Donor-Centered Door-to-Door

I’ve written about door-to-door canvassing before…a form of fundraising that I think is seriously underrated. Any program that brings a fundraiser face-to-face with a donor is one with enormous potential. It’s major gifts fundraising, mistakenly downgraded to direct marketing.

I was having lunch the other day with a colleague who is Executive Director of a prominent Hospital Foundation. When she told me about their better-than-expected success rate in testing a door-to-door canvass for new donors, I was intrigued…and worried simultaneously. “So, what happens when the canvasser knocks on the door of one of your major donors and asks him or her to give to the Hospital for the first time?  Don’t you run the risk of doing more harm than good?”

This, of course, is an easy problem to fix. The highly organized approach to canvassing means that major donors’ addresses can be purged from the canvassing route before the team heads out. But, should the objective be just avoiding a problem? What about capitalizing on an opportunity?

What if the major gifts officer joined the canvassing team? Armed with the names, addresses and some background information on existing donors, he or she would first act as a safeguard against other canvassers ringing the wrong bell. But, the real value — the donor-centered benefit — is what could happen when the major gifts officer knocks on the door.

If the donor is home, the opportunity to grow rather than jeopardize the relationship is there for the taking. If not, a personal note in the mailbox will be a joy to come home to later.

Major gifts officers are amazing, but they might not see themselves in this kind of setting. Why not, though? I have often explained my philosophy of Donor-Centered Fundraising as taking the best of major gifts fundraising and drawing it down into the larger donor pool below. But it can work in the reverse, too. A volume-based fundraising technique, deployed with skill and grace, can also be hoisted up the giving ladder.

Showing 3 comments
  • Carolyn

    Unless you are a neighborhood child collecting for a local event, to show up at a major donor’s home unannounced is intrusive and rude. If you are armed with information about the donor it makes feel like confidentiality has been breached and that the nonprofit has put the donor’s business on the street. No matter how slick the major gifts officer is, this tactic reeks of desperation.

  • David Love

    Hey Penny! Love the 2010 Survey.

    Trust all is well.

    Keep thinking about donors!

  • Matt

    I disagree with Carolyn. Having Canvassed for 5 years and having started a successful canvass program at the non-profit I still work at, I can speak to the successes knocking on doors brings. Of course you can’t please everyone. Inevitably someone will be upset that you came knocking, its part of the game. Same can be said for getting a phone call or a letter in the mail.

    If your intention for knocking on a major donor’s door is geared around building a relationship as opposed to asking for a major gift then those who get offended probably don’t want much of a relationship in the first place.

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