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The Five I's of Development

Identify. That’s the first “I” in GCN Affiliate Consultant Lee Patouillet’s thought process that offers a structure for the daunting task of today’s nonprofit fundraiser in navigating new sources of funding, ever-changing rules, and heightened competition for dollars to support your organization’s mission. Begin by identifying and tracking potential supporters, and continue with this step-by-step plan that will assist your efforts to attract and retain donor interest over time. 

During these challenging economic times, nonprofit leaders are seeking greater philanthropic support as the demand for their organization’s services continues to increase. Much like swimming against the tide, fundraisers today are faced with increasing challenges and undercurrents as funding from a number of traditional sources shrink, rules change, and competition for dwindling dollars heightens.

During my work in this field as both a nonprofit executive and a consultant for more than 30 years, I have found a concept originally called the Four I's, which has evolved as of late to become the Five I's, to be particularly helpful in providing structure to what can be an overwhelming task  raising money in today's economy. This article is designed to provide development professionals with a valuable process through which to build the relationships necessary to secure much needed philanthropic support for their respective organizations.

The Five I's

The first “I” stands for IDENTIFY. Identifying potential supporters of the organization is an important responsibility for both staff and volunteer leadership. Formal prospect identification and rating sessions are helpful tools to broaden the pool of potential donors. Developing a system to identify and track those individuals or organizations who attend events or become engaged in the life of your organization in some other way represents a valuable pool of potential supporters. Keeping good records to identify past and current donors as well as prospects is also another key to fundraising success.

Once you have identified potential supporters, the next step is to INFORM them about how your organization is advancing its mission and making a difference. Storytelling is a powerful tool to inform current and prospective donors about your cause. It is important to offer volunteer opportunities and to illustrate the impact of philanthropy through your various communication vehicles. Success in this step is highly dependent upon the integrity of your database and your ability to inform your constituents through a variety of communication channels. One Atlanta nonprofit CEO uses the concept of Lunch and Learn events as a way to inform potential supporters about the organization. These kinds of informational programs are a good way to involve board members who may be a little hesitant, at first, about their responsibilities related to resource development and fundraising.

The third “I” is for INVOLVE. Research from theindependent sector and surveys conducted by other organizations including Patouillet Consulting, LLC, demonstrate a positive correlation between volunteerism/involvement and giving. This is illustrated by the United Way Day of Caring program. On this day, potential donors are asked to volunteer for a nonprofit of their choice. Findings show that donors tend to contribute to the organizations where they volunteer. In short, money follows time.

Once supporters have been effectively identified, informed and involved, the groundwork has been laid to ask a person or grant making agency to INVEST in the organization and mission they have come to know more personally. This investment can be in the form of time, talent, and/or treasure. The investment phase is a natural outgrowth of the involvement aspect of this process. Board members and other volunteers can be very helpful by personally contributing to the organization and discussing with prospects what this investment meant to them as well as to the agency itself. As you look at your prospect pool, keep in mind that the best candidate for a future gift is a current donor to the organization.

The fifth and final “I” is IMPACT. I have recently added this fifth “I” to my thought process as a result of conversations with my colleague, Rob Shoss, Managing Consultant of the Performance Enhancement Group. Here, the organization focuses on illustrating to the donor the impact of his or her gift. Donors want to make sure their gifts are truly making a difference and want to see the impact of their philanthropy. This is one of the reasons why donor stewardship is so important.

With the increasing pressure on nonprofit organizations to raise more money, there is a natural temptation to move from the first “I” of IDENTIFY a prospect to the fourth “I” of INVEST. While this approach may generate a certain level of support, following the five I’s in sequence facilitates higher levels of giving and a strong retention of current donors. There are more than one million nonprofit organizations in this country thus development professionals operate within a very competitive space.

Throughout this process, the development officer is evaluating the interests of the donor in light of the needs of the organization. The way in which talented development professionals and their colleagues utilize the five I’s plays a critical role in not only achieving the organization’s fundraising goals, but also to developing a greater culture of philanthropy.

Leland D. Patouillet, Ph.D., is a GCN Affiliate Consultant and President of Patouillet Consulting, LLC.

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