Quality Contacts: Getting a Plan into Place

By Jamie Phillippe, CFRE, Vice President, with Lieve Buzard, Client Service Associate

One time I started a casual, collegial conversation at an organization’s annual luncheon. It was a formal affair, with gracious table settings and lovely flower arrangements. As one honored donor was getting up to leave her place, I noticed a napkin was caught on her belt.

“Excuse me,” I coughed, “may I take that napkin from you?”

She guffawed and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” as we shared a loud, hearty laugh.  Recovered from our side stitches, she sat back down and said, “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you something about how my gift works.”

We discussed her giving for a good five to ten minutes. The conversation ranged from what she enjoys giving to, her motivation for philanthropic gifts, and how she would like to continue giving in memory of her late husband’s life. It was one of the most authentic, honest and engaging conversations that the two of us ever had. What started as a comical faux pas became the entry way to a purposeful conversation.

The napkin incident alone would not have been a quality contact, but the following conversation was a quality contact.

What is a quality contact?

A quality contact is a meaningful interaction with a prospective/current constituent or organization that moves the relationship forward. The more quality contact touches made, the more your organization team is building future engagement and growing future investment.

In order to ensure that relationships with prospective/current constituents will result in organizational growth, it is recommended to set monthly goals for quality contacts. The monthly goals for each team member will be different, depending upon the person’s total scope of responsibilities. As a starting place, a minimum of four to six quality contacts per week is a reasonable expectation for staff with external roles.

Once quality contacts have been defined for your team, establish a tracking system for staff members to enter or record their quality contacts daily. The system should generate a monthly report to track progress and inform future quality contact goals. It is difficult to determine the correct number of monthly quality contacts until the quality contact tracking has been in place for approximately three months. The Alford Group recommends that the quality contact plan be initiated and run for three months. Then adjustments can be made as needed for each person’s quality contact expectations.

Why do we recommend defining quality contacts?

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

Maybe your organization has never thought of tracking quality contacts and you’re wondering, “is it really worth all of that extra effort?” or “tracking quality contacts is just adding something new to an already full plate!”

Tracking quality contacts is worth the extra effort in making a plan up-front. One organization we worked with had never tracked or thought of, in fact, defining quality contacts. Before formalizing any plans, they set some initial goals and then started tracking quality contacts for six months. Working off of that initial six-month baseline, the organization soon discovered that the goals they had set were quite low.

The organization was then able to refine and better calibrate their goals, setting them higher than what their performance actually had been. The next six months their quality contacts increased, but they observed only a nominal shift in fundraising results.

They continued keeping their quality contact goals high and persisting in meeting them. At the end of the third six-month period, their dollar results had increased by about twenty-one percent — proving that personal and customized attention can move relationships forward to the point of increased giving. When it comes to quality contacts, slow and steady wins the race, with rewarding dividends down the line.

What counts as a quality contact?

  • Meeting with a prospective/current constituent (This quality contact may have been initiated through a phone call or email.)
  • Efforts with a board member who is connecting a staff member with a prospective constituent
  • Inquiry to learn more about programs and role of the organization
  • Facilitating a tour or site visit
  • Meeting with a prospective/current constituent asking him/her to consider making a gift, volunteer, or other form of further involvement

What does not count as a quality contact?

  • Emails or phone calls that do not move the relationship forward, such as confirming attendance at an event
  • Encountering a prospective/current constituent at an event and having a social conversation
  • Attending a meeting without an opportunity for quality personal interaction

What about quality contacts at a volunteer gathering, like a committee meeting? Let’s say that two development staff members attend a campaign committee meeting along with ten volunteer members of the committee. How many quality contacts should each staff member claim?  Probably not all ten! Only those individuals with whom staff had significant one-on-one conversations should count towards quality contact goals. So, each staff member present would have a different number of quality contacts depending on their interactions during the event.

Download: The Alford Group Quality Contacts Overview