Guidelines for Filing Contact Reports

In broad terms, a Contact Report is a look back at past actions and a roadmap to future plans.

This page will look at the characteristics of effective contact reports according to the following topics:

  1. When to File a Contact Report
  2. What Is a “Contact”?  
  3. Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Determine If the Contact Is Contact Report Worthy
  4. Your Role
  5. What to Include in a Contact Report  

I. When to File a Contact Report

This one’s pretty straightforward: Contact reports are required for all substantial contacts with a prospective donor, whether in person, by phone or through written correspondence. 

II. What Is a “Contact”?  

Generally speaking, a contact is either:

  1. A discussion with the prospect that reveals key information that should be shared with colleagues and added to your organization’s database, or
  2. Notes that describe a significant move along the whole gift cycle process leading (hopefully) to a major gift.  

An example of the latter: Any discussion with a prospect about the prospect’s commitment, involvement or interest in your organization or its initiatives.

NOTE: Contact reports are not intended to be the complete repository of all communications or interactions with a donor/prospect. As such, there’s a level of judgment on your part as to whether the communication you just had with a donor/prospect is worthy of a contact report.

III. Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Determine If the Contact Is Contact Report Worthy

If another staff person had had the same conversation with the prospect, would you want to know that information before you would make a contact?

Even if incidental, did the contact give you information that is likely to have an ultimate impact, good or bad, on a prospect solicitation?

IV. Your Role

It’s your responsibility to file a contact report within a suitable timeframe. A good rule of thumb is within 5 days of the contact.

Regardless of how the contact report is completed, it’s the responsibility of the author to circulate the report to the people in your organization who need to see it, and to make sure that the report gets entered into the database in a timely manner.

The contact report should be filled in completely, and needs to include:

  • A next move, and
  • The date of the next scheduled contact.

NOTE on Attempted Contacts: It’s generally good policy to code repeated attempts to reach a prospect as a contact report. When you’ve repeatedly tried to reach the prospect and left messages but haven’t been able to make a personal contact, it’s important to note the attempts that have been made, along with the assumed reason behind the lack of contact: disinterest, life crisis, hard to reach, and so on.

V. What to Include in a Contact Report

These specifics will naturally vary somewhat between organizations, but generally, these are the key pieces of information:

  1. The prospect’s relationship with your organization
  2. The prospect’s general attitude
  3. Areas of philanthropic interest
  4. Willingness to get engaged as a volunteer
  5. Relationship with others who are, or should be, connected to your organization
  6. Where the prospect is on the gift cycle
  7. Giving capacity
  8. Giving inclination
  9. Biographical information and any new demographic info learned, such as: Spouse, children, community involvement, etc.
  10. History of philanthropic support
  11. Title in his or her company (or if entrepreneurial, please note)
  12. Financial information
  13. Information on real or personal property
  14. Stock ownership
  15. Promotions
  16. Bonuses /commissions

A Note on Confidentiality

Trust is one of our most important attributes as we go about our business.  

Donor information is the common property of your organization. We are all responsible for assuring and preserving the confidentiality of information. Therefore, discretion must be used when entering contact report and other donor-related information. 

Remember that while contact reports may be accessible to a select group of staff in your organization, they could be made available to a prospect.

Therefore, contact reports must be written with discretion and care, such that they could be published without damaging the prospect/donor, your organization, or the relationship between the two.