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?
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