Referral Asks

At every organization, there are many different kinds of relationships that community members can have with your organization. Community partners can be advocates, financial contributors, advisers, volunteers, and sometimes clients/patients. There is another role community members can fill that can be very effective. There is nothing quite as powerful as a volunteer who will introduce you to people that they know.

Nonprofits can only go so far in meeting new people and businesses. Most people do not respond as well to a phone call from someone they don’t know. Using a referral donor to help make an introduction for you can help you get past some of the awkward and difficult beginnings of a new conversation. You are both more comfortable because you have a friend in common that you both trust. The referral donor can even be a great ice breaker topic to start the conversation. I like to start that kind of a meeting with, “How do you know So and So? It is really amazing how she makes time to do all of the community work she does.”

Many referral donors are a different kind of person than your typical major donor. Many major donors are well-connected and can make some great introductions. There are also some people that could never give a major gift but have a lot of community connections and are really well respected. Those are the very best people to cultivate as referral donors. A great place to start cultivating referral donors is your board.

One last tip: whenever I ask for or receive a referral, I always take time to establish a connection and create a relationship. I do not ask for a gift right out of the gate or ask the new relationship to do anything extravagant for me. We are at the beginning of a new relationship and it is important that your referral donor does not feel like you are going to ask all of their friends for a gift right away. Gauge the interest of the referral and build a solid foundation before you start a conversation about giving.

Do you cultivate referral donors in your organization? What techniques do you use to engage your board members and referral donors to introduce your friends to your organization?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

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2 Responses to Referral Asks

  1. Janice C. says:

    At my organization, we actively ask our board members and volunteers on our special event committees. We may ask them to propose 5 new people or companies we could approach. Or sometimes, if we have a list of say, companies or foundations that we’re thinking of approaching, we may pass around a list and ask if anybody has worked with them before or has a connection there. Also, don’t forget about vendors you work with! Maybe they can only donate so much, but maybe they would be willing to reach out to their their partners, sometimes even their clients.

    You never know who might have great connections or be able to make a great referral. That being said, there’s a certain type of person who just loves making connections between people. Kind of like that aunt who is always trying to set up whomever is single? For those enthusiastic connectors, it might be worth it to ask them to invite a few people they think would be interested to your next special event – not as sponsors or asking them to buy a ticket, but as guests.

    And if we get a new major sponsor or partner through say, a board member, we always make sure to announce it and thank that person at the next board meeting, etc. Thank them and make it known that they’re somebody who makes connections and makes things happen! :)

  2. Jason – thanks as always for the great post! The concept of the referral
    donor and the commitment to cultivating relationships with them is a top
    priority for me. In a new development role here at Puget Sound Christian
    Clinic, I’m very aware of how limited my current relationships with existing
    donors and the Board are so new connections that I can build with the donors
    I do get to know early will serve me well. Seeking to evaluate effective
    development work through the quality of relationships we have as opposed to
    the size of the checks we are getting people to write is where I reside. I love the comment that you make about the value of folks who are well
    connected, well respected, but may not people to make the big gift. When we are doing ministry or non-profit work on the margins and for people in
    significant need, it becomes clear that often times are most valuable assets
    are not actualized income, but the people God puts in out path to grow the
    mission, passion, and awareness for what we do. Referral donors are a big
    part of this process.
    Edward

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