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Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

  • 1.  Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 7 days ago
    Good afternoon, 

    I am looking for examples of definitions your institutions use to define a Meaningful Contact (aka Substantive Contact. As opposed to Non-Substantive). 

    Do you have different definitions for Major Gift Officers versus Alumni Relations Officers? 

    Thank you! 


    Kathryn Rusak
    Director Advancement Operations
    College for Creative Studies

  • 2.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 7 days ago
    You might be looking for a more formal definition but I consider meaningful as any of the following-
    In person conversation- scheduled or not
    Event interaction that gleans something about the person. 
    Phone call- I track if I leave a VM but don't consider meaningful just a touch point. 
    Personalized note or letter- not bulk mail. 
    Contact or outreach they make to the school- regardless of whether it is the advancement office. 

    Would love to hear others.  

    Tina Gorski-Strong
    Chief Advancement Officer
    Bancroft School

  • 3.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago

    Our Prospect / Research department considers it a meaningful contact if they:

    1) Made actual contact

    2) Spoke about something that moves the donor through our pipeline or is indicative of future giving in some way.

    We'll store those types of things as Contact Reports in Advance. Anything else generally goes in notes. Things like Leaving a Voicemail, an email that was never responded to, or anything else that can be considered a more one-sided communication attempt would be a note.

    Joshua Schaeper

  • 4.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago
    We call it a 'Quality Move' and our definition is any contact that is a personal visit or any contact that is solicitation, cultivation,  negotiation (towards closing a gift), or stewarding a recent gift

    Thomas Chaves
    Associate VP for Advancement Operations
    St. Joseph's University

  • 5.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago



    2) Spoke about something that moves the donor through our pipeline or is indicative of future giving in some way.



    Terry Callaghan, CIMP

    Associate Vice President,

    Information Technology, Analytics and

    Gift Processing

    Rutgers University Foundation &

    Rutgers University Alumni Association



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  • 6.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago
    Joshua has summed it up.  The contact is "meaningful" if it has moved the prospect along.  That excludes bumping into them at a party or the grocery store.

    The contact must be intentional, with a particular purpose in mind when arranging the contact.  Usually, for purposes of your moves management and tracking system, that contact should demonstrate that it was specifically tied to one of (as examples) purposes:
    • Introduction (aka "First Contact")
    • Qualification
    • Cultivation
    • Ask
    • Negotiation
    • Stewardship
    You can (and many do) establish whatever contact criteria feel best and right for your institution.  I don't recall seeing two identical protocols.

    For your follow-up question, I think it depends on the difference in prospect development for MGOs and AROs.  If their fundraising activities are essentially the same, then so should their definitions.


    John H. Taylor
    John H. Taylor Consulting, LLC
    2604 Sevier St.
    Durham, NC   27705
    919.816.5903 (cell/text)

    Serving the Advancement Community Since 1987

  • 7.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago
    As usual, John and Terry have shown wise wisdom and have nailed the definition :).

    Beyond that, we have seen that changing the focus away from visits to meaningful contacts is super important. Talked about this last week at Summit, and drove some good discussion. Key points:
    • Due to COVID it's been challenging to visit prospects
    • A visit is not always the best indicator of a "meaningful Interaction":
      • Suppose the visit was: "bumped into Bob at homecoming"
      • While the phone call was: "spent 90 minutes on the phone with Sue and got her verbal on a $100k gift to the engineering school"
    • Trying to force a visit may actually hurt in later cultivation stages:
      • Visits are important to "sell the cause" and fully assess inclination
      • But prospects are busy, and trying to visit to close the "deal" can actually hurt the cause
    We have done a bunch of work in this area, and for a number of our accounts have deployed "automated text parsing" to read the contact notes, and make a determination as to whether the contact was meaningful or not. Just had a great discussion with TCU on this topic at a client workshop a couple of weeks ago. Talked about not only how they calculate this, but also how they now use it as a performance metric and a measure of successful portfolio penetration with their teams. I told the group last week that we'd get this out .. and with TCU's permission you can now listen to the discussion and/or grab the PDF at

    Love this topic, and totally believe that getting it right will be transformational to many.
    I'm here to help if you'd like to discuss.

    Doug Cogswell,
    EVP Pursuant || Founder Advizor

    Doug Cogswell
    The Pursuant Group // Advizor

  • 8.  RE: Definition of 'Meaningful' Contact?

    Posted 6 days ago
    We have also moved away from goals of visits and quality moves/meaningful contacts to look to get better content/coding of interactions.  Our goals for MGOs are opens and closes ($$ and ##).   We TRACK visits/meaningful contacts (i.e. reporting how many are occurring) as a way of looking at activity but no more goals around them as we found MGOs were forcing/defending an interaction as a visit/meaningful contact just to make sure they hit a goal and we were spending too much time reviewing/changing coding to accommodate.

    Fundamentally, we are looking to drive the right behavior and deciding what to NOT have as a goal (i.e. visits and quality moves/meaningful contacts) is helping with the right behavior.


    Thomas Chaves
    Associate VP for Advancement Operations
    St. Joseph's University