Relationships are as important to Philanthropy as the right location is to Real Estate – Norma Murphy
John D. Rockefeller, in 1933, commented on this, saying, “It is a great help to know something about the person whom you are approaching. You cannot deal successfully with all people the same way. Therefore, it is desirable to find out something about the person you are going to – what his interests are, whether you have any friends in common, whether he gave last year, if so, how much he gave, what he might be able to give this year, etc. Information such as this puts you more closely in touch with him and makes the approach easier.”
Recently, Providence House – a community based organization whose goal is to break the cycle of homelessness for families with children – found themselves faced with the dilemma of more families needing their services than the previous year and a budget that simply could not stretch to meet the unprecedented number of families requiring help. Realizing something had to be done, Simone Hennessee, Executive Director of Providence House, mailed a personal note to a select number of donors explaining that the organization needed to secure $200,000 within 30 days or less in response to the critical needs of the families they serve.
Within two days, the first check for $50,000 arrived. Within 14 days, $225,000 in outright gifts was received by Providence House in response to a simple, but very personal note.
This kind of response doesn’t just happen. It happens because of the successful outcomes families experience once they graduate from the Providence House Program – a transformative model that for some families may take up to 2 years to complete; but with a success rate of 89% of the families not becoming homeless again, it has gained the respect of the donor community and garnered numerous awards including the first Return On Investment Award made by The Community Foundation of North Louisiana.
This kind of response also happens because for the last twenty-years, Simone Hennessee has developed relationships within the donor community by being a good community citizen which means being involved in the community. She genuinely cares about the people who support Providence House.
She is quick to express her appreciation by making phone calls when a gift is made or having a member of the Board of Directors make a personal phone call. She knows birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other dates that are important to the donors and their families. She participates in community activities because she understands that if the only time you reach out to someone is when you want something – that is not how relationships are developed and maintained.
Simone Hennessee puts into practice what Hartsook shares with each of its clients – care enough to learn about a prospective donor’s interest before you request their support. Once they make a gift to your organization, acknowledge their gift in a timely manner. Between requests, keep them informed about what you are doing with their charitable investment. Let them know how their gift is helping to change lives.
Congratulations to Simone Hennessee!
Here’s how this campaign for $200,000 worked:
- A personal notecard was developed. The front read, “From the Desk of Simone Hennessee” and the inside had a personal quote concerning the unprecedented numbers of families with children who are homeless. Every effort was made to show this was a personal request paying close attention to the size, fonts and a conscious decision to not incorporate the logo until the very back of the notecard.
- Particular attention was given to the mailing list and the potential donors giving history. Those with a long-standing history with Providence House were chosen for this targeted mailing.
- Simone wrote a personal note in each one with a specific gift amount request, typically based on their recent gift. Notes were personal in nature, talked about graduations, weddings, and other important events in the donor’s life.
- An envelope was included, but it was also personal in nature. Specific stamps were bought rather than postage-paid envelopes.
- All notecards were personally addressed as well.