Writing Effective Contact Reports — A Four Decisions Checklist

In a brief post on the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners’ (CGP) website, Craig H. Smith, a senior consultant for the firm John Brown Limited, Inc., provided a simple refresher on the fundamentals of writing effective contact reports.

Well-written contact reports, Smith writes, not only stand out but also make it possible for other fundraisers on your development team to advance relationships without backtracking or having to start over.

“I can’t get over the wild and crazy way that many frontline fundraisers are taught to write contact reports, or not taught at all,” he writes. “They are either cryptic notes without much context — I’ve seen ones that say, ‘had lunch’ and nothing more — or they can be novels with … useless detail.”

Just as any good news story needs the Who, What, Where, When and Why, every useful contact report needs the Why, What, How and Will You — or as, Smith describes them, the “Four Decisions Checklist.” This means including notes on the “four crucial decisions every donor needs to make,” before giving. In the case of university advancement, they are:

  1. Why do they feel connected to the college or university?
  2. What are they interested in supporting at the institution?
  3. How will their gift be funded, including any clues about assets?
  4. Will you? Whatever specific gift decisions and details (with notes on follow-up that may be needed, once a gift commitment is made).

Another thing to keep in mind when writing effective contact reports, especially for public institutions, is that their content may be subject to open records requests. Remember that donors, many of whom are well known or in the public eye, value their relationship with the institution as well as with the individual gift officer. Because of that relationship, they may entrust you with information that is not intended for public consumption.

“By teaching frontline fundraisers how to use a Four Decisions Checklist as a practice tool — an integral part of interactive case study training — you can create the basis for contact reports that reinforce strategy and make next steps crystal clear.”

Smith’s post on contact reports was a preview of his session at the 2018 CGP National Conference in Las Vegas.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed