It’s time for a change of terminology in the fundraising world.
I am not a “prospect”.
Don’t get me wrong. I could very well be a potential supporter of your organization. Maybe even an ardent one. Heck, I may eventually someday become a financial supporter. But, please don’t call me a prospect.
In fact, it would be best if you didn’t even use the word privately. Simply avoiding a term doesn’t change the way you think about it; you need to change your thinking as well. To me, the word “prospect” minimizes my potential contribution to your organization by narrowing it to a single concern. It implies a one-dimensional relationship that, at its worst, just involves the “prospect” of a donation.
I realize that you may work in the fundraising arm of your organization and, from your point-of-view, that prospective donation might be your most important concern. But, to be honest, it’s not mine. And I’m the person you want to engage. Each time I read the term “prospect” in non-profit-related literature, I wince a little… and feel somewhat objectified. I am more than my wallet. Much more.
I’m a friend, a contact, a resource, a community member, a peer, a client, a constituent… and perhaps many other things. I’m someone who values what your organization brings to our community.
It’s relationships that really matter here, if you truly want my support. Don’t let your need for funding – however dire that need might be – get in the way of building that relationship with me. Establish an honest relationship with me and money may well follow. Think of it more as a partnership and perhaps a lot more than money will follow. As I said, I have more than just my wallet to offer. Without that relationship, you’ll never know if I’m your next board member, your future most valuable volunteer, or someone who knows the person that you’ve been trying to reach.
You’ll probably also never know if I’m your next major donor or benefactor. On behalf of all of your future and prospective supporters, please realize that our future together, whatever it might be, needs to be based on a relationship of mutual respect and shared values. Not the prospect of a donation.
Leo A. Notenboom is a former non-profit board member, a managing trustee of a private foundation, and long-time computer geek and internet entrepreneur. He is most assuredly not a “prospect”. His online business card is http://leonotenboom.com