3 Reasons To Always Write A Contact Report
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe. Maybe not. Now, if you have a great meeting with a prospect and you forget to log a contact report, does it really matter? Absolutely.
A contact report is a written summary of a development officer’s interaction with a prospect. It records the time and purpose of the meeting and highlights important information that came out of the meeting. Too often, however, development officers don’t take take the time to write contact reports after meeting with a donor, which can end up being a big loss for the organization. Here are 3 reasons that you should always write a contact report:
First, they provide an easy way to share intelligence with others who work with or on behalf of the prospect. It’s a much more efficient method of communicating a lot of information to a lot of people than having to rely on additional meetings or conversations. Distributing contact reports to colleagues is a good and common practice. It can be as simple as sending an email.
Second, the mere act of writing a contact report forces you to reflect back on your meeting and determine what was and what wasn’t important about it. A good contact report is concise and only includes information that is relevant as it relates to advancing a prospect’s relationship with the institution. A contact report should not tell the reader what color tie the prospect was wearing, that his sister’s husband’s cousin just got a speeding ticket, or that the waiter spilled orange juice on your lap. It should, however, tell you how he feels about the direction of the institution, what campus events he recently attended, or which professor the prospect liked best when he was in school. It’s also beneficial to include other details that, while maybe not directly related to your institution, help to paint a picture of the person, like their political views or other philanthropic causes they support.
Third and finally, contact reports are good for posterity. Staff comes and goes (some stay longer than others) but a prospect’s relationship with an institution can often last a lifetime. Contact reports can not only help new staff when they need to get up to speed quickly and learn about the prospects they’re going to be responsible for cultivating, but they can help experienced staff recall important details and past events. They also provide a useful point of reference when thinking about how to best engage a prospect going forward.
The best time to write a contact report is as soon as possible while the details of the meeting are still fresh in your head. Don’t get caught up thinking it has to be long or elaborate. In fact, short and sweet is usually best. It’s not a novel; it’s the cliff notes. At a minimum, though, it should include:
- Your name
- Prospect’s name and their relationship to the institution (e.g. alumnus from Class 1994)
- Prospect’s estimated wealth, giving patterns, gift capacity, and inclination rating
- Date, time and location of the meeting
- Other participants (e.g. spouse, dean)
- Summary of the meeting (no more than 5 sentences)
- Key outcomes from the meeting (in bullet form)
- List of next steps and your goals for cultivating and soliciting the prospect in the future
- Other items of note (this is where the extra details go)
Unfortunately, writing a contact report is easily (and frequently) put off. But the longer you wait, the more likely it is that it will never get done. When a contact report goes unwritten, a lot can get lost. Colleagues may not get clued in, you may not have a chance to process the meeting thoroughly, and future generations may never know about those things that you worked so hard to uncover. Sometimes, when a contact report goes unwritten, it’s as if the meeting never happened at all.
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