Patience vs Persistence


Persistence and patience: When it comes to fundraising, these two struggle in tug of war. Chasing dollars requires a level of persistence to stay on top of cultivating a relationship. But where do you draw the line so your efforts don’t become detrimental to your own hard work?

On one hand, you hear your prospect’s interest, opening up the lines of communication, not to mention your own hopeful enthusiasm. On the other hand, one too many calls makes a pest. A  fundraiser recognizes that the gift is almost never a top priority for that company or individual donor yet its their responsibility to bring that gift to fruition.

In my experience I’ve heard both “Wow, thank you for reminding me about this! I almost forgot!”, encouraging my persistence, but also a blunt, “Please do not contact me again. I will get to this when I can.” …ugh, I cringe.

At what point do you let patience rule your email frequency? Where do you draw the line?

While the answer is not always clear, here are some helpful methods for defining the lines between persistence and patience:

  • Communicate – Realizing, this is the number one advice in just about any circumstance, I stand by this one simple rule because it truly can solve everything…everything! Simply ask the donor what they want. End the donor conversation with “When should I follow up with you on this?” and “What’s the best way to reach you?”. Let the donor tell you what they want. This leaves no question, just a clearly defined, customized follow-up plan.
  • Alternating two week rule – If your regiment driven, or forget to communicate, this one’s for you. This also works well with ongoing relationships like when I worked in special events coaching teams and participants to fundraise. A good rule to follow is checking in every two weeks alternating between phone call and email.  (regardless, communicate this plan w/ the donor for approval)
  • Use your deadlines to your advantage – Urgency can motivate decision making. If a deadline is approaching and you haven’t received the donation/sponsorship, share this information. “As a reminder, we need the commitment form by [date] in order to add your logo on the tshirts” or, if there’s not a deadline, set one simply for efficiency purposes. “Would we be able to finalize by [date]?”