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The Myth of the Golden Rolodex

golden rolodex

Golden Rolodex: noun

A magical list of names that results in immediate and large donations to your cause. See also: gold-filled pots at the end of rainbows and geese that lay golden eggs.

First, the bad news: I am very sorry, but it’s true. The Golden Rolodex is a myth. During our years managing the fundraising process and conducting outreach on behalf of our nonprofit clients, we have yet to meet anyone who has a list of names they can call and immediately gather millions of dollars in pledges.

Now, the good news: There are ways to build a Rock Solid Rolodex that will make fundraising a bit easier for your non-profit. It comes down to three things: well-connected event committee members and/or board members, a solid outreach process, and a focus on relationship-building.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. We help build a solid event committee to expand your network

While we don’t build anything from scratch, we do work with leadership and your board to build a committee specifically for an event. Once we understand who your constituents and donors are, we can pinpoint ideal committee members that have reach. They’re the ones with the rock solid rolodexes.

If you have 20 committee members who each have 20 great contacts, that’s 400 new contacts and potential donors that we’re adding to your list. We will also do cold list building based on the people or companies a nonprofit wants to reach, and then we will figure out from there who has contacts where.

  1. We manage the entire outreach process

You are likely very familiar with something called Busy People Syndrome, and it’s one of the main reasons fundraising efforts can fail. The people on your committee sit on many boards, chair other events, work full time, have families, etc. They don’t have time to reach out individually to everyone on their list – definitely not five to seven times (in our experience the number of touches a person needs before they respond!) – nor do they want to harass their friends.

We step in and take most of the outreach off their plates. We will ask each committee member to send an email requesting their contacts to take action, like become a sponsor or buy a table at this event. We are cc’d on that original email, and then we take over the outreach and track results. Once we get a “yes,” we loop back with the committee member and ask them to send a thank you email.

Throughout the entire process, we hold board and committee members accountable to do their outreach. Without their full participation, your fundraising efforts will stall out quickly.

  1. We create a seamless experience to help you strengthen relationships

At the end of the day, fundraising is not just about collecting money. It is about building and maintaining relationships with donors and sponsors. It is a very detailed process, starting with the initial email outreach and ending with a thank you letter (preferably handwritten) after the event.

The entire experience has to be seamless to strengthen your new relationships and further cement your established ones. For example, when we put together a sponsorship package, we collect a lot of details after a sponsor confirms to ensure they get all of the benefits based on their level of support.

Another way we help you strengthen relationships is with annual events. Not only do they provide your donors with the opportunity to give every year, we build institutional knowledge along the way. We get to know the board and the big donors on a first-name basis, and we learn what will compel them to participate – those small details go a long way.

Do these three elements turn into a Golden Rolodex? No – but they do create a Rock Solid Rolodex that you can rely on from year to year.
Want to find out more about how our fundraising and outreach process can benefit your organization? Contact us today!

Photo credit: Rand Mirante

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