Follow up. It’s vital but so tough to do right.
Either we don’t know what to say, fear “bugging” the very folks we want something from, or both. So we don’t follow up enough or well, which undermines engagement and results—no matter how compelling our campaigns may be!
Follow up shows we care
It also signals realism and camaraderie; conveying our understanding that (just like us) our folks get asked for a lot of things by a lot of people; are busy and need reminders; and that changing habits or behavior is hard. When we follow up consistently, with thought and evident effort, we’re building the ongoing relationships likely to foster long, loyal relationships with our people. Priceless.
I’m sure your organization thanks donors post-contribution. Consider the huge potential of broader follow up. It’s huge.
Whom to follow up with (first)
As always, focus your efforts on people who are either 1) most likely to respond with the action you want, or; 2) pose the greatest risk if they don’t respond. Those who post a risk are current and recent donors, program participants, volunteers at risk of disengaging if they’re not nourished by your organization in some way a.s.a.p.
Within this group, focus on folks who have most recently put their toes in your organization’s water for the first time or who are up against a deadline of sorts—maybe a recent donor who hasn’t given in a year or the parent such as haven’t donated in a year or a volunteer coming up to that six-months-of-service point at which you’ve seen so many volunteers drop out.
Take Risha, a one-time volunteer who helped with your animal shelter’s event last week. Risha stepped up because her friend Amy was chairing the event; not because she’s passionate about your cause. But she saw that powerful video you premiered, was actively engaged in the event, and may share interests with Amy.
Now’s the time to reach out to Risha and invite her to do more with your shelter. Better yet, ask Amy to reach out to Risha. The right messenger makes all the difference.
When to follow up
Reach out with your first follow up a.s.a.p. Imagine if Amy had asked Risha to volunteer with her as they were riding home together after the event. No time like the present! Get back in touch with your people in three or fewer days after your last interaction.
Then continue following up regularly—until it’s not worth your time and effort or you’re asked to stop. You’ll have to experiment with what “regularly” means for you. The schedule is likely to vary among campaigns and segments. You may follow up bi-weekly with the first-time volunteers who worked the recent event, and slow that down to monthly outreach for the next two or three months.
When to stop following up
Identify your benchmarks based on your goal for each campaign. What positive response looks like will vary campaign to campaign, segment to segment, ranging from opening your email, clicking through to your volunteer site, or registering for an info meeting.
You’ll know when to stop (or redesign your approach) when you’re not getting any results, or your contact asks you to stop. Listen closely, in whatever way you can, to be sensitive to the responses you get or don’t get, and adapt your approach accordingly. It’s as important to know when to slow down or stop following up, as it is to start.
What do I say? What’s the best way to say it?
I’ll be back soon with these answers. Meanwhile, prioritize one-to-three top follow up campaigns to start with, then figure out the best time for the initial follow up and how frequently to continue.
Fertile follow up—It makes all the difference in the world.