are top fundraising skills. Philosopher and Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra, once remarked, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” From a fundraising perspective: you can also hear your donor’s heart by listening. How did your donor respond to your questions? What questions did they ask? What excited them about your ministry? What concerned them? Notice their pictures on the wall, magazines on the coffee table, or any plagues or awards on their desk. Look for clues that reveal the things that are close to their heart so when you’re ready to ask, you will ask for the right project and the right amount.

O—Opportunity

In every donor meeting you should present an opportunity. Obviously, for a Solicitation meeting you will present a specific proposal for how your donor can partner financially with your ministry. In Discovery, Cultivation, and Stewardship meetings your opportunities may be to seek their advice on your project, ask a probing question, provide additional information, invite your donor for a tour, or pray for them. Have a specific outcome in mind. What will make this meeting a success? Record important takeaways from your meeting.

F—Follow-Up

Fundraisers can learn the value of follow-up from the world of sales.  A study by Brevet revealed that 80% of sales require five follow-up calls after the initial meeting and 44% of sales reps give up after one follow-up meeting. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Don’t let your donor opportunities slip through the cracks simply because you got tired of following up. What unanswered questions did your donor have that you can research and report back to them? What next move will bring your donor closer to a gift? Record your specific follow-up steps.

Lead/Lag Indicators

There are many data points you can track in fundraising. Some ministries have high accountability for their team members. If the visit isn’t recorded in the database within 48 hours after the meeting, it doesn’t count. Essentially, the manger is saying, “It didn’t happen.” Contact reports don’t have to be a book. Just record the key points that will give you or the next gift officer insights into your donor’s heart. Ministries that concentrate on tracking R.O.O.F lead indicators, discover their lag indicators will follow. Don’t lose your donor conversations, fix your roof!


Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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