Are detective novels in your summer reading plans? Here’s a mystery you can solve–for your nonprofit!
“You’ve got to help us,” the Executive Director said. “We have all these donors, and we don’t know them. We’re communicating in the dark.”
“A hundred dollars an hour plus expenses,” I said. As a private detective, I’m used to searching in the dark. Besides, it would be a break from snooping on cheating husbands and wives.
Here’s how I tracked down the unknown donors.
Searched the case files. I looked through the database for tips about donors and prospects. I combed the Board bios and meeting minutes to get the skinny on the directors. For donors who were clients, the agency balked: confidentiality, they said. I’d heard that one before. “Give me a sample of client folders with the names removed. I’ll take it from there.”
Talked to informants. Who knows each audience the best? The nice lady at the front desk told me stories about the people who come in looking for help that would curl your hair. The program directors dished the dirt on the organizations they collaborate with: thick as thieves, but not as well funded. The Executive Director herself knew all the politicians in town. I made notes.
Beat the pavement. Take a tip from an old gumshoe: don’t wait by the phone. Get out and talk to people. Interview people. Find out their motives. How else will you know how to motivate them?
Tail the suspects. These days, people leave trails a mile wide all over the Internet. Track them. What footprints can you find through a web search? Who do they visit on Facebook? See what business they’re conducting in LinkedIn groups. Read the notes they scrawl and toss onto Twitter. You don’t have to snap photos: they’re doing it for you, on Instagram and Pinterest and other juke joints all around. Make yourself known there and see who talks.
Follow the money. Are your unknown donors making payments to other organizations? Look at donor lists to see what relationships they have on the side.
Get the suspects in a room. Call it a focus group. Call it an advisory board. Call it Ishmael, if you like–just ask them the questions. Put them at ease and they’ll sing like a room full of canaries.
I made my report. The Executive Director was grateful. “Now we know who they are, what they want, where to find them, and how to talk to them. I can just see the donation renewals coming in!”
“Good,” I said. “Don’t spend it all in one place.” They would need to do more investigation as their audiences changed. Good investigators don’t come cheap.