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People Just Want to be Heard

talking hands


This is a powerful notion that often is not considered or is discounted. By inviting input and advice, you will actually attract involvement from your stakeholders. Here are some examples where advancement efforts can be furthered by seeking information from donors and stakeholders.

We all have lemons to lemonade stories where a donor calls to complain about something. The trick is having a place for them to call and someone to handle the call. First be sure your website has the mechanism to reach a person in your office to voice their issue. Many organizations do not list any contact people in the advancement office. This is a real head-scratcher. Marketing research shows by just having a point of contact to field a complaint you enhance the relationship…and if you can accommodate the issue, the relationship is further solidified.

In higher education, the quickest and most effective way to build institution support for a campaign or initiative is by interviewing faculty and administrators about their needs and about their contacts outside of the institution. Even if their need does not rank on your fundraising menu, they will appreciate the effort and the culture and understanding of the power of philanthropy will be furthered.

In healthcare, involving physicians and program directors in a similar exercise as above, in addition to screening prospects and patients, will quickly give them a greater appreciation of advancement. Proof positive…when we undertook a screening process at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, we actually started receiving calls from physicians requesting to set up screen sessions!

In direct mail, consider appeals that include a short survey that gives you feedback that illustrates the donor’s/prospect’s interest. The response rates on surveys are often 8-10 fold the response rate of acquisition gifts, so you can accumulate coded data on donor/prospect interests. You can then segment appeals based on interests for much better results because you are now engaged in a conversation where the donor/prospect knows you are listening to them.

Perhaps our best illustration comes when we eat out. Research indicate when the server repeats back to the customer the exact order, indicating the server is listening, tips increase significantly.

Your takes:

1. Set up conditions in your office to easily attract communication from your stakeholders.

2. Design programs that actively solicit input from stakeholders.

3. Take input seriously and code it into your database and use it as a basis for segmentation and specific communications.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of consulting services, please see Follow CRI on Twitter @copleyraff. For those in healthcare visit

The next PLAN-MGO session is April 8-11, 2016.

(To receive Copley Raff’s exclusive tool to help you determine how much to ask for a multi-year pledge from your major donors, write to with your request. This tool has been validated by more than 200 advancement officers and is the only tool of its kind available.)