Finding and Choosing your Patrons

Identifying Potential Patrons

Initial research can involve identifying potential patrons through the following means:
Internal research
Database audit to identify current supporters of your membership who can be useful as patrons, given the criteria identified above (possibly using a screening service from a research provider).
In-house research on the database eg looking at factors such as people’s addresses (wealthy postcodes) or titles eg Sir, Lord, etc then carrying out some research on some of these names using sources such as Who’s Who, Internet, Directories etc (although initial screening by most research agencies is free and it may be more cost-effective to outsource further profiling research).
Known list of possible patrons including:
Those who are already known to the organisation who fit the criteria;
Previous research carried out on individuals;
Previous relationships.
Others potential patrons that have shown an interest in the organisation eg through enquiries, attendance at events, people who have signed up to particular campaigns etc.
Interviewing contacts of the organisation to identify influential individuals that they might know

External research
This will involve identifying patrons that are not currently known to the organisation, but are likely to have an interest in its work. In time, once a good relationship with these individuals has been built up. This would involve identifying:
Influential people that the organisation knows is likely to be sympathetic to the cause, but yet have not been in contact;
Brainstorming with staff, volunteers, trustees and close supporters of the organisation to identify influential people that might fit the criteria;
External research by research agency;
Other research carried out by the organisation, including desk and internet research.
In-Depth Research
During the research phase, once you have identified your strongest prospects, you may need to carry out more in-depth research into these prospect’s interests, career, connections, biographical or anecdotal information (eg information in the news highlighting their interests and concerns, recent events that may influence their giving (or ability to give), access to wealth etc. This information will help you to ensure that there is no negative publicity or issues around the person that could affect your credibility and profile of your organisation, particularly as they are going to be publicly associated with what you do.
This research can also help you to put together appropriate approach strategies around getting them on board, including deciding the level of support that you may wish to ask for. Again, this research can be carried out in-house, using sources such as Who’s Who, People of Today, the Internet, Directory of Directors, Corporate Register, online newspaper archives and databases, as well as other directories.
As mentioned above, it is good to get a list together that has a range of people able to give different levels of support, from different backgrounds or with different experiences.

Gaining Organisational Approval and Backing

Once an appropriate list has been drawn up, this should be shown around key people from the organisation that ought to be involved in the approval process eg managers, trustees, with brief biographical details. It may be necessary at this stage to draw up a new list of people to approach if you find that people on the original, approved list are only able to give a certain type/level of support or are all from similar backgrounds.

Patrons policy

At this stage an appropriate patrons policy should be drawn up, with regard to adoption and removal of patrons in certain circumstances eg if a patron speaks inappropriately as a representative of the organisation, is no longer appropriate as a representative of the organisation or the cause eg an ant-smoking organisation recruits a patron who has been seen smoking.
Recruitment and Involvement Strategies

Individual Approach Strategies

When you have selected your target group of individuals, you can work out an approach strategy for each ie what are the next steps for each individual with a view to bringing them on board. This would include what level of support you might be asking for and who the best person might be within the organisation to make the approach and build the relationship. In most cases, in the early stages in the relationship, you might ask for:
• Attendance at one event per year, at their convenience; • Their name on literature and headed paper; • Occasional quotes for literature.
As the relationship grows, this may extend to:
• Financial support (as part of a major donor recruitment programme); • Support for campaigning work; • Profile raising and other media work; • Introduction to their contacts and connections.
As mentioned above, a range of techniques might be used to build relationships with prospective patrons prior to asking for their involvement. These might include:
i. Events
You may decide to ask potential patrons to come along to some high level, or exclusive events that you are planning eg major donor events. These can range from small dinners to larger receptions. Such events can be effective in introducing influential individuals to the organisation or a project, with the intention of following up with more personal contact, such as a meeting. They may also be used to help develop the relationship once they have already agreed to becoming a patron; by updating them on progress, as a form of thank you for their past support, particularly if is a prestigious event.
ii. Meetings
The type of meeting that you hold with a prospect must be appropriate for the level of relationship, must be held by the appropriate person and must be held for an appropriate purpose. Face-to-face meetings are probably the most effective forms of solicitation. However, this may be difficult to arrange unless the prospective patron is already engaged with your organisation in some way.
When planning a meeting, elements you must think about include:
Appropriate briefings for attendees, which will include relevant details of research carried out on the individual; details of the current relationship; purpose of the meeting (including Case for Support); main objectives of the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting. As mentioned above, each solicitation must move the prospect closer to the organisation, even if it is to say thank you and to update them on progress. Always have an agenda and objective in mind.
The location of the meeting eg whether it is to be accompanied by a visit to the premises, person or project; whether it is better to hold the meeting on your premises or theirs (bear in mind that there may be more distractions at their premises eg phone ringing, other appointments in mind etc).

iii. Letters, correspondence and phone calls
You may decide to simply write to a group of people that you have identified, outlining briefly what you are asking for, what your organisation does, and what will be required of them if they decided to agree to become a patron. In each letter, you should make the approach as personal as possible. Ideally it should come from someone who knows the individual, someone who is high profile or perhaps from another patron. In the letter you should, as far as possible, refer to the reason why they are being invited ie because of their past support, previous interest in the type of cause, or refer to a contact who suggested them.
Of course, if you are writing to cold prospects, you might need to write to a large number of people to get the number of patrons that you are looking for, particularly as you go higher up the scale in terms of their own profile.