Philanthropy: Dance The Dance

I am struck how often development officers fail to follow-through with conversations about gift commitments when opportunities present themselves. This came to mind very recently during a conversation with the chief development officer for a college whose university we are serving.

Here’s the background:

This officer was recruiting volunteers to serve on the college’s campaign steering committee. The volunteers were being asked to make a financial commitment at a specific leadership level as one element of their overall responsibilities. She was telling me about some who had been approached about serving, were inclined to serve, but balked at the level of financial commitment that was expected.

When I asked about this officer’s response to those potential volunteers who expressed concern, I was surprised to hear that there was no follow-up with a more specific discussion about their gift.

Why did I react that way? 

Well, these people were being recruited because they are closely affiliated with the college and university. (They are not strangers!)

And they are willing to help in the campaign. (And there are ways they can be helpful—but not at this stage where we are focusing on securing flooring gifts.)

And they have, in effect, been asked to consider making a gift that they are not comfortable granting.

Soooo, in effect, they have been solicited.

I wondered why the officer didn’t indicate that their willingness to be helpful is welcome, that the college would ask them to assist at another juncture of the campaign and that their commitment to move the college forward would be welcome even now.

The prospect had been asked, in effect to dance the dance of philanthropy.

Yes, volunteering was the primary piece.  But philanthropy was a piece of that invitation.

So, having opened the conversation to dance . . . dance the dance.

Follow through.