There are always donors that have a personal relationship with other people in the organization. Often times the donors who have these friendships make judgement calls about their “donor friends” without consulting the individual donors.
When your major donors have family that is on staff or are part of your staffs private inner circle (we only have room for 3 or 4 close friendships), then I believe donor reps have every right to make judgement calls without consulting individual donors. However, many offices have teams where donor reps pooling relationships to help them meet the budget expectations that have been set. What often happens is that some donors start to be treated as annual donors even if they have not given in several years. For these reasons, and many others, it is important to have clear guidelines around donor retention. I’m advocating that if a donor gives a significant gift and then does not give again at that level they should be “re-prospected.”
Re-prospecting means that a donor is put back into the prospect pipeline and donor reps have a dialog about who is in charge of cultivating, stewarding & soliciting this donor. Different donor reps have different skill sets and different donors respond to different types of people. One rep might be really great at introducing people to the organization where as another might be really good about follow-up. Maybe one is a huge sports nut and connects well with those donors while another follows what’s new in IT. Some people are better at starting relationships that growing them.
Fundraising teams should be talking about their major donors on a regular basis, discussing new ways to engage and get them involved. Re-prospecting should be a part of this process. Start by taking a set of criteria for lapsed donors. For us our criteria looks something like an individual donor who historically gave an annual gift totally $5,000 or more who has given less than $3,000 in the last 18 months. Take this list of names and have a conversation with your major gifts officers about these names.