Confessions of a Fundraising Intern
Thirty phone calls, countless Google searches, one generic phone script. And so went a day in my life as a fundraising intern last summer. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed my work—but it presented a few challenges that I saw as unnecessary and prompted my interest in EverTrue, a company that, in my opinion, holds the solution.
I worked on the development team of a nonprofit organization whose mission was very important to me, so I was excited to help it raise money. My role had two main parts. One was conducting prospect research to assess the capacity and interests of current and potential donors to the organization. My other objective was to reach out to donors of the organization via phone to show a personal interest in each donor, keep them updated on the organization’s happenings, and discover useful information about each donor, such as specific interests related to the organization.
Let’s loop back to my first task: assessing the capacity of prospective donors. Easy enough, right? Potentially, yes. Property value, career and salary information, family information, and donation history all helped me create an estimation of someone’s wealth. But finding accurate and up-to-date information proved difficult. Of the 44,468 people in the US named Robert Smith, 3,470 of whom live in Florida, finding the right Robert Smith could be challenging. How could I be sure the Robert Smith I found on LinkedIn was the same Robert Smith that owns three houses in Florida, according to Zillow?
I felt like I was spending most of my time rephrasing my Google searches in hopes of new results—and and not enough time using the data I found to help my organization make personal connections with its constituents and bring in the Benjamins.
In the middle of my internship last summer, I met Brent Grinna, the Founder and CEO of EverTrue. After he learned I was working in development for a nonprofit, he eagerly invited me to the EverTrue office to learn more about EverTrue’s work and products. I soon discovered why he was so excited to share EverTrue’s innovations with me. EverTrue provided what I was looking for. GivingTree combines data from a customer relationship management (CRM) platform like The Raiser’s Edge or Salesforce with information from Facebook, LinkedIn, Zillow, the US Census Bureau, Google Maps, and more to provide relevant details on prospects and donors all in one easy-to-use platform. Excuse the cheesy language, but my excitement that technology like this exists still hasn’t worn off. I can’t help but dream about the hundreds of additional prospects I could have researched last summer… no need to call me a nerd, I already know it.
Okay, so that eliminates hundreds of unnecessary Google searches, but what about all the hours spent on the phone? My phone calls engaged donors, thanked them for their generous contributions to the organization, updated them on the organization’s current goals and achievements, and acted as an opportunity for me to discover more about the donors, particularly what aspects of the organization sparked their interest.
As a donor, having human contact with the organization you give to is engaging and gratifying, but what if this first contact attempt was more personal? What if the organization representative already knew information about you and your interests? You’d probably be creeped out… whoops, I mean thrilled to see that the organization values you and your gift and that the organization wants to develop a deeper relationship with you.
To my surprise, I discovered that navigating a call with a donor you know minimal information about—in an attempt to be personable while simultaneously extracting as much information about the person as possible—is not the only way to learn about what interests your donor or prospective donor. GivingTree allows a “like” on Facebook to generate a lead. A nonprofit can look at trends in posts that someone “likes” or comments on and use this information to discover what interests her. For me as an intern, depending on the time availability and openness of a donor, it could take a few phone calls and plenty of strategic questions in order to discover useful information about her preferences, such as which of our three campaigns she was most interested in and what motivates her to give.
However, with GivingTree, I could have looked at her profile and found out that she has liked only our posts about the campaign against Big Tobacco. Thus, I could have used our first call to discuss the current state of the Big Tobacco campaign and to discover why that campaign was particularly meaningful to the donor. I would have been able to not only illustrate investment in the donor as early as the first call, but also discover more specific details about the donor’s preferences right away.
So essentially, EverTrue eliminates the necessity of me, a fundraising intern. Why, you may ask, do I find that exciting and wonderful rather than frightening and sad? Because I am no longer a fundraising intern. Oh, and because EverTrue allows all the fundraising interns out there to use their brainpower for tasks that the computer can’t do.
Amanda Beaudoin is an intern on the EverTrue marketing team this summer. She is a rising junior at Brown University, studying Applied Math-Economics. She has previously interned and volunteered for various nonprofits and is excited to continue helping nonprofits while working for a startup!