The most powerful prospect program is one where individuals introduce their friends and associates to your organization. Referrals can come from senior staff members within your organization, physicians, faculty and other donors.
Despite all of our technological advances and tools, the very most successful kind of major gifts marketing is word-of-mouth. People want to give to organizations their friends give to. Networking is the same way; people like to meet people that their friends and associates already know. It is a lot easier to get a meeting with a prospect (or gift) if they know one of your board members and that individual has encouraged them to connect. Because referrals are so important you can cultivate referral donors to the organization in a similar way you might cultivate traditional donors.
Building a program where donors, volunteers, and especially board members feel comfortable referring their friends will provide huge benefits to your organization. At the hospital I work for, I am developing a referral program that encourages volunteers to invite people for a tour of the facility. We use this as an introduction to the organization and an illustration of how philanthropy impacts the organization. It is a great entry point as people don’t feel like they are being solicited and yet they have a chance to learn a little more about the organization.
Many donors and board members don’t realize that they can invite their friends. It sounds weird but people rarely do no more than they are asked. If they are never asked, “do you have a friend who would like to receive a tour of the hospital,” or “do you have a colleague who might be willing to sit down and hear a story about the organization,” then it is likely that they will not ever make a referral.